CAIRO: The delegation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom cancelled a proposed trip to Upper Egypt due to sensitivities in the wake of the Nagaa Hammadi Jan. 6 shootings.
The foreign ministry sent a letter to the Shoura Council explaining that they had requested from the US Embassy to intervene regarding the visit, though the embassy explained that the delegation was not an official entity and they could not prevent the visit, the state-run Al-Gomhuria reported Friday.
However, the report added that the embassy made several calls regarding the matter and managed to persuade the delegation to cancel the visit.
The US embassy previously told Daily News Egypt that the delegation – an independent body whose members are appointed by the US Congress and President – was on a routine fact-finding mission and that its visit was not related to any specific event.
The delegation did meet with head of Al-Azhar Mohamed Sayed Tantawy and Minister of Religious Endowments Mahmoud Hamdi Zaqzouq as well as rights activists involved in cases of freedom of expression.
Pope Shenouda refused to meet with the delegation claiming that these were internal matters and should not involve foreign interference.
The Nagaa Hammadi murders saw seven people killed in a shooting outside a church on the eve of Coptic Christmas, six Christians and one Muslim.
Egypt has made terse statements regarding what it deemed was foreign interference in what it considers to be a purely local affair, and took exception to a European Parliament resolution on the incident.
The European text called on “the Egyptian Government to ensure the personal safety and physical integrity of Coptic Christians and of members of other religious minorities in the country, as well as guaranteeing that “Coptic Christians and members of other religious communities and of minorities enjoy the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms – including the right to choose and change their religion freely – and to prevent any discrimination against them.
A statement from the foreign ministry last Friday read, “It is an internal Egyptian matter that no foreign party is allowed to consider.
And while the US delegation could not go to Upper Egypt, 1,500 religious scholars reportedly embarked on the journey to southern Egypt to discuss Muslim-Christian relations in the wake of the Nagaa Hammadi shootings.