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Egyptian Parliament Failed To Enact Laws That Would Allow for Places of Construction To Christians

ICC Note

Egyptian Christians face insurmountable difficulty when they apply for permission to renovate old churches or construct new ones. Conversely, there are no hurdles for constructing or renovating mosques. A bill that was introduced in the Egyptian parliament to cease this discrimination has not yet been enacted, even though more than three years have lapsed since it was presented to the parliament.

By Youssef Sidhom

06/22/2008 Egypt (Watain)-It is almost a year today since I wrote lamenting Parliament’s apparent indifference towards passing a unified law for building places of worship. Back then, it had been three years since a bill was presented to Parliament but was never placed on its agenda; today it is four years since. Egypt ’s Parliament has, for the fourth year in succession, miserably failed to enact the vitally important law.

As the current round draws to a close, Parliament prepares to issue reports on its achievements during that round, listing the abundant legislation it passed, the amendments, sessions, interpellations and discussions.

In a patriotic move that deserves merit, the bill for a unified law for building places of worship was presented to Parliament four years ago by Mohamed Guweili. It was meant to right the wrongs of existing legislation which hinders the building, restoration and renovation of Christian places of worship, to maintain equality between all places of worship and sustain the principle of citizenship rights for all. It is no longer acceptable that the way should be paved with roses for Muslims to build a mosque while it is infested with thorns for Christians who want to build a church. Guweili’s proposal was accepted by the speaker of Parliament and referred to the Committee for Proposals and Complaints which approved it on the grounds that it will serve to avert problems and conflicts that constitute a real threat to the entire community. The draft law was then referred to the Housing Committee to present to Parliament. Since then it was inexplicably placed on hold. It was obvious that both the government and Parliament were deliberately indifferent to the draft law, since they have since passed countless laws of less importance at lightening speed, meaning that the government, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and Parliament can pass laws when they will.

Need I remind of the bitter tribulations Copts are forced to go through once they decide they need to build or restore a church or a church-affiliated building? The impediments placed in their path and the disputes and struggles which ensue constitute a serious threat to the stability and social peace of our community, and render the passage of a unified law for building places of worship a must. The procedures of obtaining approvals and licenses are as yet rife with official procrastination, delay, or full halting, thanks to the dominance of the security apparatus whose members answer to no-one.

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