AFRICA/EGYPT - Churches send the government their draft of a bill on the construction of places of worship

Monday, 27 October 2014

Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - The draft of a bill on the construction of churches, prepared by representatives of the major Churches and Christian communities in Egypt, was sent last week to the Egyptian government. This is confirmed by Egyptian sources consulted by Fides Agency. In all probability we will have to wait until the next election (scheduled for 2015) and the establishment of the new Parliament to see whether a new legislation on the construction of buildings for Christian worship on Egyptian territory is discussed and adopted.
"The underlying intention that inspires our proposal – says Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh to Fides Agency - is to facilitate the implementation of streamlined and clear procedures that depend only on the law, and are excluded from any kind of arbitrary act". The draft law was delivered into the hands of Judge Ibrahim al-Heneidi, Minister for the time being for Justice and National Reconciliation, and shall be reviewed by the office of the ministry. It is expected that the draft law is discussed at a parliamentary level during the first session of the new parliament.
According to local sources, no article of the draft links the building of churches to the percentage of the Christian population in this area, simply because there is no census capable of representing the distribution of the baptized throughout the country. An article indicates 60 days as a period within which the application for the construction of a church must be rejected. After 60 days, the project should be considered as approved, according to the principle of tacit consent. According to the proposal made by the churches in Egypt, the granting of permits for the construction of places of Christian worship should be exercised by the local municipal authorities, as is the case for the construction of private buildings, without involving the provincial and national levels of the administrative.
The bureaucratic constraints that complicate the construction of new churches date back in part to the Ottoman period. In 1934, the Interior Ministry said the so-called "ten rules" prohibited, inter alia, to build new churches near schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas. In many cases, the strict application of those rules prevented building churches in cities and towns inhabited by Christians, especially in rural areas of Upper Egypt. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 27/10/2014)