Ambassador listens to concerns about Christians in Egypt

Pledges investigation into cases raised

Today in Dublin, the Egyptian Ambassador, Mr. Ashraf Rashed, met with Mark Rohu and David Turner (CCFC) to listen to concerns about a number of difficulties currently being experienced by Christians in Egypt. The hour-long meeting took place in a friendly atmosphere and CCFC began by welcoming the positive contribution of the Egyptian government on a number of issues of importance to Christians.

Top of the agenda was the recent incident at the Patmos Centre (a social and religious centre belonging to the Coptic Church which includes The Cheerful Heart Centre for the Mentally Disabled). Last month, a group of Egyptian soldiers from
the local Army barracks came to the Centre with a bulldozer intent on destruction but withdrew when met by resistance from staff at the Centre. Previous attacks were made by soldiers on the Centre in 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2002.

Mr. Rashed responded by saying that he had no detailed information about the case but pledged to investigate the situation and stressed that the Egyptian government was committed to stopping any attacks on Christians.

CCFC then raised the issue of the great difficulties faced by Muslims who convert to Christianity who are often arrested and imprisoned in Egypt. David Turner particularly expressed concern for Hisham Ibrahim (imprisoned in Cairo¬πs Tora prison since May 2002) and Naglaa Ibrahim and her husband, Malak Fahmy, who have been detained since February 2003.

Mr. Rashed stated that, speaking as a Muslim, It¬πs a very serious thing to convert from Islam. However, as Mark Rohu pointed out, Egypt is a signatory to the UN Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees the right to change one¬πs religion.
David Turner questioned why there was a need for national identity cards to state the holder¬πs religion and Mr. Rashed replied that the identity card law had been inherited by the government.

The final point to be raised during the hour-long meeting was the acquittal (in February 2003) of all those accused of the murder of 21 Christians in Al-Kosheh in January 2000. David Turner pointed out that the church in Egypt saw this verdict as implying that murder of Christians would go unpunished in Egypt. Mr. Rashed restated the government view that Al-Kosheh had been an isolated case of Muslim/Christian conflict.