CAIRO: Protestors called on the People’s Assembly to take decisive action against sectarian acts of violence Wednesday at a protest held outside parliament.
“Egypt is for all Egyptians the roughly 50 protestors chanted while holding up photographs of Abanop Kamal, one of six Coptic young men shot dead outside a church in Upper Egypt’s Nagaa Hammadi on Coptic Christmas eve, Jan. 6.
The National Committee Against Sectarian Violence, which organized the protest, was formed three days before the Nagaa Hammadi shootings.
Since its formation the National Committee has been campaigning for legislative and social reform to end religious discrimination against Egypt’s Christian minority. A delegation of activists and political figures left the protest to submit a letter from the National Committee to PA Speaker Fathi Sorour, and present these demands.
University professor and activist Abdel-Gelil Mostafa formed part of this delegation.
Before going in to meet Sorour, Mostafa commented that “the idea of co-existence was invented by Egypt.
“A new spirit has emerged however because of a failure to apply the law properly. Islam itself preaches the principle of complete equality. Legislation must be enacted preventing all discrimination, Mostafa said.
Commenting on the security response to acts of sectarian violence, Mostafa said that “the government has a duty to protect citizens.
“The interior ministry must return to this principle rather than simply protecting the regime, Mostafa added.
Copts and political activists have rejected claims by authorities that the Nagaa Hammadi shootings were criminal, rather than sectarian, in nature, alleging that the shootings were just part of a series of sectarian acts targeting Copts whose perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
Activists say that a failure to hold to account perpetrators leads to their recurrence. They also maintain that Egypt’s Christians routinely experience discrimination in areas such as the right of Christians to construct and maintain churches compared with the rules governing the construction of mosques.
“Criminal proceedings against perpetrators of sectarian crimes are no longer enough, the letter reads.
“What is needed now is to confront this problem at its roots.The problem is in essence political with legal, policing, cultural and media dimensions, it continues.
The National Committee is calling for new legislation to ensure respect for the principle of citizenship enshrined in the Egyptian constitution. Two draft laws have already been submitted to parliament to that effect. The first calls for equality in legislation governing the building and maintenance of places of worship and was drawn up in 2005.
The second draft law, submitted by the governmental National Council for Human Rights, is concerned with equal opportunity rights and anti-discrimination measures.
The National Committee is also calling for laws against incitement to religious hatred and “legislation necessary to protect respect for freedom of belief and bring to account individuals who prevent citizens from freely carrying out religious rituals.
Lawyer and Coptic activist Naguib Gobrael listed other Coptic demands.
He said that Egypt’s Christians, who are estimated to make up between 6-10 percent of Egypt’s population, are calling for a representative number of Coptic members of parliament, greater visibility in the media and the amendment of school curricula, which some Copts say perpetuate misconceptions about Christians and the Christian faith.
Daily News Egypt asked Gobrael whether he was hopeful that the meeting with Sorour would result in positive action being taken.
“I think a re-thinking of the Coptic issue is inevitable given both the increasing tension recently, and the fact that Egypt will later this month be subject to international scrutiny before the United Nations, Gobrael commented.
The United Nations Human Rights Council will examine Egypt’s human rights record on Feb. 17 as part of the Universal Periodic Review process.