US lawmakers press Egypt on Coptic Christians

WASHINGTON- A group of US lawmakers urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a letter released Wednesday to "properly" prosecute gunmen behind the recent slayings of six Coptic Christians.
The attack was "indicative of a systematic pattern of violence" and an example of "alarming" incidents of religious intolerance in Egypt, the 16 US senators and representatives wrote in the message, which they sent on Tuesday.

Egyptian Copts in Cairo's al-Waraaq district, 2009.
Egyptian Copts in Cairo's al-Waraaq district, 2009.
"As members of the US 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," the lawmakers said.
On January 6, the eve of the Coptic Orthodox Christmas, three gunmen raked worshippers emerging from mass in Nagaa Hammadi with bullets, the deadliest attack since 2000 when 20 Copts were killed in sectarian clashes.
Three Muslims were arrested two days after the attack and charged with premeditated murder. They will stand trial before an emergency security court next month.
Copts, who account for nearly 10 percent of Egypt's population of 80 million, are the Middle East's largest Christian community but complain of routine harassment and systematic discrimination and marginalization.
The US lawmakers, led by Senator Sam Brownback and Representative Frank Wolf, both Republicans, noted in the letter that the United States is a generous donor to Egypt, one of its stalwart allies in the Middle East.
"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," they said.
"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," they wrote.

Thursday, January 21st 2010

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