Coptic Christians Ask America To Withhold Funding From Egypt

By BRADLEY HOPE Staff Reporter of the Sun

25 April 2006

The New York Sun

Several hundred of the area's Coptic Christians yesterday called on the American government to withhold funding from Egypt until President Mubarak agrees to make a serious effort to protect the rights of Christians.

The demonstrators, many of whom wore T-shirts bearing the message "Stop Killing Christians In Egypt" written on the front, said persecution in Egypt had escalated in recent years. Christians have been raped, killed, and discriminated against without the perpetrators being brought to justice, the president of the International Christian Union, Monir Dawoud, said.

"We don't want our tax money going to kill our people in Egypt," he said.

America gave $1.87 billion in foreign aid to Egypt in fiscal year 2004, ranking third on the list after Iraq and Israel, according to State Department figures.

The editor of the weekly Coptic newspaper Watani International, Magdi Khalil, said that since President Mubarak took office in 1981, after Anwar Sadat was assassinated, there have been 55 major attacks on Coptic Christians by Muslims.

"Sometimes the police even participate," he said. "We need George Bush to announce 'Stop killing Christians in the Middle East. Equality for Christians in the Middle East.'"

A member of the International Christian Union, Rania Hanna, said she was granted asylum in America after someone threw acid on her because her face and body were not covered according to Muslim law. She told stories of young girls being kidnapped and raped because they were Christian.

"You cannot walk free as a female in Egypt," she said.

Protesters, who gathered in front of the Isaiah Wall at 43rd Street, also called on the secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, to condemn the persecution of Christians in Egypt and to take action to restore their equality.

The march was organized in the wake of recent attacks on four Coptic churches in Egypt on Good Friday. One Christian worshipper was stabbed to death during the attacks, which the government labeled the work of a single, deranged man. Ms. Hanna said the government has used similar "excuses" in the past to make attacks appear to be isolated incidents.

About 15 million Christians live in Egypt, making up 10% of the population. Christians occupy no policy-making positions, Mr. Dawoud said.

"We'd like the money the government gives to be a seed of democracy, not of persecution," a vice president of the International Christian Union, Joseph Hakim, said.

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