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On The Status Of The Egyptian Coptic Community

Rep. Gary Peters

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Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the ongoing violence in Egypt being carried out against religious minorities. While the end of the Mubarak regime has brought about the promise for democratic reform, it has also given rise to instability and acts of violence against religious minorities. Coptic Christians have lived peacefully in this part of the world for millennia, but sadly in recent months Coptic churches and protestors have been targeted for violence.

I am grateful to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, for holding a hearing recently on the plight of the Coptic people. I was concerned to learn of reports that young women and under-aged girls fear for their safety because of the threat of violence by Muslim extremists. As a member of the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, I strongly believe U.S. policymakers need to do more to raise awareness of this issue so that the innocent Christians of Egypt are no longer targeted for violence.

I am proud to represent a vibrant Coptic community in southeast Michigan and am privileged to consider the clergy of St. Mark's Church in Troy, Michigan as my friends. Many of my constituents have relatives in Egypt and I know that they are deeply concerned about the security of their loved ones. I share their concerns--and the concerns of Copts across our nation--about the future of their community and the desire to preserve their right to continue to live peacefully in their ancestral homeland.

While we are hopeful for democratic change in Egypt, it is imperative that we maintain support for religious minority communities such as the Copts and seek to preserve and allow for the continuity of their community. I ask my colleagues to join me in raising awareness for the plight of the Copts, demanding an end to extremist violence, ensuring that all Egyptian political parties practice the values of pluralism and tolerance, and encouraging a democratic Egypt to fully respect the rights of all its citizens.