Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Obama Urged to Remember Persecuted Christians in Egypt

Christian Freedom International
19 may 2009
Christian Freedom International President Jim Jacobson,

“It is not enough for Americans to extend their hands. Muslim nations must reciprocate. And that means treating Christians the same way Islamic governments demand that Western nations treat Muslims.

”President Barack Obama Removes his Shoes While Visiting the Sultan Ahmed MosqueSAULT STE. MARIE, MI --

President Obama has chosen Egypt to deliver a major address to the Muslim world. Obama said after his election in November that he planned to make such a speech to show Muslims that the United States was extending its hand in friendship after years of tension.
On May 8, 2009, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said “…this gives the President the opportunity hopefully to extend a hand to those that in many ways are like us but just simply have a different religion.” Gibbs said that Egypt “…in many ways represents the heart of the Arab world” and noted that “the issues of democracy and human rights are things that are on the President’s mind, and we’ll have a chance to discuss those in more depth on the trip.”
However, according to Christian Freedom International President Jim Jacobson, “It is not enough for Americans to extend their hands. Muslim nations must reciprocate. And that means treating Christians the same way Islamic governments demand that Western nations treat Muslims.”
According to Jacobson, “When it comes to human rights and the treatment of minority Christians, Egypt has an extremely poor track record. The president should have a lot to talk about with Egyptian president Muhammad Hosni Mubarak, one of the longest-serving leaders in the Arab world. We hope he uses this as an opportunity to speak out for persecuted, minority Christians in Egypt.”
OverviewIn Egypt Islam is the official state religion, and Shari’a (Islamic law) is the primary authority for legislation.
The country has a population of 79 million, of whom almost 90 percent are Sunni Muslims. Estimates of the number of Christians range from 8 to 12 percent, (10 to 15 million), the majority of whom belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The Egyptian constitution, under Article 46, in theory provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites; however, in reality the government severely restricts these rights. The Egyptian government persecutes those who convert from Islam to Christianity.
In Egypt it is almost impossible to build or repair a church. Ministry of Interior regulations specify a set of ten conditions that the government must consider before a presidential decree for construction of a new “non-Muslim place of worship” can be issued. The conditions include the requirement that the distance between a church and a mosque be not less than 340 feet, and that approval of the neighboring Muslim community be obtained before a permit to build a new church may be issued. Permission is rarely, if ever, granted.
Local authorities routinely categorize repairs and maintenance such as the painting of walls and plumbing repairs, as expansion or new construction projects, thus requiring formal permits that are rarely, if ever granted. Local authorities also routinely deny existing church buildings the supply of water and electricity.
Under Shari’a as practiced in the country, non-Muslim males must convert to Islam to marry Muslim women, but non-Muslim women need not convert to marry Muslim men. Muslim women are prohibited from marrying Christian men. Under Shari’a as interpreted by the government, a non-Muslim wife who converts to Islam must divorce her “apostate,” non-Muslim husband. Upon the wife’s conversion, local security authorities ask the non-Muslim husband if he is willing to convert to Islam; if he chooses not to, divorce proceedings begin immediately, and custody of children is awarded to the mother.
There are numerous reports that the Egyptian government harasses Christian clergy and other Christian leaders at the international airport in Cairo while they pass through immigration to board flights, and that they confiscate address books, written materials, and various forms of recordable media.
The Egyptian government discriminates against Christians in hiring for the public sector and in staff appointments to public universities, and bars them from study at the popular Al-Azhar University (a publicly funded institution).
While there are no legal restrictions on the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam, there are numerous reports that police persecute converts from Islam to Christianity. Security services maintain regular and oftentimes hostile surveillance of Muslim-born citizens who are suspected of having converted to Christianity.
Although Christians and Muslims live as neighbors throughout the country, violent sectarian attacks on Coptic Christians continue unabated, with police ignoring requests for help from Christians.
Specific RequestsAccording to the U.S. based Copts Association (http://copts.com/english1/) which represents Christians in Egypt, “Copts (Christians of Egypt) are not asking for special treatment to compensate for centuries of discrimination and persecution. They are only asking for equality. They don’t want anything more, and they will not settle for anything less. It is hard to believe that, at the turn of the 21st century, equality to Copts remains a luxury they still dream of. This at a time when the rest of the civilized world considers equality a birth right to be taken for granted.”
The following are some of the demands the U.S. Copts Association is calling upon the Egyptian government to implement:
