Pope Shenouda rejects foreign intervention in Egyptian affairs

Pope Shenouda III on Monday reiterated his rejection of foreign interference in Egyptian affairs, particularly with regard religious freedoms and the position of Copts in society.

At a meeting with US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, the head of Egypt's Coptic Church urged the US to adopt balanced policies towards Palestinians and to support the peace process. He urged the US not to shatter the Palestinian dream of having a recognized state.  

This is Patterson's first visit to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abbasseya since she took office in August.

Patterson expressed appreciation for Shenouda's role and for the Coptic Church's activities aimed at bolstering national unity and social peace.

Meanwhile, the US Religious Freedom report – issued this month – said the transitions to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa have inspired the world, but they have also exposed ethnic and religious minorities to new dangers.

People have been killed by their own neighbors because of their ethnicity or faith, it said, while in other places governments stand by while sectarian violence tears communities apart.

The report, which reviewed religious liberties in 198 countries, singled out Egypt, where there have been clashes between Muslims and Christians and several attacks against Copts.

The US called on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to pass laws protecting all religions. It also noted significant problems in Iraq, where religious minorities and Shia pilgrims have been the targets of devastating attacks.

A report by an Egypt-based Coptic NGO this week claimed that nearly 93,000 Copts have left Egypt since 19 March.

The number may increase to 250,000 by the end of 2011, according to Naguib Gabriel, the head of the Egyptian Federation of Human Rights, which released the report.

Meanwhile, the three major Christian churches in Egypt denied the authenticity of Gabriel’s report. A senior Coptic Church official said there are no accurate statistics about the number of Copts who have emigrated from Egypt.

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