On the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council's 40th session in Geneva, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) discussed the impact of terrorism and extremist thought on freedom of belief in the Middle East.
EOHR head Hafez Abu Saada spoke at a seminar titled 'Freedom of Religion: Christian Communities of the East,' where he highlighted in a speech the impact of terrorism and extremism on freedom of belief in the region, citing the targeting by the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist organisations of Christian places of worship and their destruction of 60 churches in Egypt.
The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, founded in April 1985, is a non-profit NGO that aims to defend human rights in Egypt.
Jean Maher, the secretary-general of CHEDRO, an organisation concerned with the rights of Christians in the east, discussed some of the difficulties faced by Christian communities in the region, criticising the leniency of the international community in dealing with the spread of terrorism and extremism in the region.
Abu Saada also highlighted the efforts exerted by the Egyptian state and civil society organisations in battling extremist ideas and encouraging the reforming of religious discourse.
Meanwhile, Alexander Maher, the vice-president of the Franco-Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (OFEDH), discussed the conditions of Christians in Egypt, referring to discrimination faced by some Christians in schools, workplaces, job opportunities and police stations, saying that the Egyptian state is keen on preventing the recurrence of these incidents.
The OFEDH's deputy head called for reviewing the curricula of Al-Azhar, Egypt's top Sunni Muslim authority, as part of the efforts to combat extremism.
Maher also praised the recent meeting between Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb and Catholic Pope Francis in Abu Dhabi, stressing the messages of tolerance delivered by the two religious leaders.
Meanwhile, the EOHR secretary-general Essam Shiha stressed to speakers the danger of terrorism and extremism on the freedom of belief.
Shiha said that the 30 June revolution is a testament that the vast majority of Egyptians renounce sectarianism and terrorism, denouncing also hatrful practices by some Salafist figures, which, he explained, the majority of Egyptians reject.
Ibrahim Salama, the director of the Human Rights Treaties Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Ibrahim, praised the 2014 Beirut Declaration on 'Faith for Rights,' affirming that the initiative focuses on promoting religious tolerance and the acceptance of others.
Salama also called for abolishing laws against the defamation of religion and replacing them with legislation that criminalises spreading hatred in the name of religion.