SUPPORTING EGYPTIAN COPTIC CHRISTIANS; Congressional Record Vol. 165, No. 9
(House of Representatives - January 16, 2019)

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[Pages H607-H608]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                 SUPPORTING EGYPTIAN COPTIC CHRISTIANS

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The Chair recognizes the gentleman from 
Arkansas (Mr. Hill) for 5 minutes.
  Mr. HILL of Arkansas. Mr. Speaker, I rise today on National Religious 
Freedom Day to announce that I am reintroducing my resolution in the 
House in support of the Coptic Christians in Egypt.
  I sponsored a nearly identical resolution last Congress, and I truly 
appreciate the support I received from more than 50 of my House 
colleagues who cosponsored that resolution.

[[Page H608]]

  Egypt and the United States are important partners in the fight 
against terrorism in the region. Egypt's role at Camp David has led to 
some of the closest ties between the United States, Egypt, and Israel 
in their history.
  I am reintroducing this resolution because the Egyptian Government 
can do more to protect its Christian citizens.
  I have great respect for President el-Sisi, someone I have had the 
opportunity to meet with on two occasions, and I applaud the changes 
and message that el-Sisi has made in the areas of religious tolerance 
and plurality.
  He continues to say and do the right things at the top level of 
government: having a good relationship with the Coptic Pope, attending 
mass on multiple occasions, getting some churches reconstructed while 
constructing the largest Christian cathedral in the Middle East in the 
new administrative center outside Cairo, and holding terrorists 
accountable for their atrocities.
  But, Mr. Speaker, there is more to do. I stress to the Egyptian 
foreign affairs officials when I meet with them that this is not an 
attack on President el-Sisi. To the contrary, I acknowledge the support 
and partnership and friendship that we have with Egypt. But there is 
more that can be done in the area of protecting religious freedom and 
human rights, especially in the rural parts of the country.
  The State Department's 2018 religious freedom report on Egypt names 
Minya province as a particular area for concern. The Egyptians 
routinely claim that they have no minorities in Egypt. ``We are all 
Egyptians, and we all take our water from the Nile,'' is something that 
is frequently said.
  But from my studies and in my view, there is a population in Egypt 
that does not have the same protections of rule of law as others. The 
country must do better in places like Minya province.
  Following Secretary Pompeo's recent visit to Egypt, Hamza Hendawi of 
the Associated Press wrote: ``El-Sisi's widely publicized policy to 
staunch sectarianism, however, has done little to protect Christians in 
rural Egypt, where Muslim extremists frequently attack their homes and 
businesses or force them to leave their homes after violent disputes.
  ``Critics and activists say discrimination against Christians there 
is often tolerated by local authorities and branches of the security 
agencies.''
  Mr. Speaker, my resolution calls on the Egyptian Government to end 
this culture of impunity for attacks on Christians and to undertake the 
arrest, prosecution, and conviction of individuals who carry out 
attacks on Copts and other Christians in Egypt. It calls on the 
government to hold accountable these local government officials who 
fail to enforce the law.
  I stand with Secretary of State Pompeo and support his message that: 
``More work certainly needs to be done to maximize the potential of the 
Egyptian nation and its people. I'm glad that America will be a partner 
in those efforts.''
  However, as the second highest recipient of American military aid in 
the world, the United States Government must use the tools that it has 
to hold our allies to a higher standard, if they are to continue to 
receive our aid.
  I encourage Egypt to live up to the legacy of Camp David at home, 
working to achieve what former President Anwar Sadat called ``permanent 
peace based on justice.''
  Today in America, we commemorate Virginia's 1786 adoption of Thomas 
Jefferson's Statute for Religious Freedom. In his proclamation today, 
President Trump urged all Americans to help ``secure this blessing both 
at home and around the world.''
  All people around the world, regardless of their religious 
affiliation, deserve the same freedom to practice their chosen religion 
like we have enjoyed here in the United States of America for more than 
200 years.
  Permanent peace based on justice for the Coptic Christians of Egypt, 
that is my goal with this resolution.
  As President Reagan said: ``Respect for human rights is not social 
work; it is not merely an act of compassion. It is the first obligation 
of government and the source of its legitimacy.''
  Mr. Speaker, the respect for human rights and religious freedom is 
fundamental to the American position, and I will continue to promote 
this issue for Coptic Christians and all Egyptians who take their water 
from the Nile.

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