President Donald Trump issued an official message in support of the second annual Global Coptic Day, expressing his support for the persecuted Christian denomination.
In a message released Monday, Trump noted that his administration called the observance “an opportunity for the world to mark the contributions, legacy, and ongoing challenges facing the largest Christian group in the Middle East.”
“This year, as we celebrate the second annual Global Coptic Day, we recognize the vital role faith, prayer, and service have in our lives, especially as we continue to face the challenges posed by the novel coronavirus pandemic,” stated Trump.
“We join with people of faith from every corner of the world in asking God to place his healing hand on those fighting the virus and to comfort those who are mourning the loss of a friend or a loved one.”
The president went on to focus on the importance of international religious freedom, saying that “far too many people the world over face persecution on account of their faith.”
“We must ensure that we are using every tool at our disposal to ensure that every man, woman, and child feels safe and secure to worship according to their conscience and beliefs—no matter where they live,” he continued.
“I hope today’s observance is filled with prayer and joy, and provides those celebrating with a renewed sense of purpose and faith. May God bless each of you.”
The “Global Coptic Day” observance was founded in part by Egyptian-born Nader Anise, who launched the Coptic American Chamber of Commerce.
A major goal of the observance is to spread awareness about the Coptic Church and contributions it has made to history and culture.
In Coptic tradition, June 1 is the “Flight of the Holy Family,” referencing how Jesus, along with his parents Mary and Joseph, fled to Egypt to escape King Herod.
A branch of the Orthodox Church largely based in Egypt, the Coptic Church has long experienced both state-sponsored repression and violence from Islamic extremists.
In 2015, the Islamic State released a video online showing 20 Coptic Christian men and one Ghanaian Christian being decapitated on a beach in Libya for their beliefs.
In February, a museum dedicated to that group of executed Christians was opened at the Church of the Martyrs of Faith and Homeland in the village of Al-Aour.
For its part, in recent times the Egyptian government has granted legal status to a growing number of churches that have increased, with 70 being approved in May.
Egypt was ranked number 16 on the Christian persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA’s list of worst persecutors of Christians in the world.
“There are violent attacks that make news headlines around the world, but there are also quieter, more subtle forms of duress that burden Egyptian believers,” noted the organization.
“Particularly in rural areas in northern Egypt, Christians have been chased from villages, and subject to mob violence and intense familial and community pressure. This is even more pronounced for Christians who are converts from Islam.”