American Coptic Union demands US impose economic sanctions against Egypt

Joseph Fahim
9 Min Read

CAIRO: The American Coptic Union requested from the US congress to impose economic sanctions on Egypt and attacked Pope Shenouda III policies, positions and even speeches in a recent call published on the Union’s official website.

The US-based organization also listed the names and dates of cases in which Egypt’s Coptic Christians were subjected to discrimination by the government. Economic sanctions against Egypt is a form of punishment for such violations, the organization stated.

In an article titled “Murder of Copts by Muslims in Cairo , published on March 9, 2007, the Union alleged that two Copts, Atta Attia and his son Magdy, were killed by were shot dead in front of their home by a group of Muslims.

Hossam Bahgat, chairman of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, who admits the presence of some discrimination against Copts in Egypt and is defending some of the cases filed by Copts who want to revert back to Christianity, told Daily News Egypt that human rights organizations frequently demand economic sanctions against certain countries accused of human rights violations.

But, we [the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights] are in principle against any form of economic sanctions, not just because of its impact on the population, but because such sanctions are selected by the government to be used against human rights organizations.

The Egyptian government has always claimed that human rights activists are agents of the West , he added, and so asking for economic sanctions will support the government s false claims.

Bahgat, who refused to comment on the American Coptic Union s specific comments because he had not read them, said that, in general, anyone has the right to express his/her opinion on any matter.

We are for freedom of expression [to be granted to] everyone, Bahgat said.

On the other hand, Father Angleous Ishaq told Daily News Egypt that we [Egyptian Copts] are against such statements and demands similar to those of the American Coptic Union.

Egyptian Copts have faith in Pope Shenouda III, he said, and believe that Egypt, with its current government and officials, is capable of solving its internal issues and conflicts, refusing any American interference in the matter.

But Father Morqos Aziz, patron of the Hanging Church of Old Cairo, explained to Daily News Egypt that the report was both positive and negative.

On the one hand, it s always healthy that there s someone out there who watches over Copts in Egypt and pays attention to the problems they suffer, said Father Aziz. But on the other hand, it s unacceptable for anyone to demand economic sanctions on Egypt and endanger or cause any kind of harm to the country. This is not the proper way to discuss these types of issues.

Father Aziz believes that the Egyptian government is the one to blame for the emergence of this report, not immigrant Copts.

The report is a result of tangible problems and discrimination suffered by Christians, he said. If the government wants to silence its critics, all it has to do is to work aptly to solve these problems.

He asserts that groups similar to the American Coptic Union are a small minority that doesn t, and shouldn t, represent the entire Egyptian Christian population. And although he s entirely against some of the objectives of the report and immigrant Copts radical approach, he understands their position and motives.

Immigrant Copts are ordinary Copts who are concerned about the intolerance with which their fellow Christians in Egypt are being treated, he says. They re just angry about this injustice and this anger blinded them from tackling the issue appropriately.

Father Aziz adds that the US ultimately doesn t care much about Christians as some pundits believe it does. America looks only after its own interests, he said. The difficulties Copts face don’t concern the American administration and they absolutely shouldn t submit to the immigrant Copts’ demands just as the Egyptian government shouldn t accept the violations and discrimination faced by Christians.

Copts interviewed for this article tended to agree with Father Aziz s in varying degrees.

Albert Mashraky, an engineer, harshly dismisses both the report and the American Coptic Union. Imposing economic sanctions on Egypt will harm Christians as much as Muslims, he told Daily News Egypt. Look, these people don t know anything about this country. There are no killings of the kind they cite in this country.

Mashraky believes that the so-called Copts should channel their efforts to resolve more substantial and pressing predicaments.

If they want to help indeed, they should go down to Upper-Egypt or the ravished unplanned housing and give people money; help them lead a better life. They should try and find ways to feed the millions who don t have access to suitable nutrition instead of leading them to starve more.

Sarah Bishara, an interior designer, suspects that the report might lead to further discrimination.

It only insinuates that Christians are unpatriotic, she told Daily News Egypt. If the US does impose economic sanctions on Egypt, who do you think the government and Muslims will blame? This will only create more problems instead of solving them.

Bishara, nevertheless, believes that immigrant Copts are well-intentioned and doubts that harming the country could possible be one of their undeclared goals.

Rina Elias, on the other hand, claims that immigrant Copts have the right to criticize the Egyptian government and highlight Coptic issues since, according to her, no one else seems to be doing so.

She does, however, also condemn economic sanctions suggested in the report. No one pays much attention to the grave prejudice we face and the rights that are constantly robbed away from us and it s good that someone occasionally does, she told Daily News Egypt. But suggesting economic sanctions totally crosses the line and will benefit no one.

The website has also issued a report by the United Press International that stated that there are direct threats against Copts in the US by the Patriarch and the Egyptian government as a result of the American Coptic Union’s advocacy against Article 2 of Egypt’s constitution, which states that Egypt is Muslim country where the Sharia is the principal source of legislation.

The report denounced Pope Shenouda III for publicly warning Copts against calling for the cancellation of Article 2.

Pope Shenouda has said that he fully endorses Article 2, according to the website.

The Pope s position supports the implementation of Sharia as the main source of legislation in Egypt, which according to the website seriously discriminates against Christians, women and non-Muslim minorities, thus encouraging violence against them.

The American Coptic Union also commented unfavorably on the Pope s speeches, questioning his intentions.

His fiery speeches have only served to spread increased hatred against Copts, and have created an even greater anger among Christians, Catholic, and Protestant, and Jews. And while aligning himself as a sympathetic and vocally active supporter of Egypt’s Arab Muslim agenda, Shenouda has done nothing to protect his flock. He has, instead, aligned himself with despicable actions perpetrated by the Egyptian government by cooperating in the cover up of numerous crimes against the Copts, according to the website.

The website has also accused Pope Shenouda of [compromising] the safety and future security of the Copts by shamelessly aiding and abetting the Egyptian government in its forward movement to destabilize and eradicate the Coptic culture in Egypt, through continued persecution, fear and infiltration.

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