Copts in Cairo Reject 'Reconiliation Meeting'
By Mary Abdelmassih
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(AINA) -- A customary "reconciliation" meeting took place yesterday in Al-Khosous in Qaliubia after the sectarian violence which took place there on April 4 and 5 and 7, resulting in the death of six Christians and one Muslim (AINA 4-6-2013). The meeting was organized by the regime and was attended by the governor of Qaliubia, Mr. Abdel-Ghafour, the assistant to the Egyptian President for social outreach, top ranking security personnel, representatives from Al-Azhar and two priests from St. Georges church in Al-Khosous. The government delegation was met with anger and outright rejection from Copts, believing as they have learned from the past that such "reconciliation" meetings are useless in resolving problems. The Copts stressed the need to apply the rule of law to all -- Christians or Muslims.

Medhat Kelada, head of the European Union of Coptic Organizations for Human Rights, accused the Copts who attended the meeting of being "traitors" and said "all who deal with this current regime and agree to be its tool have their hands stained with the blood of the Khosous Coptic victims."

Dr. Emad Gad, a member of the Salvation Front and Coptic former MP, described the Khosous meeting as different from reality, and that these meetings were a part of the old regime, adding that the current regime uses the same technique to avoid enforcing the law and to enable criminals to escape justice. Gad stressed that the church has nothing to do with these meetings and the priests of the Church of St. George were pressured by the regime and the existing leadership in the area to participate.

Former Acting Patriarch, Bishop Pachomios of Beheira, said the reconciliation meeting is acceptable "provided the assailants are brought to justice and punished by the government" to ensure the safety and stability of the community. He said that "our Christian faith is based on peace and reconciliation."

Yesterday saw a turbulent meeting which took place at the Egyptian Shura Council to discuss the events of Al-Khosous and the attack on the Coptic Cathedral on April 7 (AINA 4-7-2013), where unknown persons pelted the mourners of the Al-Khosous victims' funeral and St. Marks cathedral and papal residence with Molotov cocktails and bricks. Security forces themselves fired tear gas on the Copts inside and outside the cathedral, holding nearly 2000 mourners inside the cathedral "gasping for air," according to an eyewitness. These events lead to the death of one Copt, who was shot in the head; another was hospitalized. One Muslim died when he fell off a ladder as he was trying to vandalize the cathedral's security cameras.

During that meeting several disputes broke out between Coptic Shura representatives and top ranking officials from the ministry of interior, who seemed to the Copts to be taking the position as the government, of holding the Copts at the funeral services for being responsible for the attack on themselves and the St. Marks Cathedral by vandalizing the cars parked near the cathedral, which prompted the local residents to attack them. On the other hand, the Copts accused the interior ministry of "collusion with the assailants" as videos and photos have shown that armed masked perpetrators driving police armored vehicles. It was reported that the interior ministry officials apologized for firing tear gas at the cathedral, causing over 80 people to be hospitalized.

Two days ago the Coptic Congregational Council issued for the first time in its history a strongly worded statement, holding the President and the government fully responsible for the absence of justice, security, and of keeping silent about what it called a "suspicious complicity " of some workers of the state executive not to protect citizens, their property and their houses of worship, and demanded an independent investigation of the events.

"Repetition of sectarian events is because of the lack of law enforcement. This created an atmosphere of bullying the Copts and treating them as if they were subordinates of the community," said Makari Habib, personal secretary to Pope Tawadros II, in an interview with Anadol Press Agency on April 10. "Copts make up a fifth (20%) of the Egypt's 90 million people, which means they have the right to get 100 seats out of 500 in the parliament, and the same percentage in the ministries, governors, presidents of universities, as well as the army, police and high ranking organs," he added.

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