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29 January 2013

Egypt uprising: renewed calls for justice

Egypt uprising: renewed calls for justice

Two years after the Egyptian uprising in Tahrir, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a member organisation of the Evangelical Alliance, continues to call for the equality of citizenship for all Egyptians, regardless of their religion or beliefs.

"In the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Mubarak regime," CSW explains, "there was hope for a new Egypt, where the rights of all Egyptians would be respected and upheld."

However, "repression has continued in the subsequent years, with brutal tactics being employed against pro-democracy protestors by the previous military and by the government of President Morsi in order to enforce the status quo, resulting in the loss of many lives. Most recently, seven people died and hundreds were injured during the widespread protests that took place late last year, following the negative reaction to the new constitution, which restricts freedom of expression and the rights of women and religious minorities".

Andrew Johnston, advocacy director of CSW, said: "The past two years have seen increasing restrictions of fundamental freedom, a marked increase in attacks against Copts, as well as the jailing and harassment of those who have opposed the Morsi government, or who do not share the Muslim Brotherhood's political or religious vision."

Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, issued a statement on the eve of the anniversary, commenting on the recent escalation of violence against Christians and calling for direct intervention by the Egyptian government.

He asserted: "We still witness the marginalisation and alienation of many, Christians and Muslims alike, within Egyptian society… over the last two weeks, violent incidents and targeted attacks on Christians in Egypt have escalated once again."

Angaelos cites several recent cases in which Christian property, including a Sunday school building, has been destroyed or stolen. The perpetrators of these crimes are not, typically, brought to justice.

In contrast, Angaelos draws attention to the case of Nadia Mohamed Ali, who, along with her seven children, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. The family, which had converted back to Christianity from Islam, "was reportedly in possession of allegedly falsified documents", but the bishop emphasises that "if the right processes were in place to allow Egyptian citizens to freely choose their faith as regularly claimed, there would be no need for this practice".

In response to such incidents, the bishop calls for "proper investigation into any acts of violence against individuals, groups, or communities, and the protection of places of worship". He advocates: "The serious consideration of the removal of one's religion from official personal identification cards, so as to facilitate the treatment of all Egyptian citizens equally." He added: "We also pray for peace and safety on the streets of Egypt over these coming days, that there be no more injury, bloodshed, or mourning, and that the spirit of hope and resilience lives on in the hearts of those who desire positive reform and freedom."

Angaelos said: "It is time for Egypt to emerge out of the pattern of discriminatory practice, and take on its new identity of a promised democracy that the January 2011 uprising sought to establish."

CSW's Johnston echoes Angaelos, stating: "If the government is truly as democratic as it claims, it should begin to take concrete steps to allow for freedom of expression and to ensure that the rights of all citizens are respected, and that any attacks on individuals or communities are thoroughly investigated."