Egypt par­lia­ment adopts dis­crim­i­na­tory law on churches

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

CAIRO— The Egyp­tian par­lia­ment on Tues­day adopted a law on reg­u­lat­ing the con­struc­tion of churches, de­spite op­po­si­tion by some mem­bers of the Chris­tian com­mu­nity which com­plains of dis­crim­i­na­tion.

Egypt’s Copts, the Mid­dle East’s largest Chris­tian mi­nor­ity, have long strug­gled to ob­tain of­fi­cial per­mis­sion to build places of wor­ship.

They find it es­pe­cially dif­fi­cult to erect churches south of Cairo, where even the rumour of Chris­tians build­ing one can spark mob vi­o­lence. “The par­lia­ment adopted the bill pre­sented by the gov­ern­ment for the con­struc­tion and restora­tion of churches by a two-thirds ma­jor­ity,” the par­lia­ment’s web­site re­ported.

The new law stip­u­lates that pro­vin­cial gov­er­nors will be au­tho­rised to is­sue per­mits to build churches and that they must re­spond within four months to each ap­pli­ca­tion, law­mak­ers told AFP.

In the case of re­fusal, the com­mu­nity may ap­peal the de­ci­sion to the ad­min­is­tra­tive court.

The con­struc­tion of churches in Egypt is still gov­erned by a min­is­te­rial de­cree dat­ing back to 1934.

Ishak Ibrahim, a re­searcher at the Egyp­tian Ini­tia­tive for Per­sonal Rights, crit­i­cised the lack of trans­parency in the de­bates that pre­ceded the adop­tion of the new law. “The law was de­cided by the au­thor­i­ties and a limited num­ber of clergy. Of course they do not rep­re­sent all Chris­tians,” said Ibrahim.

“Mem­bers of par­lia­ment were not given a chance to pro­pose amend­ments for some items, with their re­quests be­ing ig­nored with the ex­cuse that it is to reach con­sen­sus.”

He also noted the ab­sence of a uni­fied places of wor­ship law that would gov­ern both the con­struc­tion of churches and mosques, not­ing that leg­is­la­tion con­cern­ing the mosques is more le­nient. — Al Jazeera

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