Violence in Egypt Is Focus of Hearing on Int’l Human Rights Day
House hearing examine lives of moderate Muslims, Coptic Christians & human rights abuses in war-torn Egypt
Human rights abuses against Coptic Christians, moderate Muslims and other religious minorities, and the threats to stability and peace in Egypt were among the topics of a congressional hearing held by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees global human rights issues, on Tuesday, Dec. 10, the anniversary of the founding of International Human Rights Day.
“It is fitting that we are holding this hearing today, on International Human Rights Day, because we are witnessing grievous violence and other abuses directed against religious and political minorities, particularly the Copts and other Christians, about which our government and the media has said far too little—which seems to be a pattern world-wide,” Smith said. “After President Mubarak resigned in February of 2011, the world hoped for a new Egypt, a just government for all Egyptians, which would not make President Mubarak’s mistakes—but reality has been just the opposite.”
Smith said horrific anti-Christian persecutions have taken place under each of the post-Mubarak governments. “For some of these abuses, the governments bear the responsibility of inaction. For others they bear direct responsibility. In recent months, undercurrents of abuse and contempt for human dignity long existing in Egypt have turned into flash floods of violence.” Click here to read Chairman Smith’s opening remarks or click here to view video of his opening statement.
“Human Rights Abuses in Egypt,” a joint hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, offered witnesses on the role of moderate Muslims, the plight of the Coptic minority and the need to protect religious freedoms. Smith’s hearing included testimonies from Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom; Tad Stahnke, Director of Policy and Programs, Human Rights First; Zuhdi Jasser, M.D., Vice Chair, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Samuel Tadros, Research Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom, Hudson Institute, and Dr. Morad Abou-Sabe, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Rutgers University (Former President of Misr University for Science & Technology). Click on names to read their testimonies.
“The events of June 30, 2013 in Egypt, which resulted in the ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, were in response to the massive and unprecedented protests by the Egyptian People,” said Abou-Sabe. “Morsi’s overthrow was supported and facilitated by the Egyptian Military. Since Morsi’s ouster, the US-Egyptian relations have gone through abrupt changes that threatened and continue to threaten the special relationship between the two countries. Click here to read Abou-Sabe’s testimony.
“As Egyptian Americans, we are keen on seeing Egyptian democracy built on the same values we have in the US, where separation of Church and State is one of the bedrocks of our democracy, we aspire to have that be the system of choice for Egypt and all Egyptians,” Abou-Sabe said.
The significance of Human Rights Day and the planned hearing on the day proclaimed in 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly as ‘Human Rights Day’ was not unnoticed by Bishop Angaelos, who is in Washington to testify.
“This day was chosen to commemorate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the tenets of which are at the core of this testimonial statement, and are the entitlement of every Egyptian and every member of our shared humanity,” Bishop Angselos said. “Christians in Egypt have been suffering persecution and marginalisation, even before the uprising. In its aftermath however, this suffering has intensified significantly. The frequency in attacks on Christians and other religious minority groups, their communities and places of worship is increasingly disturbing. Carried out by radical elements in society, these attacks are not merely on individuals but on the Christian and minority presence in its entirety. Those intolerant to religious minorities are partly enabled by the breakdown in law and order and the growing culture of impunity that Egypt has witnessed in previous years. Moreover, the persecution of religious minorities over the past decades has not manifest itself solely in physical attacks, but has frequently been embedded in process and policy, then translated into dealings with citizens on unequal grounds, inevitably having resulted in greater division and marginalisation. It is not only Christians who suffer marginalisation, persecution and attacks, but other religious minorities such as Bahá’is, Jews and Muslim minorities such as Sufi’s and Shiites.” Click here to read the Bishop’s opening remarks for the hearing.