Egypt’s President reminded of importance of religious freedom

Pope Francis met the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Monday this week, commencing the start of the Arab leader’s first European tour. The visit was the first between an Egyptian leader and a Pope in eight years, since before the Arab Spring which ultimately propelled the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi to power and the subsequent uprising which ousted him a year later. During their meeting Pope Francis stressed the importance of strengthening constitutional safeguards on human rights and religious freedom, adding that he hoped inter-religious dialogue would continue in Egypt.

A World Watch Monitor report headed ‘Kidnapping,’ forced conversion and collective punishment haunt Egypt’s Copts highlights events at Deir Gabal al-Teir village on 16 September. Egyptian security forces ambushed several Coptic homes in the middle of the night. They proceeded to steal and destroy the families’ belongings before dragging dozens of residents out of their beds, binding their hands behind their backs and beating them with batons. The police then proceeded to drag them to the police station by a single rope.

The security forces collectively punished the villagers in response to a demonstration initiated by a group of Copts the previous day. They were protesting outside the station to pressure the police to investigate the disappearance that initially occurred nearly two weeks earlier, of 39-year-old Coptic woman Iman Morqos Saroufim.

“The police brutality in this situation is similar to attacks under the former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s time. It’s the same old thing,” a Cairo pastor told World Watch Monitor.