EGYPT: Draft Law on Construction of Places of Worship Presented to Parliament

CAIRO MAY 17, 2016 (CISA) – The draft law on the construction of places of worship was on May 16 presented to the Egyptian Parliament.

The bill which will be discussed in coming weeks consists of 13 articles, and includes the definition of “church” and the description of the mechanisms with which to address any issues with the local administrative authorities, Fides reported.

The new legislation should lead to the removal of the current rules laid out by the “Hamayoni Decree”, the law dating from the Ottoman period that still regulates the construction of churches in Egypt, and is the cause of many disputes at a local level.

According to the current rules, the construction of Christian churches is subject to constraints that do not apply on the construction of mosques, such as the ban on the construction of Christian places of worship close to schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas.

In many cases, the strict application of those rules has prevented building churches in cities and villages inhabited by Christians, especially in rural areas of Upper Egypt.

In addition, so far the construction of each new church has to be authorized directly by the Egyptian President. The new bill proposes that the construction of new churches is screened and approved by the local authorities, in addition the laws recognizes the right of Bishops to appeal to the State Council in case of forced delays imposed regarding procedures for the construction of new churches.

In late March the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Egypt, announced plans to published a handbook on the subject of “protection of the churches in Islam.”

“The book is intended to document the values of coexistence and respect among citizens of different religious belonging,” said Minister Mohamed Mokhtar head of the department on March 30.

In August 2014 during the military repression, Islamist groups targeted places of worship and Christian educational institutions across Egypt in which more than 40 churches were burned and looted, according to officials.

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