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ICC Note: Egypt’s minority Christian community is well acquainted with sectarian violence and injustice as they continuously suffer at the hands of Muslim extremists in the country.  The suffering continues also after the attacks as many Christians are forced in the ‘reconciliation meetings’ in which they usually end up surrendering more of their rights while perpetrators escape without punishment. These meetings are organized and orchestrated by local leaders who pressure the Christian victims into giving up rights in order to pacify attackers. All this is done as an alternative to proper judicial process.

07/05/2016 Egypt (Barnabasaid): The Christian community in Egypt’s Qaryat Al Bayda village – who were attacked on 17 June by a 1,200-plus mob of Muslims – fear they may be pressurised into “reconciliation meetings”. Such meetings generally end with the Christian victims surrendering more of their rights while their attackers escape without punishment.

“Reconciliation” meetings are often used in Egypt, especially in rural areas, as an alternative to judicial procedures, after Muslims have attacked Christians or Christian-owned property.  Christians are extremely wary of such meetings, and would much prefer a proper legal process. The way in which the issues are solved at such meetings is usually to insist that the Christian victims submit and yield up some of their rights in order to pacify their attackers. As a weak and powerless minority the Christians dare not reject the decisions, for fear of further violence against them.

There is concern that the attack in Qaryat Al Bayda, which left at least two Christians injured and several Christian homes and buildings vandalised, will follow a similar path. The attack followed a rumour that a Christian was planning to turn a house into a church for worship meetings.

A recent book by Nabil Abdel-Fattah of Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies examines the whole issue of “reconciliation” meetings and the injustice suffered by Copts (Egyptian Christians) in such processes. In a review ofReconciliation Sessions and Copts: Where the Culprit Emerges Triumphant and the Victim Crushed, published in Watani International (1 June 2016), Marina Ihab Yacoub writes:

“The farcical scenario of reconciliation sessions has thus without fail dominated the scene where attacks against Copts are concerned, even though these sessions proved to be nothing but a severe retreat of civil rights. Politically speaking, the authorities aim – through the reconciliation sessions – to secure a rosy façade of the ‘time-honoured amicable relationships between Muslims and Copts, implying that they live happily ever after. The heartbreaking outcome, however, is that the only winners in these sessions are the trouble mongers and fanatics who induce the attacks in the first place and who more often than not escape punishment and emerge victorious. The Coptic victims are left to lick their wounds. “

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