Egyptian churches praise US report on religious freedoms

Egyptian churches welcomed, for the first time, the American religious freedom report, stressing that Christians face discrimination in Egypt, and that the Egyptian government bears responsibility for Egypt's poor ranking because the government has ignored past criticism and failed to address legitimate concerns.  

A senior bishop in the Orthodox Church who requested not to use his name, confirmed that there is clear, explicit discrimination against Christians in Egypt.

"Because of the intensity of discrimination Copts face, Pope Shenouda III, the spiritual leader of Orthodox Copts in Egypt, has refrained from comment on these events except for one sentence: our lord is present," the bishop said.

Pastor Safut al-Biyadi, head of the Anglican communion in Egypt, also confirmed that Christians in Egypt face discrimination.

"If we were confronting our problems ourselves, then the West would not get involved, but we are the ones who are giving them the opportunity to interfere," Biyadi told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Father Rafiq Greish, the Catholic Church spokesperson, agreed that there is discrimination against Christians in Egypt. He pointed out that some government jobs exclude Christians, such as the state security apparatus.

Greish said that Christians recognize that there is an intense discrimination against them, and that the government has failed to correct mistakes.

The annual US State Department Report on the Status of Religious Freedom around the world, published on Wednesday, criticized "the practice of religious discrimination against Christians and Baha'is", saying that they did not enjoy equal opportunities to pursue government jobs.

The report said that converts from Islam to Christianity are subject to numerous restrictions, the most noteworthy of which is the refusal of authorities to issue them new identity cards which reflect their conversion to Christianity. 

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