Egyptian cabinet approves church building bill following 'full consensus' with churches

Ahram Online , Thursday 25 Aug 2016

Woman praying
File Photo: Egyptian Coptic woman praying in Egypt's main Cathedral (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's cabinet has approved a draft bill on church building and restoration in ''full consensus" with representatives of the country's three major churches, according to a cabinet statement released on Thursday.

The 10-article bill--which had been the subject of earlier disagreements--is to be sent to the State Council then referred to parliament for a vote.

Earlier on Thursday, the Coptic Orthodox Church said it had reached a concord with the government over the long-awaited draft law.

The statement by the church came days after it criticised what it called "unacceptable amendments" and "impractical additions" made by the government to the draft bill, which was jointly drafted by Egyptian churches.

On Thursday, the Coptic Church announced it has reached an agreement following an extensive meeting of 105 of its bishops on Wednesday, and recent discussions with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

"Following amendments introduced recently and an answer provided to (our) questions and inquires ... the Holy Synod announces, in good faith, that it has reached a compromise formula (on the law) with government representatives," the church said in a statement early on Thursday.

The Coptic Church said it hopes the bill will prove a "step forward," adding that it is looking forward to seeing the legislation made "effective and respecting of others" in the first years of its application.

Egyptian Christians, estimated to make up around 10 percent of the country's 90 million population, have long struggled to obtain the official permits required to build churches, with the process at times taking years.

Due to the restrictions, some congregations have been forced to build unlicenced churches or carry out their religious practices in buildings that have not been designated for religious use.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II had said weeks ago that successive governments have, since regulations introduced in 1934, adopted "crippling" conditions for church construction, but stated he hopes the new law will streamline the process and cut out bureaucracy.

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