U.S. Coptic Christians to Rally Against Persecution in Egypt
Coptic Christians are planning to hold rallies in at least four U.S. cities Monday to express their "resentment and rejection" of the persecution that fellow believers are facing in Egypt.
The rallies, organized by members of the The Free Copts, will be held in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington at a time when Christians in Egypt are reportedly facing killings, destruction and looting of their property, deportation from their homes and the forced Islamization of their minor daughters.
They also come as Coptic Christians increasingly accuse the Egyptian State Security and other security authorities of having a hand in all crimes taking place against the Copts in Egypt.
"The Egyptian government facilitates attacks against Coptic Christians directly by destroying church properties, unlawfully detaining, raping and torturing converts to Christianity and failing to prosecute the Islamic extremists who attack Coptic Christians," claim organizers of the rally Monday in front the United Nations building in New York.
Citing the U.S. State Department's 2009 report on religious freedom, the organizers say the Egyptian government has engaged in acts "which generally obviated the prosecution of perpetrators of crimes against Copts and precluded their recourse to the judicial system."
Furthermore, they added, there is a "failure to investigate and prosecute perpetrators."
"State security and police forces reportedly instigated a sectarian clash in... and the Government again failed to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against Copts," they noted.
Last month, hundreds of angry Muslims, and by some accounts thousands, attacked Coptic Christians in a southern Egyptian town over an allegation that a Christian man kidnapped and raped a Muslim girl.
The mob looted and burned at least 65 Christian-owned stores in Farshoot, about 300 miles south of Cairo, causing an estimated six million Egyptian pounds (over one million U.S. dollars) in damage, according to the Coptic American Friendship Association. Witnesses also reported that the mob made wooden crosses and burned them on the streets.
Following the incident, authorities reportedly put pressure on the Coptic Church in Nag Hammadi, which is under the same governorate as Farshoot, to tell the victims to accept extrajudicial reconciliation and reopen their businesses without compensation. Police in Farshoot also reportedly refused to issue police reports to victims, forcing them to travel 37 miles away to make a report with the Attorney General in Qena, the capital of the governorate.
The Christian community in Farshoot, however, said they will not be coerced into overlooking the mass riot and that they would unite to make authorities recognize what happened and punish perpetrators.
"There will be no reconciliation before full financial compensation has been paid to the Coptic victims, and the criminals are brought to justice, so that safety and security can be restored to the district," said Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hammadi Diocese, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA).
In light of the recent incident and others like it, Coptic Christians in the United States are planning to let their voices be heard Monday, joining in rallies and marches across America.
In New York, demonstrators plan to gather in front of the Egyptian Mission to the United Nations building and march towards the United Nations, where they expect to conclude the demonstration around 4 p.m.
The rally in Chicago, meanwhile, is scheduled to start at noon in front of the Egyptian Consulate in Chicago.
Although Egypt's Christian population is small, making up eight to 12 percent of the overall population, it stands as the largest Christian community in the Middle East and is also among the oldest.
Despite their sizeable number in Egypt, the Christian community in Egypt, known as Coptics, are marginalized in society and reportedly suffer from violent forms of abuse. They also lack fair representation in the government, leading to further abuse of the minority group.
According to Egypt's constitution, Islam is the "religion of the state" and the country's "principle source of legislation."
Aaron J. Leichman