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Coptic Advocate Ramy Kamel Finally Released from Prison

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Egyptian Authorities End Two-Year Pre-Trial Detention of Renowned Human Rights Defender

01/10/2022 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) –Egyptian authorities released Coptic Christian activist Ramy Kamel on January 8 after being held in pre-trial detention for two years. Kamel was originally detained in November 2019 because of his journalism and human rights activism on behalf of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community.  

International Christian Concern (ICC) welcomes the release of Ramy resulting from years of advocacy on his behalf. Despite this victory, we cannot ignore the fact that Egypt has a long record of pursuing superficial human rights changes in an attempt to manage its international reputation. But Egypt’s human rights record is equally clear: the situation is very bad. And for Christians, who are already forced to live on the edge of society, the consequences can be devastating,” ICC President Jeff King said. 

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ICC’s own research shows that Egyptian Christians are increasingly living on the extreme margins of society. Coptic Christians are often subjected to blasphemy charges, mob attacks, kidnapping, extortion, sexual assault, and other types of violence simply because openly living their faith is considered offensive to their neighbors.  

Ramy Kamel is part of an ever-dwindling number of local public activists who work to raise awareness about these types of problems.  

Ramy was originally arrested on two charges. The first was that he broadcast false information after sharing videos relating to how churches in Egypt are often targeted with mob violence. The second charge was that he received foreign funding because he had worked with the United Nations Forum on Minority Issues. He was planning to attend a Geneva conference to speak about the challenges facing Christians in Egypt.  

Egypt’s Human Rights Record 

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ICC and several other organizations in Washington have worked tirelessly since Ramy’s arrest to continually inform the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom regarding his case. Last year, ICC and Coptic Solidarity sent a letter to the Biden administration urging them to engage with their Egyptian counterparts to secure his release. 

Under President Sisi’s leadership, Egypt’s human rights record has deteriorated significantly. The government specifically targets anyone who speaks about these issues publicly. Egypt ranks 166 out of 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. Human Rights Watch warned last year that, “The Egyptian government routinely denies and distorts the truth about the ongoing human rights crisis in Egypt, despite the scale and severity of human rights violations.” 

The severe community aggression and pressure experienced by Copts are often dismissed and validated by the government, as evident in President Sisi’s 2020 comments that “We (Muslims) have the right for our feelings not to be hurt… if some have the freedom to express what is in their thoughts, I imagine that this stops when it comes to offending the feelings of more than 1.5 billion people.” 

A Common Occurrence 

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Ramy’s long detention is not the only instance of the Egyptian government attempting to silence dissent. Last week, FBI agents arrested an Egyptian man in New York who had been informing Egyptian officials on President Sisi’s opponents living in the United States, as part of a concerted effort by Egypt to silence those who speak out against their human rights record. 

The release of Ramy Kamel occurs parallel to the release of several other high-profile prisoners of conscience, reflecting an attempt by the Egyptian authorities to perception manage international pressure regarding the country’s human rights situation.  

Patrick Zaki was held in pretrial detain for 22 months before Egypt’s courts granted him conditional release in December 2021. Zaki’s trial is set to continue on February 1, on charges of spreading false news regarding an article written detailing the discrimination he faced as a Coptic Christian. For Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, the worsening human rights situation has had severe implications.  

Christians employed by malicious Muslims are subject to blasphemy and false accusations. 

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Such is the case of Abanoub who was employed by the mayor as a village guard. A few days after a disagreement with the mayor regarding shift work, someone hacked Abanoub’s Facebook and posted a photo of a sheep and Mohammed. The incident incited community outrage who sought to burn the Copt’s home and kill his sons. Abanoub has spent nearly two and a half years imprisoned on blasphemy charges, and it is unclear when he will be released. 

For interviews, please contact: [email protected].

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Indian bishops urged to take a stand as violence against Christians continues to rise

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(Photo: Unsplash/Sylwia Bartyzel)

(CP) A group of Catholic clergy and laity in India has said that “the complete silence” of India’s bishops despite a rise in attacks on Christians and other minorities is “shocking” and urged the Catholic Bishops Conference of India to speak out.

The Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace wrote a letter to CBCI President Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai calling for Indian bishops to do more to advocate for religious minorities facing a rising trend of persecution in India at the hands of Hindu extremism, Crux reports.

“In the year 2021, there were 486 incidents of violence against the Christian community in India, according to the United Christian Front. What shocks us is the complete silence on the part of the official Church, the CBCI,” the letter reads.

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The letter specifically cited seven “well-planned attacks on Christian institutions” between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2021.

The letter was sent weeks after a United Christian Front report that showed 2021 was the “most violent year” for Christians in the country’s history.

“The violent acts against the Christian community and Muslim community or any other minority group are in complete violation of the law of the land and the Indian Constitution,” the letter states. “If we do not respond to such acts, the secular fabric of India will be lost causing irreparable damage to the people of India, and an inclusive, democratic and pluralistic India as envisioned in the preamble of the Indian Constitution could be lost forever.”