The antiquated 19th Century Hamayouni Decree must be abolished. It is inconceivable to require that the president of Egypt must approve permits to build a church or even to repair a toilet in a church. Mosques in Egypt are being built with no restrictions. Equal air time must be available for Christians on the government controlled TV and Radio stations to broadcast their beliefs to their people. The 15 million Copts living in Egypt pay for the TV and Radio from their tax money, and they should have time allocated for broadcasting. Confiscated church lands must be returned. The income generated by these lands was used to provide for needy Christians. The lands were seized by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, even though the courts had ordered that the lands must be returned to their legitimate owners, the Copts. There must be an end to the forced conversion of Christian girls who are routinely kidnapped and raped by Muslim extremists. There are reports of police protection given to the abductors. All Egyptian citizens must have the freedom of belief, including the freedom to change one’s religion. Christians are welcomed to convert to Islam, so Muslims should be free to convert to Christianity, if they so choose. Converts to Christianity are routinely subjected to imprisonment and torture. Religious affiliation must be removed from national ID cards, job applications, and other documents so that Christians cannot be identified and discriminated against. Educational curriculums must be revised to guarantee that they do not contain any demeaning references to Christians and Christianity, but rather encourage students to accept and respect each other. Government controlled media must refrain from conducting a campaign of hate against Christians, labeling them as infidels, thus creating a climate of intolerance, in which attacks against the Christians can be easily propagated. The media should also allow Coptic programs to be aired. There must be an immediate end to the discrimination in job appointments and promotions. Very few Christians are appointed to key jobs such as ministers, or other government officials. At the present time there are no Christian governors, mayors, chiefs of police, presidents of city councils, or college deans in Egypt. There must be an immediate end to the discrimination in government controlled school admission against Christian students. Very few Christians are admitted to the police academy and military schools. Very few Christians are appointed to teaching assistant positions in all medical, pharmaceutical, engineering, and all top education colleges. The Egyptian government must be serious about apprehending those who murder Christians, punish them to the fullest extent of the law, and adequately compensate the victims of these crimes. No killers of Christians have been sentenced to the same punishments as those of a killer of Muslims. Even the terrorist Haridi, who murdered thirteen Christians, including small children in Sanabu in 1992, did not get the usual punishment for murder for his horrifying crimes. Immediate orders should be issued to rebuild Kafr Demian village, which was burned down by Muslim extremists in 1996. This should be done at the expense of the State. Christians should be treated with honor and dignity inside Police Departments and in the sermons of Muslim clerics in Mosques. There is no justification for humiliating somebody just because he or she is of a different religion. Routine Persecution of ChristiansA recent report by the Assyrian International News Agency ( http://www.aina.org/) illustrates what Christians in Egypt endure on a routine basis. According to an AINA news report by Mary Abdelmassih, on May 6, 2009, in broad daylight, four bearded Muslim men broke into the home of a Coptic Christian family in Alexandria armed with swords, sticks, and knives, assaulted their son, bundled him into an unregistered car waiting in front of the house, and disappeared. The terrorized neighbors were fearful and did not stop them, according to an appeal received by the Middle East Christian Association.
When the Coptic Basily family discovered the kidnapping of their 21-year-old son, Mina, they went to “Montaza” Police Station to report the incident. “A police officer came with us and saw the blood all over our home due to all the serious injuries and broken bones caused by the assault on our son, questioned the witnesses who all confirmed our story, and made an ‘unofficial’ report,” said Ms.Cecile, the victim’s mother. “However, when my husband went with him to the police station to issue a formal report, the officer flatly refused,” she went on.
The Coptic family found no alternative but to go to the office of the General Counsel of Alexandria/East with an appeal to give them an order to the Montaza Police Station to issue an official report of the kidnapping, which he approved and signed. “Still the officers at the police station refused this order, tore the paper into bits and said bluntly, ‘We will never issue this report,’” said Ms. Cecile.
This time the Basily’s had to seek the help of the Chief Prosecutor of the Montaza district to force the police officers to issue a report. Finally the police had to succumb and issue the incident report.
The victim’s mother, Mrs. Cecile Basily, sent a distress message to the renowned Egypt4Christ organization, asking for help to find her only son.
The organization learned recently that the captors handed over Mina to the Montaza police, and that the investigating officer was told by a Muslim girl’s family living in the neighborhood, that Mina had a relationship with their daughter Asma Osman. However, the girl had been hidden away by her family to prevent the police from questioning her and exposing the truth of Mina’s innocence, says Egypt4Christ.
The young Copt, Mina, is now detained at the State Security in Alexandria where it was learned that he is being pressurized to convert to Islam and marry the Muslim girl. (http://www.aina.org/news/20090513152152.htm)
Speak Out for Human Rights in Egypt“Obviously, not all Muslims persecute members of other faiths. Yet most Islamic nations, like Egypt, persecute religious minorities,” said Jacobson.
According to Jacobson, “Christians long ago demonstrated that they are sinners, not saints. Nevertheless, no Christian society today oppresses Muslims. Sadly, Christians seem largely unwilling to defend their own heritage. President Obama proclaimed that, “the United States has been enriched by Muslim-Americans.” Yet an increasing number of elected officials are unwilling or afraid to say the same thing of the Judeo-Christian worldview which shaped our nation.”
“The president’s eloquence cannot disguise the fact that Islam has been and continues to be opposed to many of the values which Americans hold dear,” said Jacobson. “Yes, let’s avoid a war with Islam and seek ‘engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect,’ as President Obama recently told the Turkish parliament. But let’s also hold Muslim nations to the same standards as everyone else. And that means protecting freedom of conscience for members of all religious faiths. We hope President Obama will speak to these important human rights issues in Egypt.”

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