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Hague called to protect Christian minorities in Egypt and Syria

Release International is calling on Foreign Secretary William Hague to keep human and religious rights at the forefront of any talks with Egyptian and Syrian authorities.

Christians in Egypt fear increased persecution following the popular vote for an Islamist President-elect, while Christians in Syria have been subject to attack, kidnap and murder as the conflict in that country continues.

While Release welcomes assurances from Egypt that religious freedom will be safeguarded following the election success of the Muslim Brotherhood, Release is calling for further action to make sure that Christian minorities in Egypt and Syria are protected.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt has stated that religious freedom will be protected in the country and the nation will remain a civil state. ‘We welcome that,’ says Release UK Director Colin King, ‘but judging by the exodus of Christians from Egypt, many remain unconvinced. They are looking to President-elect Mursi to protect their security and guarantee their freedoms.

‘Release is pleased the British Foreign Secretary has raised the issues of human rights with the Egyptians and we continue to impress on him the need to keep religious freedom at the top of the agenda in any talks.’

Release, which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, is launching a letter-writing campaign to the Foreign Secretary expressing ‘deep concern about the future of human rights for minorities, especially Christians in North Africa and the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring revolutions.’

‘We want to urge Mr Hague to place the protection of minorities at the forefront of talks with emerging rulers in the Arab Spring nations,’ says Release UK Director Colin King. ‘We’re asking him to continue to do everything in his power to seek assurances regarding their human rights.’ Release is calling on supporters to write to Mr Hague. Full details of the suggested letter are available on the Release International website and in the latest edition of Release magazine

Release partners estimate that up to 100,000 members of the Christian community have left Egypt since the uprising, leaving the Christians who remain feeling increasingly vulnerable.

Egyptian Christians are bracing themselves for further persecution, following the narrow victory by the Muslim Brotherhood in the Presidential elections. And extremist groups such as Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and Egyptian Islamic Jihad are intent on introducing strict Islamic law (Sharia) across Egypt.

In Syria, Christians who have enjoyed relative religious freedom under President Assad fear regime change could bring persecution just as Saddam Hussein’s fall opened the way for Islamist militants to attack Christians.

Release contacts say Syrian Christians have been the target of kidnappings and murders since the anti-government unrest began. According to the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission, extremist Islamist forces in the opposition movement have attacked Christians suspected of backing President Bashar al-Assad.

Christians make up around 10 per cent of Syria’s 23 million population. The Syrian Orthodox Church has highlighted ‘ongoing ethnic cleansing of Christians’ by suspected members of an al-Qaeda-linked group in Homs. Reports indicate that 90 per cent of Christians in the city have fled to Jordan and their homes have been seized by militants.

Release is supporting safe houses in North Africa and the Middle East; helping Christian families who have been attacked or driven from their homes and providing training and other resources to support the church.

‘Christians in North Africa and the Middle East need our prayers and financial support more than ever,’ says Colin King.

Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in 30 countries by supporting pastors and Christian prisoners and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles, and working for justice.

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