In its report, the United Christian Front noted that in nearly all cases reported nationwide, “vigilante mobs composed of religious extremists have been seen to either barge into a prayer gathering or round up individuals that they believe are involved in forcible religious conversions.”

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The organization attributed the high incidence of Christian persecution to “impunity,” saying “such mobs criminally threaten, physically assault people in prayer, before handing them over to the police on allegations of forcible conversions.”

The Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace contends that Catholic leaders “cannot remain silent spectators when the drama of violent attacks against the minorities is unfolding before us.” The forum argues that India’s Catholic leaders need “to act and fulfill our prophetic role before it is too late.”

The forum calls on the bishops conference to send a letter to President Narendra Modi, urging him to call on governments in states where such attacks are occurring to prevent attacks in the future and hold those responsible accountable. The forum also wants the national bishops’ conference to urge regional conferences to send memorandums to government leaders in their states urging them to protect Christians from attacks and open cases against perpetrators.

Additionally, CBCI is urged to respond quickly after attacks on Christian institutions and individuals by state actors or Hindu nationalist groups and provide legal assistance to help victims seek justice in the courts.

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Sister Dorothy Fernandes told Crux that the forum was motivated to send the letter because of “well-planned actions” that took place around Christmas. She said she is often asked why Catholic leadership is silent and wants “the leadership of our Church to wake up.”

“We have also suggested a number of doable actions which is inclusive and will sustain the secular fabric of our beautiful nation,” she was quoted as saying. “We would believe that our inclusiveness will reach out to the Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits, Tribals, women and children. This is our prophetic calling, and we can no longer afford to sit on the fence and wait till they come for us.”

Christians make up just over 2% of India’s population and Hindus comprise nearly 80%, while Muslims account for just over 15%, according to the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project.

Rights groups have warned there has been an increase in Hindu radical mob attacks on Christians and other religious minorities since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power with the election of Modi in 2014.

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In recent years, Christian groups and leaders have been accused by Hindu nationalists of violating laws barring forcible conversion and detained.

Several Indian states have enacted “anti-conversion” laws barring the use of financial benefits or other forms of allurement to encourage Hindus to convert to Christianity. Hindu nationalist groups often abuse these laws and make false charges against religious minorities.

Earlier this month, a mob of some 200 Hindu nationalists attacked a house church during its worship service in the Odagoan village of Kondagaon District in India’s eastern state of Chhattisgarh, according to the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern. The pastor was reportedly injured along with two other Christians, and a Christian woman was allegedly converted to Hinduism.

This month, police in Madhya Pradesh reportedly arrested nine Christians, including pastors, in the villages of Padalya and Bisoli located in the Jhabua district on accusations of illegal conversions.

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Open Doors USA, which monitors persecution in over 60 countries, again ranked India as the 10th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on its 2022 World Watch List, which was released last week.

The group warns that “Hindu radicals often attack Christians with little to no consequences.”

“The persecution of Christians in India is intensifying as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence,” Open Doors stated in a factsheet on India.

“The driving force behind this is Hindutva, an ideology that disregards Indian Christians and other religious minorities as true Indians because they have allegiances that lie outside India, and asserts the country should be purified of their presence.”

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ICC warns that “the pace of Christian persecution only seems to be accelerating with the arrival of 2022,” and adds, “Whether 2022 will be as violent of a year as 2021 is yet to be seen.”

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Turkey, Qatar Reach Tentative Deal on Kabul Airport Security

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01/25/2022 Afghanistan (International Christian Concern) – Turkey and Qatar reportedly have reached an agreement on the security of the Kabul international airport, should they be awarded the responsibility following continued talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Turkey and Qatar have positioned themselves strategically, leading up to and after the fall of Afghanistan in August 2021, to take a new level of authority in the tumultuous country, as well as strengthening their own ties together.

One anonymous source told Reuters, “It is expected for the Taliban to ensure security outside, and for whoever runs the airport to ensure it inside. The process is continuing constructively.” The two countries are reportedly meeting in Kabul this week to continue discussions.

However, both Turkey and Afghanistan are under the USCIRF recommendations for the special watch list, while Qatar is heavily criticized for its relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood. ICC previously reported on the announcement that Qatar will represent US interests in Afghanistan. Since August, many countries have moved their Afghan embassies to Qatar. ICC commented, “Given the deepening of Turkish-Qatari relations, as well as Turkey’s status as the world’s largest host of refugees and its relationship with the Taliban, the religious freedom implications of such geopolitical posturing are unclear. Matias Perttula, ICC’s Advocacy Director, said, ’We are troubled by the increasing reliance on Qatar as an intermediary for the United States in Afghanistan, given their close relationship with Turkey.’”

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The underground minorities in Afghanistan, including Christians, live in fear as they are sought out by the Taliban. Afghanistan has beat out North Korea for the worst place to be a Christian in 2022, replacing it as number one for the first time in 20 years, earning a dishonorable title.

For interviews, please contact [email protected].

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