ICC Note: Egyptian Christians are often pressured into participating in reconciliation sessions to resolve disputes. These sessions technically exist outside of the law, but have evolved into a quasi-judicial system that undermine basic human rights. Coptic Christians, even though they are the victims of violence, are pressured during these sessions to cave to the demands of their abusers.
04/24/2018 Egypt (World Watch Monitor) – The head of Egypt’s Protestant Church has said he urges clergy not to take part in “reconciliation sessions” that aim to resolve community conflicts without the involvement of the police and legal system.
Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki said he “strongly” opposed the scheme because it renders the law “absent”.
The reconciliation scheme is often used to resolve tensions such as conflict between Copts and Muslims over the building of new churches, but it has been criticised by some Christian leaders. The scheme aims to restore good community relations without needing to involve law enforcement officials. However, some Christians, especially in small towns, have complained that they are pressured to simply drop their complaints.
“[The scheme] does not always go in the right direction; sometimes it benefits those who have power. Sometimes they let the criminal escape and give them freedom to repeat what they did,” Zaki said in response to a question from World Watch Monitor.
Zaki, who is President of the Protestant Community of Egypt and also General Director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services, was speaking to a group of journalists in Cairo hosted by the Christian satellite broadcaster SAT-7, which broadcasts services from large Egyptian Evangelical churches as well as from Coptic cathedrals. He said that there are around two million Evangelicals and Protestants across Egypt, represented by 18 denominations, and that they are the country’s second-largest Christian community after the Copts.
“We are against community reconciliation; we are pro applying the law and a trial for all criminals, whatever their religion, whatever their background,” he said.
He said he believed the refusal by Protestant and Evangelical clergy to take part in reconciliation sessions has contributed to decisions to try cases in court, and cited murders of two Copts that had been brought before a judge and resulted in the death penalty in both cases – including for 19-year-old Ahmad Saeed Ibrahim al-Sonbati, who last year murdered Coptic Priest Fr. Samaan Shehata in broad daylight in a suburb of Cairo.
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