Last Update 21:30
Sunday, 18 August 2019

Coptic Christians call for divorce law relaxation

Coptic 38 – a group founded to demand liberalisation of divorce laws by Coptic Christian Church – calls for reimplementation of 1938 bylaws that permit divorce under 9 conditions

Ahram Online, Monday 23 Apr 2012
Christians Protest
Christians protesters demand the right of divorce and second marriages in July 2011
Share/Bookmark
Views: 5822
Share/Bookmark
Views: 5822

A Coptic Christian group called Coptic 38, established in 2011 to campaign for changes to the Church's divorce laws, held a press conference at the Journalists' Syndicate Monday to call for the re-implementation of 1938 bylaws that permitted Coptic Christians to obtain a divorce under nine conditions.

The recently deceased Pope Shenouda III restricted divorce to cases of adultery, conversion to Islam or to another Christian denomination in 2008.

Raafat Reid, one of group's founders, said, "The 1938 bylaws were drafted by Priest Philosowa'as Awad in 1876 and not by secularists in 1938 as most people think. Therefore, it was a man of religion who first proposed these changes to the personal status laws after being assigned to do so by Bishop Youaaness. Despite this fact, we [Coptic 38] still cannot open any channel of communication with the Church because it refuses to accept the concept of divorce for Biblical reasons."

Under the 1938 bylaws divorce was allowed in the following cases: attempted murder, a prison sentence of seven years, abandonment for five years, sexual aversion for three years, chronic illness, insanity for three years, sexual dysfunction, irreconcilable differences and several others.

Nader El-Serafy, the group's official spokesperson, said, "The group is holding this press conference to demand the reactivation of the bylaws that were established by the majlis mili (lay council) in 1938 and amended in 2008."

Peter Ramses El-Naggar, a law professor, said, "There are 1,200 cases of Coptic Christians converting to Islam in order to secure a divorce."

Kamal Zakher, coordinator of the Secular Copts group, demanded that the Church look at the cases of Christians abandoning the Church in order to obtain a divorce and establish modern church laws.

However, Labib Haleem, vice president of the State Council, previously said the 1938 bylaws were unconstitutional.

Coptic 38 was founded a year ago by Rafik Farouk, Raafat Reid, Nader El-Serafy and an unnamed woman to call for Coptic Christians to be able to divorce and remarry.

The Coptic Church only allows Christians to annul their marriage in cases of adultery, conversion to Islam or to another Christian denomination. Any Christian granted a civil divorce is not permitted to remarry in the Coptic Church. And if they remarry in another Christian denomination, the Coptic Church does not recognise the union.

Despite pressure from much of its flock, the church under Shenouda had remained steadfast in its opposition to divorce, stressing that it was only abiding by Biblical injunctions: "What God has joined together let no man put asunder," the New Testament states in Matthew 13:44.

The Church’s refusal to budge on the issue led many unhappily married Copts to convert to other Christian denominations or abandon Christianity altogether and embrace Islam, which allows divorce.

For years, the Coptic Church abided by the so called “1938 regulations,” which allowed Christians to file for divorce for nine reasons, one of which was "irreconcilable differences." During this period, Christians desiring divorce had to wait a long time, but were ultimately granted the divorce. The law also allowed remarriage without express permission from the church.

After Pope Shenouda came to power, he immediately expressed his distaste for the regulations and quickly initiated procedures to change them. In 2008, he finally succeeded in limiting the grounds for divorce to adultery only.

The decision caused a public outcry among many Copts, who demanded that the church revert to the 1938 regulations. In April of last year, a group of Copts began a movement called "The Right to Live" to demand the right to divorce and remarry.

In September, the group took the controversial step of resigning from the Orthodox Church. According to Egyptian law, when a citizen formally leaves a religious community and does not join another, Islamic Law is applied, which in this case means that the Copts in question can obtain divorces and remarry if they wish.

"We made this decision to eliminate any pressure from the Coptic Church and leave the decision to the state," says movement founder Ayman George.

Since then, about 4,000 Copts have left the church and filed lawsuits in Egypt's Family Court for divorce.

"We now hope that the solution can be found in civil law through the family courts," George explained. "However, Egyptian judges aren't used to the idea of Christians of no formal denomination, and are still struggling to decide on these cases."

"The 1938 law was originally drafted by a secular person," explains Coptic lawyer Nabel Ghabrial. "Since it was applied, the church has repeatedly filed complaints against it because it violated the laws of the Bible, which grants divorce only in cases of adultery. The new pope will have no choice but to follow God’s law as expressed in the Bible.

