If terrorists hoped to intimidate Egyptian leaders with their deadly mosque attack, it didn’t work. After the brutal murder of 235 worshippers – first with explosions, then gunfire – Cairo isn’t about back down from its promises to protect religious minorities like the ones mowed down late last month.
The grisly scene has become all too familiar here in the U.S., where Sutherland Springs is still trying to piece together their lives from a similar rampage. Now, a half a world away, in a land without the same freedoms, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is doing his best to reassure his people that Egypt won’t back down from its promise to come to the aid of faith communities.
The latest proof? Egypt’s sudden approval of 21 churches’ applications to “restore, expand, and rebuild.” The Christian Post’s Anugrah Kumar reports that the el Sisi government is giving the green light to area pastors and clerics after a 20-year hold on some permits. “A local source was quoted as saying that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is keen to “show the U.S. that Egypt is standing with the Christians and that there is no persecution in Minya governorate.” The decision is an about-face in some areas, where churches had been closed to help “ease tensions” with Muslims. In other places, it’s an act of defiance in the face of ISIS’s growing threats.
No one who met President el-Sisi in our delegation to Cairo last month would doubt his commitment to greater religious freedom in his land. And while our conversations continue with his administration on behalf of Christians and others, it’s encouraging to see Egypt take bold steps like this one. The U.S. needs to do all it can to help support these transformation religious freedom reforms in the Egypt and the Middle East. The first step would be for the Senate to confirm President Trump’s nominee for Ambassador at Large for Religious Liberty, Governor Sam Brownback. We have a window of opportunity with governments like President Sisi’s. Now is the time to move.
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