Coptic Organization Warns of Violence Against Copts in Egypt
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- Coptic Solidarity, a worldwide Coptic Human Rights Organization, issued a statement on October 14, warning that the alarming upsurge of significant anti-Coptic activities over the recent weeks could eventually "degenerate into wholesale violence against the Copts and their spiritual leaders" in the upcoming volatile period of political changes in Egypt.

The National election for the Egyptian People's Assembly, the lower house of Parliament, is slated for November 29, and the Presidential election is due in 2011, with the controversial issue of President Mubarak's youngest son Gamal, succeeding his father, hanging in the air.

The statement accuses the Egyptian authorities of having "chosen to remain silent, proving, yet again, that they may be trying to use Islamic radicalism as a means to channel against the Copts the escalating social discontent in the country" (AINA 10-10-2010).

The Coptic Church has recently witnessed concerted incitement campaigns in the national media and by Islamic radicals, varying from televised programs on Wahhabi-funded Islamic TV Channels, to demonstrations against the Church and its pontiff Pope Shenouda III. The campaigns have been initiated from mosques all over Egypt.

The statement mentions the televised false accusations levied against the Church by leading Islamic figures on September 15 and after, of "stocking arms and ammunition [imported from Israel] in their churches and monasteries" and of "preparing to wage war against Muslims." Copts were further accused of "inciting sectarian strife and seeking to have their own separate state in Egypt" (AINA 9-22-2010).

Pope Shenouda, in his interviews of late September on state-owned and private TV channels, expressed his concern over the ongoing situation, and dismissed such claims as illogical allegations thrown at the Church, adding that the only time a Copt would carry arms is "if he works in the police or the army." The pope went on to say that the doors of churches are open to state scrutiny He also ridiculed the rumors of a separate "Coptic State" on the lines of the expected division between north and south Sudan, "Copts live all over the country, and it would not be feasible," he said.

"These preposterous accusations could have been easily refuted by the usually intrusive Egyptian authorities, but they have chosen to remain silent," said the Coptic Solidarity statement.

The statement also referred to the ten demonstrations carried out by of Islamist mobs after Friday's prayers, targeting the Coptic Church, the Pope, and the Copts in general. "Several hate slogans, normally punishable under the laws, were shouted, with no action taken by the authorities." During these demonstrations, the latest on October 8, the Islamists demanded the delivery of a priest's wife, who they insist had converted to Islam, and is hidden by the church, contrary to affirmations that this rumor was baseless, including a certified video recording by the woman in question affirming her Christianity (AINA 9-18-2010). Al Azhar, the leading Islamic institution in Egypt, also denied earlier that the priest's wife ever converted to Islam. Still demonstrations went on asking for her release. Church sources said that the woman and her 18- month-old toddler is staying at a women's home belonging to the church, "for fear over her safety from the Muslim mobs."

Coptic Solidarity pointed out that although Christian and Jewish Holy Books are systematically ridiculed as being falsified, "a passing remark on a Koranic verse regarding the Crucifixion, made by a Coptic clergyman at an internal meeting on dogma, was denounced as 'blasphemous.'" The remark, which was taken out of context, caused an uproar in Egypt. The Pope himself publicly expressed regret over Muslim anger provoked by the clergyman's remarks. The Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, a formal State body headed by the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar condemned the remarks and in its statement took the opportunity to point out that "Egypt was, according to its constitution, an Islamic State" and that "the citizenship rights of non-Muslims were conditional to their abiding by the Islamic Identity of the State," thereby "reversing modern progress and downgrading the Copts to their formerly historical status of mere Dhimmis--suppressed and humbled non-Muslims living under the will of Islam," according to the statement (AINA 10-1-2010).

Coptic Solidarity made the point to hold the Egyptian authorities and political leadership fully responsible, and demanded that effective measures be taken immediately to abate this dangerous tide.

Members of Coptic Solidarity and a group of American experts will hold a press conference in Washington to define to the American public the expected risks on Copts in Egypt, on Monday October 18 starting noon (12:00) at the National Press Building.

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