By Michelle Bauman
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is pressing the Obama administration to protect the rights of religious minorities in Egypt and around the world.
“On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I want to express our deep concern that a pattern of violence against minorities, especially Christians, has emerged and a culture of impunity has allowed that violence to grow and spread,” said Archbishop Dolan in an Oct. 14 letter to President Barack Obama.
The letter follows an Oct. 9 attack on Coptic Christians in Cairo. The crackdown by the military left over 20 dead and close to 300 injured.
Following the outbreak of violence, the White House issued an Oct. 10 statement urging “restraint on all sides” and insisting that “all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom.”
Archbishop Dolan thanked the White House for its statement and called the escalation in violence “a horrific reminder of the vulnerability faced by many minorities in Egypt.”
He pointed out that the Copts who were killed during the Oct. 9 demonstration were protesting the burning of a church near Aswan in late September and the “lack of government protection for religious minorities.”
“Certainly the bombing of a Coptic Church on New Year’s Day and subsequent attacks against other Christian churches are testament to a break down in the rule of law,” he said.
The archbishop emphasized that much work remains before peace and stability returns to the region and said that protecting religious minorities is an essential part of that effort.
Archbishop Dolan asked that the U.S. government “continue to urge and insist that the Egyptian government take immediate and effective steps to promote religious tolerance within Egyptian society and to protect the human rights of all minorities, especially Christians.”
He hoped that the Obama administration would show “continued attention to this urgent and important matter.”
The U.S. government sends over $2 billion in aid money to Egypt every year.