JAFFA, Israel – Coptic Pope Tawadros’ call on his followers in the United States to welcome Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Sisi upon his visit to the United Nations headquarters next week has split the community.
Following Pope Tawadros’ statement, the church administration announced it would arrange transportation for Copts who wish to travel to New York for the occasion, and said it would send two church officials to the United States ahead of Sisi’s arrival to rally support on his behalf.
This comes against the backdrop of criticism from Egypt-based Copts, some of whom claim their American brethren drive a wedge between the Egyptian government and the US administration by publicly stating that Copts in Egypt suffer from discrimination.
Fadi Youssef, the founder of the Coalition of Egyptian Copts, slammed the church’s resolution.
“The decision whether to welcome President Sisi or not should be made personally, and not as a result of pressure and directives,” he said, adding that the church position is controversial and that he is not sure the church fully endorses it.
“The call sows divisions within our community, because one side [Sisi’s supporters] pontificates while the other [his detractors] accuse them of treason,” he said.
Hani Ramsis, Coptic Youth Association leader, said: “I don’t understand why Copts, as a denomination, need to welcome the president and why the call wasn’t issued to all Egyptian Americans, regardless of their denominational affiliation?”
When the president travels abroad, he said, it is a national issue. “The president represents the entire Egyptian people, and not a specific group.”
Meanwhile, Egyptian opposition leaders called on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, to cancel her meeting with Sisi.
Bassem Khafaji, the coordinator of Vision for Change, said that “every presidential candidate with some dignity should recoil at the prospect of meeting a revolutionary leader who is responsible for the killing of thousands of Egyptians and the arrest of more than 60,000 in less than two years.”