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Coptic Church says amendments to draft law for building churches 'threaten national unity'

The Coptic Orthodox Church said that the amendments are 'impractical,' slamming what it described as 'complexities and obstacles'

Ahram Online , Thursday 18 Aug 2016
Egyptian Orthodox Church
Egyptian Orthodox Church (Photo:Reuters)
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Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Church issued statements on Thursday slamming proposed amendments to the long-awaited church building draft law after Church officials met with state representatives on Wednesday at the cabinet headquarters.

"The Church was surprised to find unacceptable amendments," said the Coptic Orthodox Church in its statement.

Although it did not reveal the nature of these amendments, the Church described them "impractical," and said that they contain "complexities and obstacles" that could pose a danger to national unity, "with no consideration for the citizenship or patriotism of Egyptian Copts."

Egyptian Christians have long struggled to obtain permits required to build churches, facing tough regulations and time-consuming red tape.

Many are hoping that the new eight-article bill would loosen these regulations and facilitate the building of churches, as it would set a limit of four months to process requests to build or renovate churches.

The government-drafted law would also designate any building where Christian rituals and services are held as a "licensed church."

The Coptic Church said following the Wednesday meeting that the draft law was still being discussed.

The Evangelical Church also issued a statement on Thursday stating that it was following the discussion about the draft law.

Although the Evangelical Church did not directly criticise the new amendments, it did say that it hoped the government would take into consideration the concerns expressed by Egyptian churches.

Legal and parliamentary affairs minister Magdy El-Agati confirmed in media statements that all the objections and remarks about the draft bill are being considered by the government.

However, he dismissed the notion that any part of the amendments threatened national unity.

The talks between representatives from Egyptian churches and the cabinet will continue on Wednesday in another meeting.

Egyptian Christians make up roughly 10 percent of the country's population of 90 million.

According to official figures from 2011, Egypt has 2,869 churches and over 108,000 mosques.

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