Egyptian Parliament Encourages Greater Dialogue with U.S. Regarding Coptic Christians

Dec 31, 2017 - 4 min read

The Foreign Relations Committee of Egypt’s Parliament is calling for increased dialogue with the U.S. Congress following concerns raised in a recent letter written by six members of Congress about “the increasing sectarian fanaticism and terrorist attacks against Copts in Egypt.”

The request was one of several recommendations to come out of hearing of the committee on December 27. The others were:

  • Inviting members of the U.S. Congress to have dialogue with their Egyptian counterparts to get acquainted with the stances of all parties, and not just one party that raises an issue unilaterally.
  • Inviting the six members of the U.S. Congress who signed the letter to attend a hearing in Egypt in the presence of Coptic Representatives and others from various bodies in the state and society.
  • Sending an Egyptian parliamentary delegation to the United States, including a number of Coptic Representatives, to speak to the real conditions of Copts in Egypt.
  • Expediting the issuance of laws and legislations stipulated in the Egyptian Constitution, including the law on combating discrimination and establishing a related commission. Furthermore, the Egyptian churches should accelerate drafting the non-Muslims personal status law so as to submit to the parliament to pass it.

The hearing was chaired by Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee Tarek Radwan in the presence of Chairman of the Defense and National Security Committee Major General Kamal Amer and Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Major General Alaa Abed.

Deputy of the Human Rights Committee Margret Azer, Representative Magdy Malak and the Secretary General of Egypt Support Coalition Representative Magdy Morshid also participated in the hearing. Chairman of the State Information Service (SIS) DiaaRashwan was invited to attend the session, which was represented by members of Egyptian parliamentary blocs, political parties and civil society organizations.

Chairman Radwan said that the letter from the six members of Congress included baseless allegations on violations of the rights of Copts in Egypt, stressing that discussion of the problems the Christians in Egypt face — if any — is an internal issue in which other nations are not entitled to interfere.

Secretary General of the Egypt Support Coalition Morshid said that there are 38 Christian members in the Egyptian parliament, including 22 Representatives who represent constituencies with a Muslim majority. He affirmed that the Christians in Egypt are Egyptian citizens, equal in rights and duties.

Chairman of the Defense and National Security Committee Major General Amer warned against the existence of powers that aim at weakening and destabilizing Egypt, adding that no one can outbid the national unity of the Egyptians whether at home or abroad. He maintained that this memorandum aims to incite sedition among the Egyptians in an attempt to pressure Egypt.

He further referred to the prolonged relations between Egypt and the U.S. in various domains and the common interests based on equal footing, not within a dependency framework.

Representative Malak rejected any guardianship of Egypt’s Copts, whether by U.S. Congress or others, stressing that both the Church and Al-Azhar reject making use of the Copts filing to undermine the national unity of the Egyptian people.

Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Major General Abed lauded the Egyptian Constitution that criminalizes discrimination based on religion, urging for a moderate discourse for Egyptians since young age in schools and also in churches and mosques. He rejected the memo referred to the U.S. Congress under the pretext of supporting Copts, considering it a direct interference in Egyptian internal affairs.

Chairman of the State Information Service Rashwan confirmed that the 2014 Egyptian Constitution guarantees equality among all Egyptians as enshrined in its preamble: “We are drafting a Constitution that holds all of us equal in rights and duties without discrimination of any kind”.

The Constitution safeguards legislation and preserves their sanctity without any interference by the State, as stipulated in Article (3): “The principles of Christian and Jewish Sharia of Egyptian Christians and Jews are the main source of legislation that regulate their respective personal status, religious affairs, and selection of spiritual leaders.” Article (53) stipulates that there is no discrimination among Egyptians: “All citizens are equal before the Law. They are equal in rights, freedoms and general duties, without discrimination based on religion, belief, sex, origin, race, color, language, disability, social class, political or geographic affiliation or any other reason.”

Deputy Chairman of Egypt Support Coalition for Foreign Affairs Representative Karim Darwish asserted the Copts are adhering to their belonging to Egypt and respect its sovereignty, adding that those who are outside Egypt should not speak in the name of Egypt’s Copts. He maintained that those who presented this memo have not been to Egypt at all.

Deputy of the Human Rights Committee Representative Azer made clear that Christians in Egypt are not a minority as some claim, explaining that they are equal in rights and duties as stipulated in the Egyptian Constitution for all Egyptians. She rejected taking the Copts file as a pretext to interfere in the Egyptian affair.