ICC Note: Egyptian Church leaders are hoping that a legal change will allow them to be able to build churches across the country, a simple task that for decades has been incredibly challenging. The draft law still must be accepted and enacted, but there is hope this would be the case. This movement comes amid growing concerns about legal restrictions on NGOs across the country that activists are concerned will result in greater human rights violations.
11/10/2014 Egypt (Ahram) – Two weeks ago, the three main Egyptian churches – Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant – drafted the proposition of a law concerning the construction of churches.
Can this law – long-awaited law by the Christian community – finally push the current situation to change? Representatives of churches and Christian communities seem to be optimistic for the first time.
Gamal Habib, a legal consultant to the Coptic Catholic Church, explains that churches based the draft law on the country’s new constitution, ratified in early 2014, which stipulates that a new law for building churches in Egypt will be discussed when parliament’s first legislative session.
“According to the constitution, this law needs to be approved,” Habib says.
Indeed, article 235 of the 2014 constitution says that “parliament, in its first session, has to issue a law related to the regulation of the construction and restoration of churches, in order to guarantee that Christians get the freedom to practice their religious rites.”
Hence, the new Egyptian parliament – expected to be voted in by the end of the year – will have to examine the new draft law, which aims to loosen the limits on building churches in Egypt.
According to Habib, the prepared text mainly gives a precise definition of the church and its form, which varies according to each church’s doctrine. The document also describes buildings attached to churches and the services that take place inside them, like the establishment of a medical centre or nursery.