Washington DC: June 6, 2019. (PCP) On June 2nd, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi spoke at a ceremony related to Ramadan in Cairo. During his address, he said, "when we wish our Christian brothers a happy feast or [congratulate them] on building new churches, we represent our religion... There is a big difference between practicing and understanding the religion."
IDC welcomes President Sisi's remarks regarding church building and congratulating Christians on their holy days. These comments are important to address the social intolerance that exists in society amplified by fatwas by extremist Sheikhs.
However, while President Sisi's comments reflected a religious argument, as a head of state his jurisdiction is over legal matters. Religious freedom and equality for Copts should be based on citizenship and not on the toleration of Muslims and their religious sensibilities. President Sisi should address the ongoing restrictions on church building. While around 500 church have been licensed, there are still some 2,500 who have applied over the last two years who are still waiting on the legal status of their house of worship.
IDC President Toufic Baaklini said, "while we are encouraged that President Sisi is willing to speak up for the religious minorities that make up a critical component of Egypt's history and culture, we hope to see him back his words with legal actions."