The witness and mission of the Coptic Church in Egypt have their origin in apostolic times. Today, the Coptic Church of Egypt is the largest Christian Church in the Middle East. Under the leadership of His Holiness, Pope Shenouda, the Coptic Church is a dynamic and active Church, with significant and effective work in education, youth work, and social work.
While the Coptic Church has experienced limitations to its work in the context of the Muslim majority of Egypt, the present time presents special challenges. In the midst of the changes in Egyptian political life during the last months, some of which are positive, there are aspects of current developments which make the Coptic Church vulnerable to discrimination and even violence.
For this reason, the Lesser Synod of the Orthodox Church in America, under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah, has issued a Statement of Support for the Coptic Church of Egypt. This statement will be sent to the Embassy of Egypt in Washington, DC, to the Egyptian Mission to the United Nations, and to government authorities in Egypt. In addition, the statement will be shared with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The text of the statement reads as follows.
Statement of Support for the Coptic Church in Egypt
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America expresses its solidarity with the Coptic Church in Egypt at this time of significant transition in Egyptian society. This time of transition is a time of hope as well as a time of anxiety. The people of Egypt and Egypt’s religious communities hope for a future of justice and peace. For justice and peace to prevail, all Egyptians must enjoy equality before the law.
The Coptic Church has faced unjust limitations and discriminatory practices. This means that the Coptic citizens of Egypt have been denied justice. One of the examples of this denial of justice is seen in the denial of approval for the building of churches. In such discriminatory practices administrative decisions based on existing regulations play the key role.
There also have been periodic occurrences of violence against Coptic Christians – violence killing and wounding many Copts. In this violence the key role has been played by religious extremism found in some groups of the Muslim majority in Egypt.
The building and maintenance of Justice and peace in Egyptian society will be at great risk if Egyptians and the religious communities to which they belong are not equally protected under the law.
In this regard work on the constitution of Egypt is critically important for the future of the country, and indeed for the future of the Middle East. Equality of Egyptian Christians under the law does not undermine the religious faith of Muslims. Rather, equality under the law protects all citizens and opens the road to peace, justice, and mutual respect between Muslims and Christians.
The Orthodox Church in America will remain in solidarity with the yearning of Egyptians for peace and justice and will continue to offer prayerful support and solidarity to the Coptic Church.