Coptic Solidarity hosted its 6th Annual Conference June 11-12th in Washington, DC to discuss the rising persecution of religious minorities in the Middle East.
This past February, ISIS captured and martyred 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya followed by the murder of 30 Ethiopian Christians. Coptic Solidarity, host of the event, works to help Copts in Egypt and Middle East minorities achieve equal human rights.
In the past decade, religious minorities in the Middle East have experienced extreme persecution. The theme of the conference was 100 Years Later: Middle Eastern Christians Face Another Genocide. All speakers agreed that without direct, aggressive support, the future of Coptic Christians is in doubt.
The primary recommendations from the Conference are:
- Call upon the international community to actively preserve the existence and protect the rights of the vulnerable minoritiesof Iraq and Syria, which are confronting a genocidal campaign that seeks to totally eradicate them from the region.
- Call upon Pope Francis to convene a special summit meeting for world leaders to establish an immediate multi-faceted strategy in support of these embattled Christians.
- Call upon all governments of the world, and especially those of the Middle East, the United States and Europe, to confront the jihadist ideology that underpins Islamist terrorist groups. More than simply defeating ISIS, the extremist ideology driving persecution throughout the Middle East needs to be confronted.
- Support Egyptian leadership proclamations of need for reformist religious discourse, but call upon the Government of Egypt to respect, legislate and enforce articles in the Egyptian Constitution regarding citizenship rights and liberties, and to annul article 98-f of the Penal Code (related to “derision of religion”), which is being used to intimidate and stifle freedom of expression and belief in flagrant contradiction with the Egyptian Constitution and universal human rights.
The Policy Day was hosted on June 11th at the US Capitol and included: Members of Congress, the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, the Chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, leaders from Canada and the UK, and policy experts.
Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein said that the worldview of ISIS in the Middle East is “fundamentally opposed to freedom. Countering this religious oppression is my top priority.” He went on to say that the “promotion of religious freedom is indispensable to improving security and conflict resolution throughout the world.”
A common theme throughout the day was the importance of religious freedom as a critical building block to the development of democracy. Both Republican and Democratic Members of Congress affirmed the importance of religious liberty in securing human rights.
New ideas explored included a recent amendment by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) to include religious freedom as a component of trade negotiations. The amendment, initially focused on Pacific trade pacts, passed the U.S. Senate and is before the House.
Hon. Bob Dechert, Member, House of Commons, Canada described being in Parliament during the recent Canadian terrorist attack. Rt. Hon. Baroness Elizabeth Berridge, UK House of Lords, detailed her work to improve religious freedom through an International Panel of Parliamentarians.
Coptic Solidarity hosted a dinner following the Policy Day in which diplomats participated from the embassies of: Armenia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Russia and Slovenia. Each of these countries presented on their efforts to stop the increasing persecution of minorities in the MENA region.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, USCIRF Commissioner and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, was presented with Coptic Solidarity’s annual Leadership Award for his tireless and unwavering support of democracy in the region and true religious freedom and equality for all minorities.
Judge Jeanine Pirro was the keynote speaker on the second conference day. Her outspoken support for Copts and other minorities resulted in a standing ovation. Kenneth Hachikian, Chairman of the Armenian National Committee, also shared lessons learned from the Armenian Genocide and provided suggestions for addressing the current genocide. Representatives from the Middle East Christian Committee (representing many of the minorities suffering in the current genocide against Christians in Iraq, Syria, and surrounding countries) shared about the plight of their communities and what can be done to help them.
In the last year, Coptic Solidarity has acted on many of the recommendations following the 2014 conference. The Annual Conference plays a vital role in providing reporting and concrete policy recommendations that Coptic Solidarity can act on with partners.
Coptic Solidarity is an organization seeking to help minorities, particularly the Copts, of Egypt and we support those in Egypt working for democracy, freedom, and the protection of the fundamental rights of all Egyptian citizens. Its international organization has headquarters in the Washington, D.C., area in the U.S., with key branches currently in Canada, France, and Egypt. It believes that the international community plays a key role in helping ensure the protection and upholding of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities. For more information, contact Lindsay Vessey at 801-512-1713 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE Coptic Solidarity