Our Mission

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Raising Awareness of Religious Persecution

Every day, Christians in Egypt suffer from sectarian violence.

 

Just in August of 2013, 56 churches were looted and vandalized. And by the end of the year, over 120 churches were burned down or vandalized.

Although many people imagine Middle Eastern nations such as Egypt to be predominantly or entirely Muslim, the country has been home to a large native Christian population – the Copts – for nearly two thousand years. Although they are no longer the majority, today Christians make up roughly ten percent of the overall population, with estimates placing the total number between ten and twenty million.

From the birth of modern Egypt Coptic Christians have played an important role in the life of the country. However, in recent years, with the rise of religious extremism and sectarian violence across the region, the Coptic community has had to face increasing persecution and discrimination. Unfortunately very little help has been forthcoming, as the global community is largely unaware of the problem and the Egyptian authorities are unable to provide a solution.

In fact, the scale of sectarian violence has grown to worrying extremes. In the single month of August 2013, fifty-six churches were looted or vandalized; by the end of the year, over a hundred-and-twenty churches had been attacked, with many completely destroyed. The great majority have not been restored. Caught in the recent crossfire between Egyptian Islamists and state authorities, Copts have been the object of false accusations and scape-goating, leading to kidnappings and even murders.

The MG Latif Coptic Christian Relief Fund is not a political organisation and does not take a partisan position in political affairs. Rather, we seek to bring the plight of those who suffer religious persecution to the attention of those in the American public and political leadership who do enjoy freedom of religion and are not subject to sectarian conflict. We seek volunteers to hand out pamphlets, join rallies for support, and team up with our activists abroad to end religious persecution of Christians in Egypt. We also encourage our supporters to get involved by contacting their local senators and signing our petitions.

Providing Medical and Dental Care

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In addition to raising awareness, our organisation aims to make a practical difference in people’s lives. The CCRF offers medical and dental aid to underserved communities in Egypt, no matter whether they are Christian or Muslim. Through caring for the less fortunate, we hope to promote the values of charity and brotherhood that lie at the heart of both religions. In this we are working with the Catholic Charities of Egypt (CCE), who run independent clinics that host our volunteer staff.

We send trained medical and dental specialists to places that lack adequate clinical facilities – for the most part rural areas and villages – where they provide care free of charge to all who need it, regardless of religious affiliation. Many people in remote areas do not have any access to regular medical and dental care and have not been to a doctor or a dentist for several years. As a result, they suffer from a lack of education in good practices for healthy living and frequently suffer from undiagnosed conditions. Communication is therefore a crucial to our work, and all our care-givers are able to speak their patients’ language.

CCRF medical staff offers screening and palliative care: specialist diagnosis, consultation and referral, as well as prescription drugs where medically indicated. Our medical team performs important screening procedures including physical exams, CT scans, and radiographic services such as mammograms. They can then help direct patients to accessible and affordable medical resources.

In addition to medical providers, our team also includes dental specialists who offer a wide range of procedures to patients. These include preventative services, extractions, operative dentistry such as amalgam and composite fillings, and the fabrication of removable dental prostheses. Pediatric dentistry is a particularly important aspect of this work, and we can create stainless steel crowns and perform pulpotomies. Moreover, our dentists seek to educate patients in the best methods for maintaining their oral hygiene so as to reduce the need for palliative dentistry in the future; this entails instruction in caring for teeth and provision of toiletries such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and mouthwash.

Our volunteers work without pay and much of the necessary equipment is provided on-site by the CCE. However, we employ our own supplies and materials, which we source through voluntary donations from medical and dental manufacturers.

Providing education to young girls

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Inequality lies at the root of many of the issues that the CCRF seeks to address. The problems of religious persecution and lack of medical care are symptoms of deep-rooted social divides that must be tackled at the same time. Egypt is an extremely patriarchal society in which opportunities for women are far more restricted than they are for men, a matter exacerbated by the substantial gap between rich and poor. Education, especially for women, suffers greatly as a result, with lack of access to good jobs feeding social instability and sectarian division.

The disparity between Egyptian men and women is clearly manifested in literacy rates: as of 2012, only 65.8% of women over the age of ten could read and write, compared to 81.7% of men. Although the number of women enrolled in primary, secondary and higher education is officially at approximate parity with that of men, it has been estimated that two million Egyptian women have never attended school, while the number of women outside the education system may be twice the number of men.

However, the problem of lack of access to education is not evenly spread across Egyptian society. Statistics from the year 2000 indicated that 45% of rural women had not had any formal education (opposed to 23% of rural men), while 22% of urban women lacked formal education (opposed to 12% of urban men). Egypt’s rural population is growing at the fastest rate and has the highest rates of poverty. While wealthier classes can afford to pay for expensive private tutoring for struggling students, poorer families are much more likely to focus on making ends meet in the short term than on long-term investment in education.

With little to no government assistance or welfare, families frequently feel the need to withdraw their children from education and put them to work. Consequently, many poorer women fail to finish high school and may even be bartered into an arranged marriage. Women from poor families are often obliged to find work as maids for the middle and upper classes, where they are open to exploitation and social marginalization. In Egypt, a person’s higher education and career depends almost entirely on their performance in the Thanaweyya ‘ama, a subject-based exam that determines their future prospects. As they are much less likely to have completed formal education and have no access to the resources available to wealthier students, low-income women are thus disproportionately restricted from pursuing professional careers.

Furthermore, lack of access to education on sexual health, coupled with religious stigma in both Christian and Muslim communities against the use of contraception, results in a high pregnancy rate among poorer families. Women from richer backgrounds are better able to afford home help to raise their children and remain in the workforce, but poorer women more often than not must give up their careers to be stay-at-home mothers.

In order to address these deep-seated problems, the CCRF has a comprehensive plan to help young girls in rural areas focus on and complete their education. We provide mentors to girls to offer much-needed encouragement and advice in studying and career paths so that they and their families can make better long-term decisions for themselves. We also provide free tutoring to struggling students and mobile library services to allow girls to check out and read books that they would not otherwise be able to access.

While these are simple steps, they nonetheless provide fundamental support to a girl’s education. By helping to improve women’s long-term educational and professional prospects, we hope to begin to improve the crippling social inequalities that have caused so many problems in Egyptian society.

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