Australian Coptic Movement calls on President Sisi to abolish ‘reconciliation sessions’.

Sisi solo image

Attempts to solve sectarian attacks by holding such ‘reconciliation sessions’ should be completely abolished. Other incidents of mob violence against Copts have occurred elsewhere particularly the province of Al-Minya.

The Australian Coptic Movement Association (ACM) recognises the challenges President Abdel
Fattah el-Sisi faces with governing Egypt during a period of great instability in the region,
particularly in Libya and the Sinai region.

The ongoing threat of terrorism is real. On the 10th June 2015, we witnessed an attempted attack at the infamous Karnak temple of Luxor. Thankfully, Egyptian police were able to thwart the attack with
limited casualties. The attack in Luxor comes at a time when Egypt’s tourism industry is showing signs of recovery.

President Sisi’s efforts to tackle Egypt’s security threat and address the rise of potentially destructive ideology are to be commended.

However, the recent sectarian attacks against Coptic families in Beni Sweif have once again
brought the issue of Coptic persecution to the forefront. Coptic Christians continue to be subject to targeted attacks in Egypt, particularly in Southern Egypt.
Recent attacks have occurred in the province of Beni Sweif from 24th May 2015 onwards. Scores of Coptic-owned homes and crops were destroyed following mob violence by extremists in the village of Kafr Darwish. The mob violence directed against Coptic families resulted in at least 10 houses torched following sustained attacks.

Regrettably, a ‘reconciliation session’ was held by local elders, security personnel from Fashn Police and clergy. As a result of this session, it was decided that an entire family should leave the village as the police could not guarantee their safety. A further reconciliation session was held after widespread mainstream Egyptian media coverage, resulting in the family returning to the village.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) recently released a detailed study on the role of customary reconciliation sessions in sectarian incidents. From the Egyptian Revolution of January 2011 till the end of 2014, the EIPR documented 45 sectarian attacks that were resolved through the customary reconciliation. This number does not include major and coordinated Egypt-wide attacks on Copts and Christian churches and facilities that followed the dispersal of the sit-ins in Rabia and al-Nahda Squares, which inflicted varying degrees of damage on more than 100 Christian religious facilities.

“Six additional reconciliation sessions have been held since the beginning of 2015,” said Ishak Ibrahim, an EIPR researcher and officer for the Freedom of Religion and Belief Program. “There seems to be no change in the state’s support for solutions that overall foster religious discrimination and, in contrast to its claims, heighten sectarian violence.”

The ACM believes these customary ‘reconciliation sessions’ do not adequately address incidents where violent attacks have occurred and should not take the place of an appropriate judicial response. Those who perpetrate violent attacks against other citizens should be held accountable. The rule of law should be applied. Attempts to solve sectarian attacks by holding such ‘reconciliation sessions’ should be completely abolished. The practice is not only unsustainable (Egypt’s population is reportedly approaching 100 million) but it actually denies the victims of such attacks access to real justice.

The ACM is further concerned that reconciliation sessions send the wrong message to perpetrators that will continue to target vulnerable Coptic communities elsewhere, if properly unperturbed.

The Australian Coptic Movement Association calls on President Sisi to take all measures necessary to abolish customary reconciliation sessions and to ensure due legal and judicial processes are being applied in all cases involving attacks on Coptic citizens.

The Australian Coptic Movement Association

 

 

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