No more discriminatory laws against churches in Egypt: PM Sharaf

Ahram Online, Wednesday 11 May 2011

Essam Sharaf offers a momentous pledge to appease Copts protesting recent violent attacks against them as after 80 years of restrictions on church construction, a unified code for mosques and churches is on its way

Firemen fight a fire at a church surrounded by angry Muslims in the Imbaba neighborhood in Cairo (Photo: AP)

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf has announced that he will create a unified law for building houses of worship within 30 days.

In a meeting today with the ministers of justice, local development and interior, Sharaf decided to form a National Justice Committee within the ministry council to draft the new law.

The committee will also create an anti-discrimination law that prohibits any form of discrimination among Egyptian citizens in accordance to the articles in the constitutional decree announced by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in March. The committee will focus its work on the growing sectarian tension in Egypt and provide efficient solutions to the crisis.

The issue of a unified building code has been a major battle for Egyptian Copts. The current law, implemented in 1934, is often cited as proof of the discrimination suffered by Copts, as it imposes more restrictions on the construction of churches than mosques. Official permission is even needed to renovate a church, no matter how minor.

During the meeting Sharaf also discussed with the ministers the results of an investigation that was launched into the recent violence against Christians in Alexandria, Soul in Helwan, Moqattam, Abu Qurqas in Minya and the last attacks on two churches in Imbaba in Giza last Saturday.

The ministers also agreed that they will reopen all churches that have been closed due to permit problems and that the Virgin Mary Church in Imbaba and the diocese in Maghagha, Minya will be renovated.

They also talked about implementing a law banning the use of religious slogans during party and parliamentary campaigns and the banning of protests in front of houses of worship.

Earlier today the council of ministers released a statement saying that they appreciate the effort put by various national forces in Egypt to maintain the country’s historical national unity and described the recent sectarian tension as tragic and a threat to the country’s national security.

The council agreed that these events need to be regulated by law and a committee that ensures that Egypt’s national unity remains intact. They also stressed that the Egyptian government will stand up to those who incite hatred and discrimination.

Sharaf also met with a delegation of Coptic protesters in his office today. Many Copts have been protesting in front of the radio and TV headquarters for four days and although the PM had wanted to meet them there he opted to move the meeting to his office for security concerns.

Short link: