Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - The draft law on the construction of places of worship was presented today, May 16, to the competent offices of the Egyptian Parliament, which will discuss and comment on the new legislation in coming weeks. The bill – report local sources consulted by Agenzia Fides - 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. The new law also 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.
The new legislation should lead to total archiving of the rules laid out by the so-called "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 these rules, the construction of Christian churches is subject to constraints that do not weigh 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 to build 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 had 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. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 16/05/2016)