Written by Dioscorus Boles
29 April 2011
ALMASRY ALYOUM English Edition has published today (Fri 29 APR 2011, 16:39) that the Coptic Church has rejected the Annual Report, 2011, by the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) ,[i] under the heading: Coptic Church rejects US commission report, which you can find here: http://www.almasryalyoum.com/en/node/417302?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
The paper does no back its claim with any evidence. It opens its article with the words:
The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt rejected the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s (CIRF) annual report, which condemned Egypt’s lack of religious freedom. The church called on the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the government to solve Copts’ problems internally without regard to the content of the American report.
The report released Thursday accused Egypt of not protecting religious minorities or prosecuting crimes against them.
Then it quotes a Coptic priest, Father Abdel-Masih Basit , who is a much loved priest in the Coptic Church but does not represent it. But even with him, there is nothing to point to a rejection by him of the USCIRF Report. Read what the paper’s article says about him:
Father Abdel-Masih Basit, a clerical professor and pastor in Mostorod, called on the SCAF and Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s government to solve Copts’ problems, which have been aggravated after the revolution due to attacks from extremist groups. He stressed that the solution must free from foreign intervention.
Basit cited attacks on Christians in Moqattam and on a man in Qena whose ear was cut off as crimes the government has not prosecuted.
It is clear there is no condemnation whatsoever by Father Abdel-Masih Basit of the Report, but Egyptian papers are not known for their accuracy, competency or credibility. Indeed, they are known for leading campaigns of intimidation to coerce the Coptic lay and ecclesiastical leaders to deny the existence of religious persecution in Egypt, and to reject international reports or intervention to solve its religious souring problem.
Of course the Coptic Church may reject the USCIRF Annual Report under intimidation. Sometimes it does that in the hope of keeping internal tranquillity and warding off attacks against its people and worshiping places. The Copts understand that. But, most importantly, the world has grown to understand the hostage situation of the Coptic Church; and so it takes any public denial by the Church of persecution, or rejection of an international report on the violations against the religious rights of the Copts, with a pinch of salt.
As for the Copts, and the Coptic Nationalists, we know that the findings of the Report are entirely accurate; and we do welcome it wholeheartedly, and support the designation of Egypt as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). It is a move by the US, a friend of Egypt’s leadership, which was long overdue. Since 1971, when ex-President Anwar al-Sadat introduced Sharia into the Egyptian Constitution, he gave the signal to the Islamists to up their pressure on the Copts. He, followed by his successor, Muhammad Husni Mubarak, sponsored a hate-mongering ideology towards the Copts, and fostered a hostile environment towards them that culminated in attacks, the worst of them we witnessed lately in New Year 2011, when 23 Copts, getting out of church in Alexandria, were massacred by Muslim extremists.
The Copts were hopeful that the slogans of the 25 January Revolution, ‘Dignity, Equality, Social Justice’ will lead to an improvement in the Coptic situation, but, alas, to their disappointment, things continued as bad as they were before, and on top of that the Islamists’ power has been rising, threatening Egypt’s future, progress and unity. The USCIRF Report talks about the continuing violations, and holds Egypt’s leadership responsible – and so they should. The conclusion which the Copts and the international community have come up with is that the Egyptian political leadership has failed in its duty of protecting the human rights of the Copts and their religious freedom. Only the Egyptian leaders, past and present, should be blamed for the grave situation that led to Egypt being blacklisted, and put in the same basket with other countries notorious for their religious-hatred and exclusionism, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Now it is time for Egypt’s present leadership, Muhammad Hussain Tantawi and Dr. Essam Sharaf, to do something to prevent the inevitable sanctions, including economic, that will follow through if their failures continue. And a passing remark to our Egyptian papers, if you want to be considered credible and respectable papers by the Copts, Moderate Muslims, and the international community at large, you must prove it.
[i] For the Report, go to: http://copticliterature.wordpress.com/2011/04/28/the-united-states-designates-egypt-for-the-first-time-as-a-country-of-particular-concern-cpc-because-of-its-failure-to-protect-the-religious-freedom-of-the-copts/
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