Egyptian Coptic leaders worldwide have urged the government to initiate ‘special legislation’ designed to end ‘long and enduring persecution’ of Christians in Egypt. The appeal, made at the conclusion of the First International Symposium on Egyptian Copts in Zurich, Switzerland Sept. 23-25, included the signatures of representatives from the American Coptic Association, the UK Coptic Association, the European Coptic Association-Franc, and the US Copts Association.
“In order to end the long and enduring persecution of the Copts in Egypt, we call on the Egyptian government to enact 'Special Legislation' through the Egyptian legislature to correct all inequities resulting from historical neglect and discrimination,” the resolution read.
“We sincerely solicit the help of all Muslims to stand side by side with the Copts in their quest for freedom and equality.”
The resolution also recommended the new legislation establish and implement the following principles, in establishing equality for the Copts:
1. Instituting a total separation of religion and state through constitutional reforms, and the removal of emphasis on religion and its role in government institutions, emphasizing the secular nature of the State.
2. Denouncing the Hamayoni Decree--which encourages government officials and general Muslim public to destroy churches using the excuse that these churches were illegally built--as unconstitutional in order to establish the equal rights of all Egyptians to build and maintain places of worship.
3. Allocating a proportionate and just percentage (estimated between 10-15 percent) of government appointed positions to Copts, to guarantee appropriate participation.
4. Allocating a proportionate and just percentage (estimated between 10-15 percent) of parliamentary seats for Copts, thereby encouraging political participation and guaranteeing adequate representation in the Electoral Bodies.
5. Removing religious identification from every government issued document, form, or application.
6. Enforcing the constitution in order to guarantee the freedom and protection of religious beliefs of all Egyptians, free from all coercion.
7. Ending the practice of treating all Coptic issues, including their struggle to attain equal rights, as 'State Security Matters' and removing what is known as the 'Coptic File' from the grip of the State Security Intelligence Apparatus, with the aim of restoring equality between all Egyptians under rule of law.
8. Reforming school curriculum and the media to remove all demeaning references to non-Muslims, and introducing an educational curriculum teaching tolerance, acceptance of others, respect for human rights, and religious freedom.
The resolution concluded with a call to “strengthen relationships of love and respect between Egyptians, both Muslim and Christian”, with the declaration “what is good for the Copts is good for Egypt”
The Coptic Church is the by far largest Christian group in both Egypt as well as North Africa/Middle East. According to government figures there are about 2 million Copts in Egypt, although many believe the figure to be incorrect, as many Copts do not register their religious affiliation in official papers, in order to avoid future discrimination.
In its early history, the Egyptian church was of great importance to the development of early Christianity and is based on the teachings of Apostle Mark who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century.