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WASHINGTON -- Last Monday, a day before Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi was scheduled to visit the White House, U.S. Rep. French Hill wrote to President Donald Trump, urging him to discuss the plight of Coptic Christians with his counterpart.

On Tuesday, Trump called the Republican from Little Rock and told him that he'd raised the topic as requested.

In an interview, Hill recounted Trump's summary of the discussions.

"They talked extensively about the challenges with the Copts in Egypt. President el-Sissi re-enforced his commitment to a plural society and protection for Christians -- both the Coptic Christians and other Christians in Egyptian society," Hill said. "I told the president that I appreciated him raising this important issue, that supporting human rights in our bilateral relationships is of fundamental importance to our country."

The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian denomination in Egypt.

Its members have faced persecution, according to news reports. In 2015, 21 Coptic Christians were beheaded by the Islamic State in Libya. In 2016, at least 29 Copts were killed in a church bombing in Egypt. In 2017, shortly before Easter, 45 Copts perished in two Egyptian church bombings. In May of that year, 28 Coptic pilgrims were slaughtered.

Last year, seven Copts were killed while traveling to a monastery.

During Hill's first term in office, he attended "a number of religious freedom presentations" that highlighted the threats facing religious minorities, he said.

Since then, he has spoken out repeatedly on behalf of Copts and also met with the denomination's leader, Pope Tawadros II.

In 2017, Hill introduced a bipartisan resolution "expressing concern over attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt."

In it, he urged the Egyptian government "to end the marginalization of Copts in Egyptian society and make a legal example of any perpetrator who persecutes Egyptian Christians."

El-Sissi has shown support for Copts and their religious freedom. He also attended a Christmas Mass, making him the first Egyptian president to do so, according to media reports.

A nonprofit group, In Defense of Christians, which advocates for religious freedom and tolerance in the Middle East, had urged Trump and others to continue to emphasize the importance of religious freedom.

Peter Burns, the group's government relations and policy associate, said he was "very encouraged" by reports of Trump's conversation with el-Sissi.

"The Egyptian government is ... very attentive to their public image in the United States," Burns said. "They are the second-largest recipient of U.S. military aid. They don't want to jeopardize that relationship."

"Having President Trump raise this issue with President el-Sissi is incredibly important," Burns added.

In Defense of Christians has allies in the White House. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney spoke at the group's annual dinner in December.

The group also has advocates on Capitol Hill, including Hill, whom Burns called "a good friend and strong supporter of persecuted Christians in the Middle East."

Hill, a member of the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock, is said to be the first Catholic to represent Arkansas' 2nd Congressional District. Since his election in 2014, he has emphasized the importance of religious liberty.

In June, a group called Coptic Solidarity presented Hill with its 2018 Leadership Award, citing "his leadership in Congress in support of Coptic equality and religious freedom for all Egyptians."

SundayMonday on 04/15/2019

Print Headline: Hill spurs Trump's discourse on Copts

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Comments

  • wowy
    April 15, 2019 at 7:40 a.m.

    Great job French!! You know, we have Christian-haters over here that need a good talking too as well.
    ! ! ! T R U M P ! ! !
    ! ! ! 2 0 2 0 ! ! !
    ! ! ! M A G A ! ! !

  • mrcharles
    April 15, 2019 at 9:42 a.m.

    Yes zowy we have many haters over here of other religions than the adopted 30,000 sect religion .

    Religion though superstitious nonsense, is still the thoughts that mankind has the right to believe no matter how misguided. You see across the world , where you are born happens, just coincidence some might say, to determine your religion and in that spirit you are against the other false religions, that is just how talking primates act.

    What that amounts to is to be guilty of thought crime, a useful tool of a fascist ideology. USA should stand up that everyone can practice their religion and acts to shut down, stop and/or kill practitioners should be policy of USA. There is a difference in saying they be foolish versus attacking them , as our species is basically pretty foolish.

    Christians are being persecuted in china, in the sudan, and other places, but we have muslims killing muslims, soft and gentle Buddhist and Hindus killing each other, then we all remember the love of christ in N. Ireland. Killer chimpanzees one and all.

    Religious tolerance does not mean religious intolerance against the non-dominate religion of a religion. But you see the misplaced brain cells of the dominate religion usually makes life miserable for the "other" religions, and should not be worthy of civilization.

    We all have the right to "believe" in hocus pocus, abra kadabra and alakazam, and even right wing thought, no matter how ridiculous, and thought crimes is not the way to go by the ruling elites no matter who they are .

    Perhaps Hill needs to expand his concern to all religious persecution across the world... like in tennessee where they fought to keep a mosque from being built, well just because they were bigoted.

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