A message to the US vice president

Laila Takla
Saturday 20 Jan 2018

US Vice President Mike Pence is expected to visit Egypt. There are some things he should bear in mind.

Mr vice president, it has been announced that soon you will be visiting Egypt, the cradle of religions, the originator of monotheism and the refuge of prophets. Egypt is where Joseph lived, Moses was born and the Holy Family sought refuge. Later, the Prophet Mohamed instructed his followers to treat the Copts of Egypt well.

Egypt taught the world at a time when most of the countries of today did not even exist. Today, it is confronting tremendous challenges. Enemies from inside and out, governments, organisations and others insist on hindering its progress. But Egypt will defeat them all, as it has done to all its invaders in the past.

It has been announced that the purpose of your visit is to strengthen the relationship between our two countries, to support peace efforts, and to combat the terrorism that threatens the whole world and from which no country is immune. Egypt with its police force and army is relentlessly resisting various forms of terrorism to protect not only its land, but also the whole region and the world at large from terrorist atrocities. It is for this reason that I am sending you this message, which is based on the four following assumptions.

First, we assume and hope that you understand that the era of a single pole has come to an end, and no power today can possibly imagine that it alone can control the world. All countries need to collaborate together in the interest of all peoples.

Second, we assume and believe that you know that true democracy does not only mean equality among individuals, but also equality among countries. All of them stand on the same footing. They are all important, and each has its own culture, independence and sovereignty that must be respected and not transgressed. I believe that the first human right is the right to be different but to remain equal.

Third, we assume that you are well aware that our interests are reciprocal. We need you, and you need us. Therefore, coordination based on mutual respect is in the interest of both of us.

Fourth, we assume that you can differentiate between global issues that are of concern to all and the internal problems of each country separately, which are the concern of its government and its people. Thus, you will understand the huge difference between the problem of Christians in the Middle East that has been dealt with by eminent thinkers and has a history covered by serious research and the issue of the Copts of Egypt which is a purely Egyptian national issue that exclusively concerns Egyptians.

No one has the right to interfere in it, just as no one has the right to interfere in issues of racism in Western countries, or the incomplete rights of women, or the treatment of those detained in sites of detention.

Fifth, the Egyptian Copts who live inside Egypt are the ones who know the facts of the situation and how to handle it. Their requests are discussed with the government and the presidency with a view to achieving the common goals of peace, equality for all, speedy trials and the quick punishment of the guilty.

Your government has declared its goal of fighting terrorism and expressed its appreciation of what Egypt is doing to achieve that goal. In this respect, we wish to bring to your attention the following points, which you may consider as proposals or advice to achieve peace and combat terrorism.

You need to assess the Egyptian situation and differentiate between human rights that mean protecting convicts alone and the basic concept of human rights that means the protection of the interests, rights, safety and dignity of millions of innocent people.

You well know that Egypt is currently fighting two battles: an inevitable military battle to protect its citizens and defend its land and heritage and another battle of ideology that seeks to rectify false concepts. This challenge Egypt is qualified to meet supported by its institutions. Supporting Egypt in its battles is one of the most successful means of combating terrorism and protecting the world from its evils. Any “bargaining” regarding military aid to Egypt, or the postponement of delivery or repair of equipment, is against your declared intentions and not becoming of you or us.

Huge sums of money are paid by your government, institutions and organisations to non-governmental organisations that claim they promote peace and seek to protect human rights, but in reality use of these funds to provoke unrest and increase tensions that serve the goals of groups doing evil. Would it not have been better and wiser to direct such funds to reducing the suffering of the people by providing them with additional educational and health services? Why is this money not used to provide the police with more protective equipment as well as bullet-proof checkpoints and other materials which we know that you and your agencies have in abundance?

Governments and organisations that politically, materially and financially support terrorist gangs and provide them with arms, shelter and refuge are the major constraints to achieving peace. Therefore, the serious combating of terrorism necessitates that you reconsider your stand vis-à-vis such countries, organisations and gangs, punishing them and depriving them of aid. But some of the countries that take your country as a role model and receive huge funds from you continue to support terrorism with your aid.

I invite you to follow in the footsteps of Egypt and support the call for the protection of the common Islamic-Christian heritage and confront the damage done to Islam as a result of the wrong acts and attitudes of some of its followers who do not abide by its teachings. Your call for peace obliges you to support the campaign that endeavours to explain to the whole world that terrorist acts have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam, which respects Christianity and Christians, believes in the miracles of Christ and honours the Virgin Mary.

A true Muslim’s belief in Islam would not be complete unless he believed in all the holy religions that preceded Islam. A true Muslim respects Christian holy sites in Jerusalem and safeguards them. Correcting the wrong ideas and opinions about Islam is no longer the responsibility of Muslims alone, but the responsibility of all peace-lovers. In the same way, correcting wrong ideas and opinions about Christianity is not the responsibility of Christians alone, but that of all those who believe in peace and coexistence.

Your recent decision to offer up the Christian holy site of Jerusalem against the principles of justice refutes all your previous statements as well as the agreements you have signed. It is huge blow to your credibility. It jeopardises peace and is against the interests of your citizens whose protection should come before the interests of Israel.

You have isolated your country from the world and all those who believe in justice, peace and the principles advocated by Christianity by using your veto at the UN Security Council and threatening to punish countries that did not support your unfair decision in the UN General Assembly. In this way, you lost your status as a mediator of peace and the admiration and respect you used to enjoy.

We hope that you will contribute to correcting this mistake that jeopardises peace by supporting a UN resolution recognising the State of Palestine. Only then will you regain your status and respect and be able to protect your people from the horrors of your decision. Only then will Christians and Muslims in the East and West, as well as all Egyptians, feel that the dignity and safety of the Holy Land has been maintained.

May God guide you and your president to the right decisions.

*This article was first published in Al-Ahram Weekly

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