Saturday, January 21, 2006

Beating and Humiliating Copts in Cairo: Revealing the Egyptian Police's Ugly Face

On January 9th 2006, a woman named Hanan tried to buy some clothes from the Good Shepherd Center in Cairo's district of Shobra, which has a high Coptic concentration. The clothes were worth L.E. 270 but the woman tried to buy them for only 150.

Reymond, the owner's son, and Theresa, a shopkeeper refused. One hour later the woman returned with a large number of police forces and detectives from the Rod El Farag police station.

They ruined the center's goods and arrested Reymond and Theresa in a humiliating manner. Both were brought to the police station where they were accused of stealing L.E. 750 from Hanan. There, Reymond and Theresa learned that the woman was a relative of a police officer. Reymond's father was called to the Rod El Farag police station, where the officer who runs the station, namely Mahmoud El Sayed, threatened him saying: "Either you pay or your son will be humiliated and put in jail and tried for theft!" As the father insisted on his son's innocence and accused the woman of lying, the officer screamed at him saying: "Get out you thieves, I can put you in jail as well. As if we don't have enough problems with Reymonds, Theresas, Georges, Abdelmessihs, and all that garbage." (All are Christian names) The father was understandibly troubled, for he realized the story was religion-fueled, and that the officer was dicriminating against him, his son, and Theresa because of their Christianity.

When the father was taken to where Theresa and Reymond were detained, he found Theresa begging the woman and saying: "Ma'm, I'm like your daughter, would you accept for your daughter to be humiliated like this?" But the woman interrupted her: "Shut up you felth! You are nothing but a thief and a shopkeeper. My daughter is a physician!".

Then an officer called Mohamed EL Barbary got up and slapped Reymond and Theresa on their faces a number of times and screamed at the father's face: "Won't we ever finish with your headache? We can do more to your son and put him in jail, so you'd better pay the woman L.E. 750 and end that story." Fearing for his son and the shopkeeper, the father decided to give the woman the sum she wanted saying: "I entrust this money to God." So she pulled the money saying: "As if you (Christians) know God!".

The woman subsequently left with the officer in a police car with plates 21/2779.

For one last time, the officer looked at the father threating him: "I will teach you a good lesson! I will show up at the center and make you piss on yourselves when you see me!" A complaint was sent to the minister of interior dated Janaury 9th 2006, and another was sent to the head of the State security. Obviously no action was taked by either of them.

Egyptian Security Forces Inspire the Muslim Crowd to Attack the Copts

Muhammad Nour, Security Chief of Luxor tells Fr. Sarabamoun : These forces are not here to protect the Copts but to prevent them from praying in church:

Security Chief has asked Fr. Sarabamoun,- the priest of Holy Virgin Mary Church in the village of Udayasaat, Luxor- to enter the church, once he did and saw the alters he informed the priest not to pray and to leave the church, later on he informed the security forces that their mission is not to protect the Copts nor the church but to prevent them from praying. Afterwards the Muslim crowd started attacking the church and the Copts in a barbaric way at 7:00 PM on Wednesday night ( January 18, 2006) , the raid continued till 2:00 AM despite the heavy presence of security forces

You can listen to Fr. Sarabamoun's description (in Arabic) of the sorrowful events by clicking here
Fr. Sarabamoun is making an urgent plea for HELP to protect the innocent Copts against the aggression of the Egyptian government and the barbaric attacks of the Muslims in the village of Udaysaat, Luxor.

Mr. Kamal Shakir Megala'a, seen here- died as a result of the injuries he suffered during the attack

Friday, January 20, 2006

Photos of the Coptic victims in Luxor

More photos can be found at mychristianblood blog
Click here...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Muslim Youth Attack Copts in a Village Near Luxor

At least 14 people were wounded when Muslim youth attacked Copts in the village of Udaysaat near the southern town of Luxor, about 500 km (300 miles) south of Cairo.

Copts were turning a house into a church in the region, which "provoked the Muslim youth" according to local residents, the Muslim youth set fire to the building materials as well as surrounding buildings in an attempt to stop Copts from building the church.

Police forces rushed to the scene and arrested 10 youth in addition to the house owners.

