More than 2,000 Egyptian Christians (Coptic) gathered Oct. 16 in front of the Federal Building on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles to demand equality for Christians in Egypt and an end to the Egyptian military government’s persecution, including the injuring and killing of Christians and burning of churches.
Los Angeles was just one of the cities which joined with worldwide demonstrations in October to alert the public of the intolerable treatment of Christians, which make up about 15 percent of the Egyptian population. (See: Egypt: Muslim Persecution of Christian Copts and Ex-Muslims , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCjF0oYhw-0 )
I spoke with one of the organizers of the tearful demonstration in Los Angeles, which brought together Egyptian Christians, called Coptics, from all over Southern California to express their concern and sorrow for the violence in their homeland and their fears for their loved ones. Out of concern for the safety of his family members in Egypt, I will identify him only as Eskander.
Now a dual citizen of America and Egypt, he told me that during a recent visit to his homeland, he saw Christians mourning helplessly in front of government offices and the Christian cathedral and begging for help in gaining the return of their daughter, believed kidnapped by Muslim Extremists for conversion to Islam. Few escape to return and tell their story of rape, violence and intimidation, he said sadly. (See: Egypt: Abducted From The Streets And Never Seen Again http://www.copts.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=24&Itemid=44 )
Eskander recalls that in the recent history of Egypt, Christians and Muslims lived side-by-side in peace until the revolution in 1956, when President Nasser transformed Egypt from a kingdom to a Republic.
He said that, in 1971 Sadat declared that he was “a Muslim president to a Muslim country.” Under his rule, all positions of power in Egypt began a religious cleansing so that Christians were not represented in critical government positions nor in executive positions in big corporations run by Muslims.
The demonstrations, he told me, are also because American investors may not be aware that there is this discrimination against Christians. He said that El-Hussein Hospital in Cairo, which is a medical facility in the El Azhar region, will not treat Christians even if their condition is critical nor hire Christian doctors or allow pharmaceutical representatives, because you must be a Muslim to enter the hospital.
Eskander told me that under President Mubarak (who took office in October 1981) the prejudice against Christians soared. An explosion in the front of Two Saints Christian Church in Alexandria, filled with worshipers on Jan 6, 2011, (Eastern Christmas) destroyed the edifice and killed 23 and injured over 200. No investigation was done by the military government to find the perpetrators, he says.
This was followed by the burning of a church in Imbaba, where Christians leapt from the second floor to flee the fire only to be killed by Muslim radicals with swords who swarmed around the outside, while in front, government security forces watched and did not interfere or try to protect the people or the church.
His voice choked with emotion as he told me that Egypt is now governed by a military that does nothing to protect Christians. In fact, he said “they enable this situation. Egyptian Christians keep asking for justice and giving names of those they know to be responsible so that the massacres can be stopped, but the military president does nothing.”
This year, Eskander said, Christians walked from Shoubra to Maspero, which is the location of the Egyptian media channel, to demonstrate their despair. They were carrying crosses and candles and singing hymns and gave notes to the authorities to assure them of their peaceful protest and prayer.
About 1-1/2 miles from their destination, as they crossed under a bridge, they were attacked by extremist-Muslims throwing stones from the top. As the Christians continued to the media building, suddenly the electricity for the entire area was turned off by the authorities and in the darkness military armored vehicles with headlights sped through the crowd, running over the protesters, turning and going back to hit those still able to stand, also shot and kill protestors. Among them were some sympathetic Muslims who joined the protest and at least three of them were also killed in the attack. (See "Attack on Coptic Church" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SScPUudoJPY).
Eskander told me the Los Angeles and worldwide demonstrators are asking for international investigation or for the United Nations to order an outside investigation because the military cannot investigate itself. He said America is paying $l.3 billion to support the Egyptian military and that should cease until an investigation is completed.
“We need the world, including Muslims, to put pressure on the Egyptian military government in order to bring about equality, religious freedom and justice for Christians in Egypt,” he said.
Eskander asked that Americans of all religions contact their representatives in Congress and also President Obama and tell them that the U.S. government needs to stop providing $1.3 billion per year for Egypt’s military government to buy weapons which they use to harm Christians.
Those in other countries are asked to please contact their legislature or other elected officials to ask them to demand an end to the military violence against Christians and the violation of religious freedom in Egypt.
Egypt Overlooked in State Department’s Religious Freedom Report, (9/16/2011)
Washington, D.C. (September 16, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) commends the Obama administration’s designation of eight nations as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs) – a classification appointed to countries that severely violate religious freedom – in the State Department’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom released on Tuesday. However, the report failed to designate Egypt as a CPC despite the increase of violence targeting religious minorities and the killings of more than fifty Christians in 2011.
On April 28, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, had recommended for the first time that the State Department designate Egypt as a CPC. “Instances of severe religious freedom violations engaged in or tolerated by the government have increased dramatically,” said USCIRF Chair Leonard Leo. “Since President Mubarak’s resignation from office in February, such violence continues unabated without the government’s bringing the perpetrators to justice.”
Attacks against Egyptian Christians in 2011 include, but are not limited to:
Egyptian Christians are also concerned that religious freedom will decline further if Islamist-based parties win the majority seat in Egypt’s parliament in elections scheduled for November. The Muslim
Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is the most organized and financed contender in the elections and has publicly stated their intention to institute forms of Sharia (Islamic law) in the country.
“Egypt should be classified as a CPC,” Coptic scholar Magdi Khalil told ICC. “Further monitoring of persecution, like the special envoy to promote religious freedom in the Middle East known as [house bill] H.R. 440, would be pushed forward quicker and taken more seriously if Egypt was a CPC.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In light of increasing attacks on Christian communities and the Egyptian government’s failure to enhance security and institute nondiscriminatory reforms to protect religious minorities, we urge the Obama administration to strongly consider designating Egypt as a CPC. A CPC designation will give the U.S. additional leverage to place sanctions on existing military and emergency economic aid and to direct a portion of that aid to enhance security for religious minorities and fund civil society groups who are adamant about promoting religious freedom."