By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
CAIRO/BRUSSELS (BosNewsLife)– The European Parliament (EP) has condemned violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt, after at least 25 were killed and more than 300 wounded by security forces in Cairo during a peaceful protest earlier this month, a key legislator told BosNewsLife Friday, October 28.
Peter van Dalen, who represents the Dutch ‘ChristenUnie’ (ChristianUnion) party in the EP, said he was pleased the resolution he helped to draft was adopted late Thursday, October 28, as itgives “a unanimous and strong signal towards” the Egyptian government “that outrages violence against Coptic demonstrators is strongly condemned.”
In the worst violence since President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, armored vehicles sped into a crowd to crack down on a Coptic protest against the demolishing of a church in Aswan province.
The resolution, seen by BosNewsLife, said the October 9 bloodshed near Cairo’s state television shows that “Authorities should ensure that Copts do not fall victim to violent attacks and can live in peace and freely express their beliefs throughout the country.”
PROTECTION OF CHURCHES
Legislators called for the “protection of churches, to put an end to their destruction and to continuous aggression by Islamic extremists.”
Additionally, they expressed concerns about the ongoing “kidnapping of Coptic girls who have been forced to convert to Islam.” The EP said that “Egyptian authorities must end discrimination against Coptic Christians” and that “Parliament considers that the EU should take measures if serious human rights violations occur” in Egypt.
“Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces should put an end to the emergency law and to military trials of civilians immediately, as it violates the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” the EP resolution added.
Christians used to comprise some 10 percent of Egypt’s roughly 80 million mainly Muslim people but Van Dalen told BosNewsLife that tens of thousands of Coptic Christians have reportedly left Egypt since March this year.
He made clear that the EU should reconsider providing aid to the nation if this trend continues. “The European Association Agreement with Egypt provides 450 million euro in the 2011-2013 period.The EU also gave 100 million euro in aid to the new Egypt. But [the rest of] this money can only be given if Egypt’s government is doing everything to protect minorities,” Van Dalen said.
Van Dalen explained that he and Dutch parliamentarian Joël Voordewind plan to attend next month’s parliamentary elections in Egypt, although its transitional military rulers refused to allow European observers to monitor the ballot.
He said they want to see “whether the elections are taking place freely and whether the rights of Copts and other minorities are respected.”
A presidential vote is planned after the parliament is seated, and could be held at the end of next year.
Van Dalen and other parliamentarians also expressed concerns over the situation of minority Christians in Syria amid ongoing deadly violence in that country.
In the same resolution EP members stressed “that thousands of Iraqi Christians went to Syria to escape targeted violence in Iraq. Nevertheless, the Christian population in Syria may have dropped from 10 percent to 8 percent of the total” population.
The “Parliament condemns actions inciting inter-confessional conflict, urges Syrian authorities to provide reliable and efficient protection for the Christian communities, and expresses support for Christians in the country,” the resolution said.
Legislators also “condemn the brutal use of force by Syrian authorities against protesters, pro-democracy activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and medical personnel, and reiterates that President Bashar al-Assad and his regime must relinquish power immediately.”
The EP said it believes that EU should further encourage and support “the emergence of organized Syrian democratic opposition forces both within and outside the country.”