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Egypt churches reject potential US intervention

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=15550 Egypt churches reject potential US intervention By Michaela Singer First Published: August 5, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 5, 2008
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      http://dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=15550

      Egypt churches reject potential US intervention

      By Michaela Singer
      First Published: August 5, 2008

      CAIRO: The split in Coptic opinion over foreign
      interference in Egypt’s internal affairs once
      more reared its head Monday, as international
      Coptic organizations called for American action
      to protect Christians living in Egypt.

      Senator Frank Wolf, Virginian Republican,
      introduced resolution 1303 on July 24, 2008. The
      resolution, as stated in a press release from the
      Coptic Assembly of America, “calls on the
      Egyptian government to respect human rights and
      religious freedoms” and urges the American
      government to put pressure on the Egyptian government with regards to this.

      The demands include the release of political
      prisoners such as Ayman Nour, but it is the call
      to cease “harassment of religious minorities”
      that forms the backbone of the resolution.

      After rallying for two months, it was announced
      Monday that the resolution has gained the
      required support from Congressmen to deliver it to Congress.

      Mandarins within Egypt’s Christian Church,
      however, have expressed strong opposition to what
      many see as unnecessary and damaging interference in Coptic affairs.

      “It is true that Christians suffer many problems
      in Egypt, but this does not warrant a plea for
      foreign interference, as the necessary channels
      exist here in Egypt,” Akram Alamie, media
      spokesperson for the Protestant Church, told Daily News Egypt.

      “It is true that legally, Christian religious
      channels do not have permission to broadcast on
      state Egyptian networks [namely Nilesat], but
      problems can be aired through appearing on opposition channels.

      “In the past there might have been a reason to
      seek help abroad, but now the government allows
      opposition and demonstrations. If Christian
      Egyptians want to air their views, they should do
      so by coming to Egypt, and discussing the issues here,” he added.

      Representative of the Orthodox Church, Bishop
      Morqos of Shubra El-Kheima, told Daily News
      Egypt, “We will deal with our problems internally.

      America should, and will have to seek the advice
      of the Coptic Church in Egypt before any resolution is passed in Congress.”

      However, Dr Naguib Gabriel, lawyer and head of
      the Egyptian Human Rights Union, is a Copt who
      disagrees with Church activity in what he
      perceives as an affair which concerns the
      citizenry. “That the Church’s opinion plays such
      as large role in representing Coptic citizens
      points to the fact that this state has become a
      religious state, rather than a civil state.”

      Gabriel, who was recently attacked by Al-Azhar
      for putting together a book calling for the
      abrogation of the second article of the
      constitution, which sets Islam as the state
      religion and principal source of legislation, strongly supports the resolution.

      “The situation in Egypt, which has escalated in
      recent years, calls for outside pressure. The
      channels are locked to Egyptian Christians, none
      of the recommendations made at the national
      Coptic Conference last year have been dealt with,
      and the People’s Assembly has not passed anything
      to help their situation. We are without laws to protect Copts.”

      He added that according to Article 18 of the
      constitution, citizens have the right to seek
      help from the United Nations, should the Egyptian
      legal system fail to provide protection.

      But both sides express similar sentiments when
      discussing whether — should the resolution pass
      through Congress — America will actually take action.

      “Said ‘pressure’ is not likely to be anything
      more than a verbal warning. We know that Egypt is
      a pivotal strategic ally to America, and
      unfortunately this takes priority,” said Gabriel.
      “But it will still make the Egyptian government
      aware that this problem can’t be hidden.”

      Alamie, however, warned that Copts should not bet on American promises.

      “America looks to its interest first and
      foremost. An example of this is its stance on the
      inheritance of the presidency, which America was traditionally against.

      “When [the US] saw in the People’s Assembly
      elections that the Muslim Brotherhood might be a
      real alternative, it altered its position. There
      is a local saying in Egypt, and it rings true
      here; whoever covers himself with America, is naked.”
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