Smith Receives Coptic Leadership Award for Efforts to Fight Human Rights Abuses of Copts
Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, was presented with the 2014 Coptic Solidarity Leadership Award today for his leadership on human rights and “work on behalf of the Copts and people of Egypt.”
Terrorism expert and author, Dr. Walid Phares, and Adel Guindy, the President of Coptic Solidarity, presented the award. Dr. Robbie George of Princeton University and Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, other members of Congress, and Lord Alton of the British House of Lords were also in attendance.
“The Coptic community has suffered much abuse in Egypt, and their plight must not be overlooked by the international community,” Smith said.
In accepting the award, Smith renewed his call for the Administration to link the $1.3 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt to improvements in human rights, particularly religious freedom. He also relayed his hope that the Administration would take seriously the 550 women and girls—some as young as 13 or 14 years old—who have been abducted by radical Islamists and forced to marry in an effort to “Islamize the womb.” Smith called the abductions, which have increased in the last three years, a severe violation of human rights that deserves investigation by the US government. He has held five hearings on the situation of Copts in Egypt, focusing in particular on the situation of Coptic women.
At the awards ceremony, Smith also expressed concern that the Administration has left vacant for almost half of the last five years the position for the Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom—sending the message to foreign governments that the United States does not care enough about religious freedom to prioritize filling our own government’s positions on the subject. The position has most recently been unfilled for eight months and was previously filled by an individual lacking diplomatic experience.
“I strongly believe the Administration needs to quickly appoint an Ambassador with the gravitas required for the task of promoting America’s first freedom,” Smith said, referring to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which protects religious freedom in the First Amendment.