Bill for building churches on the table

05-09-2014 10:24 AM

Nader Shukry

Preparations are underway to have a bill for building churches ready to place before the upcoming parliament.
Minister of Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation Ibrahim al-Heneidi said that the ministry is expecting the final draft of a proposed bill for building churches form the three major Churches in Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox, Coptic Catholic and Evangelical. Dr Heneidi was speaking to Lamees al-Hadidi on the talk show of Huna al-Asima broadcast by the CBC satellite channel. He said the bill was among one a number relating to the transitional justice he is working on. Heneidi added that he had met with the representatives of the three Churches and agreed on some of the legal clauses. The Churches, he said, are together in the process of finalising their proposal.

It is a fact on the ground in Egypt that a sizeable portion of sectarian tension results from the dire need for licensed places of worship on the part of the Copts. The laws which govern the building of churches go back to the 19th and early 20th centuries, and impose oppressive, prohibitive conditions for the building of churches. In desperation, Copts resort to worshipping in non-licensed buildings, which makes them liable to the law and to attacks by local Muslims. By contrast, mosques are built with total ease, being subject only to the building regulations, and entitled to government benefits.
Since 2005, several bills for a unified law for building places of worship had been presented to consecutive parliaments. Al-Azhar, however, rejected the idea of a unified law, on grounds that there was no problem with building mosques, so why should a new law be enacted? But a new law is needed for the building of churches.

Since the Constitution stipulates that a law for the building of churches in Egypt should be passed during the first round of the upcoming parliament, the first after the revolution that overthrew the Islamist regime of the Muslim Brothers in July 2013, representatives of the Churches in Egypt have been holding regular meetings to formulate a bill they all agree upon.

Watani International
5 September 2014

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