Last week Egypt witnessed a number of visits from a number of expatriate Copts’ leaders; there were a number of official meetings with officials who were eager to listen and converse with them. One of the most eminent symbols of the expatriate Copts visiting Egypt now is Michael Munīr, the head of the U.S. Copts Association, and here is the dialogue that took place with him.
Is there a relation between your current visit to Egypt and any of the recent visits of Egyptian delegations to the United States?
There is no relation between my visit and any of the visits of the delegations or the preparations for the coming visit of President Mubārak to the United States. It is just to follow up the work of the institution which I founded called "hand in hand for the sake of Egypt"
It was said that you held a number of official meetings?
Yes there are some political meetings with a number of Egyptian leaders to discuss the results of the work of the last International Coptic council held in Holland last month and monitoring the application of its recommendations represented in the need for the passage of the unified law on houses of worship, devising a legal format for Coptic political representation, passage of a law criminalizing discrimination and a law asserting religious freedoms.
So, do you think that relations between the expatriate Copts and the political system are witnessing a new phase of cooperation rather than conflict?
Most expatriate Copts are working for the sake of Egypt’s benefit or else they would not have been interested in its internal affairs while they are abroad. So, I feel that if an opportunity exists to convey our views to the political leadership that opportunity should be fully exploited. I see no problem in a dialogue with the government, and for us to discuss the problems in our country and investigate the means towards a solution.
How do you as expatriate Copts evaluate the governments’ desire to solve these problems?
I think there is a genuine desire on the part of the senior leaders to solve these problems, but the problem is that there is a clash between the desire to solve and the procedures to apply it.
According to your personal view, when do you think the file of the Coptic problems will be put to an end?
If there was a real genuine intention, this file could be put to an end during three years. Otherwise, it could be open for 30 more years.
What is your relationship with the congress?
I have excellent relations with a large number of members of congress and I am frequently summoned by Congress or the State Department to provideto provide my viewpoint regarding American-Egyptian relations.
Let me tell you frankly: you are accused of being playing an instigative role against Egypt.
These rumors are not true at all. We are seeking to utilize American relations with Egypt as an incentive to help the Egyptian government take positive steps regarding citizenship.
Incentive or pressure?
- There is a big difference between incentive and pressure. Exerting pressure is when you advocate the termination of assistance or ask for military pressure and this has never happened and will never happen and we will never think about it.