After a strong wave of arguments in and out of the House of Representatives, the Church Building law was finally passed but – still – with some concerns about specific parts of the articles issued.
“The law is a massive jump after 160 years of legislation governing church building and renovation,” Father Rafik Greish, a spokesman for the Coptic Catholic Church, told Reuters, referring to the Ottoman-era laws governing this matter.
The Church Building law is supposed to give Christians more freedom at building their churches and grants them the pleasure of avoiding bureaucratic red tape, according to state-owned Ahram. However it is restricted to the populations of the neighborhood(s) which the church is purposed to serve. There are at least two problems here.
1) There is no official count of the Christian community in Egypt
Although Christians have arrived to Egypt long before Muslims, there is no official count made public and there has been several complaints about them being undercounted. Which brings us to problem number two.
2) Bureaucracy – again
The law grants a governor the right to deny a building or renovation permit, which is okay if officials are well intentioned, Bishop Makarios told Reuters. He is the highest Coptic Orthodox Church official in Minya, a province with the largest Christian community that has been witnessing a rise in sectarian violence in the past few years.
Moreover, the law as a concept is against the entire “ya7ya el helal ma3 el saleeb” philosophy. If Muslims and Christians were really considered equals, why would there be two laws, one for mosques (that involves nothing about the neighboring populations, only issues of land ownership and building regulations) and another for churches? Why couldn’t there be only one law for all houses of worship?
“This is a sectarian law that shows the state prefers the adherents of one religion over another,” Ishak Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told Reuters.
WE SAID THIS: MP Margaret Azer told Ahram Online that she hopes the negative points get eliminated in the near future, and so do we.