Coptic Church Experiences Its Own #MeToo Movement
We applaud the brave survivors of sexual abuse who have stepped forward and forced the Coptic Church in the United States to reckon with sexual abuse and cover-up within its own ranks. We hope that church officials will learn from the failures of other religious institutions and immediately seek to cooperate with secular officials who can help root out abusers and enablers and create an environment that is safer for children and vulnerable adults.
The reckoning in the Coptic Church began with posts on social media from a brave survivor in Florida, Sally Zakhari, who went public with her story of abuse at the hands of Father Reweiss Aziz Khalil. We know that abusers rarely have only one victim and that once one victim comes forward to tell their story, others often follow. We hope that anyone who was hurt by Fr. Khalil will be inspired by Sally’s bravery and will report to local police and prosecutors with their own experiences.
In this specific case, Coptic leaders acted quickly once the allegations were made public and moved to strip Fr. Khalil of his powers immediately, although apparently this had already been done with little effect six years earlier. We hope that this signals that officials will also be open to Sally’s call to excommunicate all the current abusers within the Coptic Church. There is no doubt that her public outcry for change forced church leaders to act much more quickly and decisively then they have in the past. These same church leaders must now undo the damage that has been done by their reticence to act, and the best way to do this is to work with trained investigators in law enforcement to identify and punish those responsible for cases of sexual abuse.
Children are safer when abusers are identified, enablers are removed from positions of power, and public calls are made for survivors to come forward. Coptic Church officials in the US should be working with law enforcement in their respective states to bring about independent investigations that can help create safer environments and communities.
CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Orthodox Leader ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member ([email protected], 415.341.6417), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)