By BosNewsLife Middle East and Africa Services
LONDON/CAIRO (BosNewsLife)– An influential rights group said Monday, January 31, it had launched a campaign for religious freedom for Egyptian Christians at a time of unprecedented protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decades rule.
Britain-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that the ‘No Way Out’ campaign, which will run throughout 2011, was launched with a day of prayer held at St Mary’s Church in London on Saturday, January 29.
In comments, obtained by BosNewsLife, Bishop Angaelos, head of Britain’s Coptic Church, urged prayers “for every Egyptian citizen, including the protesters, the security forces, the army and President” Mubarak amid the current political upheaval and demonstrations.
Bishop Angaelos also spoke during the prayer event about the resilience of the Egyptian Church, and prayed for Egyptian Christians to be able “to practise their faith without persecution or marginalization,” CSW said.
Sectarian violence against Christians in Egypt escalated in recent years, with 53 reported incidents since 2008. This year opened with the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve, in which 23 people were killed and some 100 injured.
Additionally, Egypt is one of few countries which stipulates that a person’s religion must be indicated on their identity card. No converts from Islam have ever been able to change their religious designation on their card, according to rights investigators. “Christian converts face daily discrimination, including arbitrary arrest, loss of employment and marriage restrictions,” CSW said.
CSW said its No Way Out campaign seeks “proactive measures” to prevent sectarian violence against Egyptian Christians, the right for Egyptians to change their religion on official records and protection for those who pursue this right.
The campaign also wants to pressure authorities to uphold article 40 of the Egyptian constitution, ensuring that Christians enjoy “..equal public rights and duties without discrimination due to race, ethnic origin, language, religion or creed.”
CSW is “committed to continue to offer support, prayer and solidarity until Egyptian Christians receive and enjoy their full rights as citizens, and the nation’s religious minorities are able to practice their respective faiths without fear of discrimination or harassment,” said CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas.
The group said it will present this year a “groundbreaking report on sectarian violence in Egypt” to the British and European Parliaments and organize a petition with 50,000 signatures to pressure Egypt’s government “to address the root causes of sectarian violence.”
There has been concern among at least some minority Christians that Islamic groups will increase their influence following the expected ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, a move they fear could lead to more attacks and discrimination.