A newly released update of the U.S. government‚??s International Religious Freedom Report shows that mistreatment and murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt remained prevalent even after the overthrow of dictator Hosni Mubarak last year.
Released today by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the report covers religious freedom throughout the world in 2011 and details many chilling acts of religious persecution worldwide, much of it aimed at Jews and Christians.
While the report cites steps taken by Egypt‚??s interim government to enhance religious acceptance, such as a new anti-discrimination law and the reopening of churches closed by the government, it also described events of state brutality.
In one October 2011 incident, eight months after Mubarak‚??s ouster in February¬†2011, Egyptian security forces killed 25 political demonstrators and injured over 300 more, most of whom were Coptic Christians.
‚??To date, government officials have not been held accountable for their actions, and there were indications in early 2012 of mounting Coptic emigration,‚?Ě an executive summary read.
In November, Muslim villagers attacked and killed two Coptic Christians after an ‚??unrelated land dispute‚?Ě and the government did nothing to prosecute the attackers, according to the report. It was likewise idle after a Christian church was burned to the ground by Muslims earlier that year.
Earlier this year, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) pressured Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to withhold U.S. military aid to Egypt — a sum of about $1.3 billion a year — on grounds that she could not certify efforts by the Egyptian government to promote freedom of speech and religion.
‚??A decision to waive the conditions on military aid would send the wrong message to the Egyptian government that U.S. taxpayers will subsidize the Egyptian military while it continues to oversee the crackdown on civil society and to commit human rights abuses,‚?Ě they wrote in a March 15 letter.
‚??No credible assessment of the situation in Egypt can conclude that the Egyptian government is ‚??implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law.‚??‚?Ě
Later that month, Clinton opted to waive the certification requirement and resume sending aid to the country.
Presenting the results of the religious freedom study at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Monday afternoon, Clinton confirmed that sectarian violence in Egypt appeared to have increased since the fall of the Mubarak regime.
She said nothing about pulling U.S. aid money to Egypt in the wake of this revelation, but said she remained hopeful that religious freedoms would expand as the country‚??s new government became more established.
‚??We are looking for ways to try to support the government, particularly in fulfilling the economic aspirations of all Egyptians, but we are going to judge by actions, not words,‚?Ě Clinton said. ‚??We have supported a transition that we hope does lead to a democracy — which we have made clear is not just about elections.‚?Ě
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