Muslim & Coptic Christian Leaders Denounce Hate & Violence
Los Angeles: On September 17, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Los Angeles Diocese of the Coptic Orthodox Church held a press conference hosted by L.A. City Human Relations Commission on the steps of LA City Hall to share their condemnation of escalating violence and tensions in recent days in response to the amateur hate video, “Innocence of Muslims.”
Attended by dozens of domestic and international media outlets, the press conference was conducted in English and in Arabic in order to send a message against hate and violence in the name of religion and God to people of America, Egypt and beyond. LISTEN: Audio of the Press Conference (mpac.org)SEE: Photo Album of the Press Conference (flickr.com)
His Grace Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii, and MPAC Senior Adviser Dr. Maher Hathout stressed the importance of the faith community to stand together in light of the spreading attacks and rising tensions. They also emphasized that no religion or group should be blamed for the actions of one. Bishop Serapion began by reading a joint statement from MPAC and the Coptic Orthodox Church condemning the violence and desecration of any religion. “We cannot allow the actions of a few deceived fanatical individuals to define our communities. Responding with violence only serves to continue the hate rather than taking the positive steps to start the healing process,” Bishop Serapion said. “We call on members of both religions to lean on our faiths to counter the hate and the violence with good speech and positive work. That is why we are here together today. Our communities must continue to strive and take reasonable and practical steps to allow the healing to begin.“
Bishop Serapion and Dr Hathout previously met in the past two decades. After meeting privately on Friday, they decided to come out on a public stage together to stand together against hate and violence and an appeal for calm and coexistence. “This morning is about our communities coming together to speak out against hate,” said Joumana Silyan-Saba of the LA City Human Relations Commission, who introduced the speakers. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up to those who have extreme narratives and say we do not agree. There is no room for extreme violence; not in LA, not anywhere else in the world.”
Dr. Hathout offered condolences to families of the growing number of victims of senseless violence that has taken place in reaction to the amateur online hate video. “We are here to condemn putting prejudice and hate in a production that only serves to insult groups,” Dr. Hathout said. “We declare in no ambiguous terms that we are totally against mass labeling of a group of people because of the actions of some who claim to belong to that group. These people are neither Muslims nor Copts. Those are people who are psychologically diseased, with hearts full of hate and minds full of disease. Our job together is to leave no room for these voices to manipulate and take over the arena. The voice that should be heard is our collective voices here.”
The Coptic Church was established in the first century in Egypt by Saint Mark, and the Los Angeles Diocese was established in 1969. His Grace Bishop Serapion was ordained in 1985 as a general bishop for Public, Ecumenical, and Social Services. He was also heavily involved in ecumenical bodies as a representative of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Dr. Hathout is the co-founder of MPAC, the spokesperson for the Islamic Center of Southern California, and the former chairperson of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, which serves as an umbrella for more than 70 mosques in the region.
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