 

Short link:

 

Email
 
Name
 
Comment's
Title
 
Comment
Ahram Online welcomes readers' comments on all issues covered by the site, along with any criticisms and/or corrections. Readers are asked to limit their feedback to a maximum of 1000 characters (roughly 200 words). All comments/criticisms will, however, be subject to the following code
  • We will not publish comments which contain rude or abusive language, libelous statements, slander and personal attacks against any person/s.
  • We will not publish comments which contain racist remarks or any kind of racial or religious incitement against any group of people, in Egypt or outside it.
  • We welcome criticism of our reports and articles but we will not publish personal attacks, slander or fabrications directed against our reporters and contributing writers.
  • We reserve the right to correct, when at all possible, obvious errors in spelling and grammar. However, due to time and staffing constraints such corrections will not be made across the board or on a regular basis.
5



mike
21-05-2013 04:50pm
0-
0+
it's budget
what was the budget of this campaign ?
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
4



snk
27-09-2012 12:38am
0-
0+
The Answer separation of religion (church, mosque,temple) and state
Religion as source of governance is not a path to progress and economic viability for Egypt. Religion is for an individuals spiritual guidance and fullfilmant. Thus a state cannot make religious laws that would apply to everyone.Civil laws are thus more liberal in order to cover most peoples needs.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
3



Donna
29-04-2012 07:07am
0-
0+
Who really joined these two together?
Hello. I asked myself this question alot; Who really joined two people in an arranged marriage together? Was it God, or Man's greed, and ego? As I recall through out the Bible, God did not force marriages with the Kings he chose to lead. For example, King David and his wives fell in love with him and he with them before he married them. King Ahasuerus, yes, he took young virgins by force from his city, in order to pick one for his Queen, but did not force marriage on any of them. King Ahasuerus and Esther fell in love over time before they married. How about Joseph and Mary, the mother and earth dad of Jesus? The were not forced to marry! They fell in Love first, then the Parents agreed to the marriage. Of which I find more reasonable, providing the parents aren't greedy for gain, but care about their daughter's safety and happiness only. Furthermore, Jesus does not force us to come to him! God gave us a free will! An if we claim that we are walking in Christ, then this me
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
2



Pete
25-04-2012 02:11am
1-
1+
And who is the author of this lame article?!
First, the author (or better say, the reporter) really seems missing so much facts. But that's fine, since s/he is just a mediocre reporter! However, it's nice that one of those "protesters" admits the following.. "...because it (the Coptic Church) refuses to accept the concept of divorce for Biblical reasons." Yes, for Biblical reasons. If those do not want to abide what's written in the Holy Bible & the clear teachings in it..then it their own problem. Another point, the "reporter" wrote the following.. "After Pope Shenouda came to power, he immediately expressed his distaste for the regulations and quickly initiated procedures to change them. In 2008, he finally succeeded in limiting the grounds for divorce to adultery only." Well, s/he misses that verse in the Bible supporting this ONLY reason for divorce in Christianity!! Please, read..prepare and be focused before you write such lame phrases (articles). Here's the point, the one who is ready sacrifice his/her
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Donna
29-04-2012 07:35am
0-
0+
"Adultery"
God said; To bestow Honor upon the women, for she is the weaker sex. God said; for even if you lust in your heart after another women, you had already committed "adultery". Also you shall not worship Idols, like money. God said; If you hate your brother, you committed murder. People can claim to be a Christian but that does not mean that their spiritual eyes are open yet, but once they are, they can repent from being unequally yoked, because they did not understand the meaning before, and "God is a Forgiving God". Just like God Forgave King David for murder, How much more would he forgive his children who want to walk in obeidence by marrying someone you can be equally yoked to. But now when they claim see and understand, they won't have an excuse next time around. Love Donna "A Child Of The Most High God"
Michel
25-04-2012 07:59pm
0-
0+
Times change
And so must our church if it wants to remain relevant in the 21st century. How many other sects of Christianity do you see not allowing divorce if your spouse is physically abusive for example? Try writing your criticism constructively next time and not base your entire argument of one page of the bible (you neglect to state which one) instead of shooting the messenger.
1



Egyptian-American
23-04-2012 09:10pm
0-
4+
Good Luck
Best of luck to these people as they try to change a very antiquated law that really needs to be changed. Sad that the Coptic Church was far more progressive in the 1930s and 1940s than it is today. That's what Egypt is--decline and regression affecting every single element of society.
Email
 
Name
 
Comment's Title
 
Comment
Latest

© 2010 Ahram Online.