The Egyptian government restricts the building of churches; sometimes it takes over 20 years to get a presidential permit to build a new church. A recent presidential decree delegated local authorities to issue permits of renovating churches yet the decree failed to address the issue of building new churches in many locations throughout the country where Christians are deprived from their right of worship in a church.

According to the statistics published by the Egyptian Census Department in the "Al Osboa newspaper", there are 1950 churches in Egypt (for an estimated 10-12 million Coptic Christians of different denominations , i.e. a church for every 6153 Christians) and 920611 mosques, i.e. a mosque for every 67 Muslims.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bethlehem procession emphasizes solidarity among Palestinian Christians

Holding banners and carrying olive branches, the baseball-capped children sing carols while making their way through Bethlehem’s streets.
By Amelia Thomas, Middle East Times
BETHLEHEM, West Bank -- It is a chilly Saturday morning in Bethlehem on January 14, the date traditionally celebrated by many Christian Eastern Orthodox churches as New Year's Day.
While old women sell their wares in the tiny, crowded market, and men flock around vendors' cages of pigeons, ducks and chickens, the sounds of a procession can be heard, making its way down from Star Street to Manger Square in the center of the ancient town.
The procession consists of more than 1,000 Palestinian Christian children from over 50 Latin parishes across the West Bank, many of whom have never before had the chance to enter Bethlehem
Holding banners and carrying olive branches, symbolic of peace, the baseball-capped children sing carols while making their way excitedly through Bethlehem's winding cobbled streets, their chaperones - a combination of proud mothers and excited nuns - cheerfully urging them on.
This procession, organized by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, is the second annual Journey to Bethlehem, aiming to "demonstrate the importance of solidarity among the Christian denominations in the Holy Land".
At a time when some Palestinian Christians fear that a widespread win for the Islamic organization Hamas in the upcoming Palestinian elections could be detrimental to an already isolated and fragmented group, this march is particularly symbolic.
Making up less than 2 percent of the Palestinian population, with around 35,000 Christians in the West Bank and 3,000 in Gaza, this minority fears not only for its rights, but also for its existence.
Many Palestinian Christians have already emigrated in the wake of the most recent intifada's violence and subsequent restrictions; in Bethlehem alone, it is estimated that over 2,500 Christians have left over the last four years.
This march, encompassing Anglican, Armenian, Syrian, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite and Lutheran communities, thus intends to send an important message of solidarity to its participants, and to the wider world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Sudanese Sojourners in Egypt

By Ashley Makar

When Kuol Maketh went to collect what his fellow Sudanese asylum seekers had lost in the December 30th police raid on their protest camp–passports, identity cards, photographs, blankets, bottles and bags, he found nothing.

Egyptian sanitation workers had already cleared the rubble of the three-month Sudanese sit-in outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office (UNHCR) in Cairo. “The situation became an issue of public disorder,” a UNHCR Cairo spokesperson Astrid van Genderen Stort told the New York Times in the wake of the raid. It was a public health threat.

Now, UNHCR Cairo purports to be attending to the health and security problems of the two thousand victims of the raid: The refugee agency is trying to prevent the Egyptian government from deporting over five hundred Sudanese asylum seekers who have been detained since police evacuated the camp, for not having valid documents on their persons. Stort told Reuters that UNHCR aid workers distributed blankets and medication to hundreds of others who had been released and were finding shelter at Sakakini Catholic Church in central Cairo.
But Sakakini is no longer a haven for those who lost their possessions in the protest camp.

Those seeking shelter in the church were also evacuated, according to Sudanese priest John Matiop (names have been changed for protection), not by force, but fear: Someone circulated word that the Sudanese protestors were going to launch a coup against the Egyptian government, police surrounded the church, and the released demonstrators dispersed, to find shelter among other Sudanese living all over Cairo.

Matiop said the coup rumor is not true, and protest organizer George Deng says the UNHCR office in Cairo has been telling lies: Deng went to the bank to collect the financial assistance the refugee agency claims to be providing those who were dispossessed by the raid. The bank said his name wasn’t on their list. The international press reports that the protestors rejected a UNHCR concession of one-time financial assistance–$700 for local integration and $250 for families willing to return to Sudan. Deng said he never heard of such an offer.

At Refuge Egypt, an Episcopal ministry for displaced Africans in Cairo, Deng and other protest organizers told me their version of the protest raid: Riot police started coming around 10 pm, replacing the security vehicles that had been surrounding the park with buses. A member of the protest committee went to ask the Giza security officers who had been guarding the camp why. They said there was going to be an anti-government demonstration after Friday prayers at Mousafa Mahmoud Mosque the next day, and there needed to be extra security in the area. Later that night, the riot police surrounded the park and announced, “we’ve prepared a camp for you.” The protestors said they would consider going, but they wanted to see where. The riot police refused and, without warning, unleashed water cannons. The water contained chemicals; the protestors could feel it in their skin. Police beat them with batons and threw children like stones.

Deng complains that UNHCR Cairo is talking to the media about the “donations” it is offering the refugees because it doesn’t want to change its policies or acknowledge what happened: What about the people who are dying? he asked. Who will be responsible for the protestors whom the Egyptian government killed?

The Egyptian daily Al Ahram reports that the protestors killed themselves, in a stampede. Echoing the Sudanese Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, the Egyptian Interior Ministry blamed the Sudanese protestors for inciting the police attack. The ministry gave two justifications for the violence in official statements: that the refugees ignored a Sudanese Embassy ultimatum to evacuate the camp and that police were protecting the UNHCR from threats of attack from the protestors, more lies, according to Deng.

Deng and three other protest participants told me that four Sudanese Embassy delegates tried to attack the camp in October. The protestors said they seized the attackers and handed them over to Egyptian police. “If I were in the West, the Sudanese Embassy [couldn’t] attack me,” Deng said. “In Egypt, they can.”

The protestors were demanding an air lift or a promise, a way out of Egypt. They rejected the UNHCR proposal of “local integration” as a “durable solution.” They don’t believe the UNHCR can protect them in Egypt.

UNHCR Cairo has repeatedly told Sudanese asylum seekers that resettlement out of Egypt is not a right. But the protesters harbor a sense of entitlement to third-country asylum, based on their reading of the Geneva Convention Related to the Status of Refugees.

The Egyptian government made several reservations when it became a contracting state to the Geneva 1951 Convention. Unlike refugees in other 1951 contract state, those residing in Egypt are not guaranteed what is available to citizens with regard to subsidized food and medication, education, and social services. Since Sudanese asylum seekers find no work, educational opportunities, or affordable living in Cairo, they believe they have the right to be resettled elsewhere.

The protestors also reject the UNHCR’s offer of assistance for “voluntary repatriation” to Sudan. Since the Sudanese civil war ended with a peace agreement between the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), lead by the late John Garang, and the Omar al-Beshir’s Khartoum-based government in January 2005, UNHCR Cairo has been offering repatriation as a “durable solution” for Sudanese asylum seekers in Cairo.

Though many are African Christians war refugees from southern Sudan, there are Northern Sudanese political refugees and African Muslims fleeing the current conflict in Darfur. Released protest leaders say none of Sudan is secure: Omar al-Beshir is a war criminal.

After the raid on the protest camp, Sudanese asylum seekers don’t trust the UNHCR to repatriate them. Many complain that the assistance the refugee agency is offering–$100 for individuals and $250 for families–is hardly enough to get to Khartoum, where all fear persecution. Furthermore, going to southern Sudan is not yet safe: The land mines are still there, and the peace is tenuous. “Where is John Garang?!” Johanna, one of the protest participants asked.

Garang was killed in August 2005 in a suspicious plane crash between Uganda and Sudan. Riots broke out among southern Sudanese youth in Khartoum. They believed the Sudanese government killed Garang. Over twenty died in violent confrontations with Sudanese security forces.

Cairo protest leader Akol Appai showed me a list of people who had died in the police raid, from Zenhom Morgue.
Twenty-seven, the official casualty figure reported by the Egyptian Interior Ministry, another lie, according to Deng. Number twenty-one was Betty Asongo Bendalino, whose family came to the morgue and requested that her body be returned to Sudan.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Martin Luther King, Jr.: "I Have a Dream"

I must say to my people....... Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.

Excerpts from Martin Luther King's I have a dream