Brownback, Wolf, Others Send Letter to Egyptian Government Calling for Religious Tolerance
U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) along with 14 other members of Congress sent a bi-partisan, bi-cameral letter to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt calling for a serious review of recent and recurring acts of violence and discrimination against Christians in that country.
In addition to Brownback and Wolf, the following members of Congress signed onto the letter: Senators James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Representatives Todd Akin (R-OK), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Dan Burton (R-IN), Joseph Cao (R-LA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Bob Inglis (R-SC), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Chris Smith (R-NJ).
Below is full text of the letter:
"We write today to express our grave concern regarding numerous reports that have emerged of six Coptic Christians and one Muslim security guard who were tragically killed following a Christmas Eve service in the town of Naga Hamady in Qena province, Egypt.
"Initial press accounts indicate that a gunman accompanied by two others drove by the church opening fire on the worshipers as they exited the service. Additional reports indicate that thousands of mourners in Naga Hamady that turned out to show their support for the victims' families at the funeral were sprayed with tear gas by government security forces. We call upon you to urge the judicious use of force by government security forces during this difficult time and to ensure that the three perpetrators that have voluntarily turned themselves in to authorities are properly prosecuted.
"Unfortunately, this recent incident is indicative of a systematic pattern of violence against Egypt's Coptic Christian population. As you know, Coptic Christians comprise approximately 10 percent of Egypt's 80 million population and are an integral part of Egyptian society. We urge you to better protect the Coptic Christian community by properly investigating and prosecuting perpetrators of violence against Coptic Christians, providing compensation for victims of violence, and ensuring the protection and preservation of Coptic places of worship.
"The State Department's 2009 International Religious Freedom report states that the Egyptian government's respect for religious freedom 'declined somewhat during the reporting period based on failure to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of increased incidents of sectarian violence.' The United States Congress continues to increase economic assistance to Egypt and has recently created an endowment to 'further the shared interests of Egypt and the United States.'
"As members of the U.S. Congress, we see the protection of the Coptic Christian community as a 'shared interest' and strongly urge you to reverse Egypt's trend of failing to properly investigate and prosecute incidents of violence against Coptic Christians. We also call upon your government to address ongoing discriminatory practices affecting the Coptic community, including the difficulty in building and repairing churches, poor representation in certain government bodies, and security harassment of converts.
"Expressions of religious intolerance, which are occurring in Egypt with alarming frequency, are cause for worldwide concern. We urge the Egyptian government to obviate such incidents by ensuring the equal protection of the law and equal rights for all citizens and by taking swift and effective action to prosecute any such incidents that occur.
"Thank you for your attention to this important matter."