WASHINGTON — Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., has issued a statement saying he was disturbed by attacks in Egypt against Coptic Christians, pledging his support of promoting U.S. action to help the persecuted faithful.
“I was deeply troubled by events over the weekend,” Wolf said, calling the conflict “the latest in a string of sectarian attacks that has left Egypt’s sizable Coptic community understandably fearful and questioning whether there is a place for them in today’s Egypt.”
Local Christian leaders have appealed for calm after a mob attacked St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo on April 7 during the funeral of four Coptic Christians killed in sectarian clashes.
At least two Christians died and more than 80 were injured in the Sunday attacks, which marked the third day of sectarian violence, according to the Christian Post.
Egyptian Coptic Christians have faced a significant increase in violence since the country’s 2011 revolution, including mobs, attacks on churches and assaults against individuals. The rise of persecution in Egypt mirrors the rising tide of violence against Christians elsewhere in the region.
Wolf has been a longtime advocate of human rights around the globe, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, and he serves as co-chair of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. He visited Lebanon and Egypt in February of 2013 to meet with government officials, humanitarian aid workers, religious leaders and refugees who have fled persecution in Syria.
In his statement, he noted that, during his trip, he “came away disturbed by what I heard” from the Coptic Christians he met.
“Religious freedom is daily under assault throughout the region. There is a perception that the U.S. is either disengaged or simply uninterested in advocating for this and other basic human rights,” Wolf added.
“In the absence of leadership on the part of the Obama administration,” Wolf said, “I remain committed to seeing legislation (H.R. 301) to create a high-level State Department special envoy.”
This envoy, he explained, would serve to protect “the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East and South-Central Asia.”
Wolf has proposed similar protections for persecuted groups in the Middle East and Northern Africa, following his visit to the region earlier this year. He said, “Coptic Christians and others like them deserve as much.”