Cairo criticises US Congress bill that would track efforts on church restoration in Egypt

Ahram Online , Thursday 29 Dec 2016

The bill has been referred to the House's foreign affairs committee

Christian children hang around the Coptic Hanging Church in Old Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016 (AP)

Egypt has said it rejects a bill introduced to the US Congress that would require the Secretary of State report on progress made in Egypt in restoring churches damaged during mob attacks in August 2013.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday it repudiates the move which "allows a foreign entity the right to undermine national sovereignty and imagines that Egyptian authorities may submit to be accountable to a legislative or executive foreign authority."

The bill, titled the Coptic Churches Accountability Act and introduced by Representative David Trott in September, directs the Secretary of State to submit an annual report to Congress regarding "efforts to restore or repair Christian property in the Arab Republic of Egypt that was burned, damaged, or otherwise destroyed during the sectarian violence in August 2013," according to the Congress website.

The report should also track efforts to implement a 2016 law which "imposes significant burdens on church building and the nature and extent of Egyptian laws and policies regarding the construction of Christian churches or places of worship."

The bill has currently been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, according to the Congress website.

The Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement that the bill contains “errors inconsistent with reality,” adding that Egypt did not witness sectarian violence but rather "terrorist attacks by an illegal group."

Dar Al-Ifta, the top authority for fatwas and Islamic advice, also condemned the bill. It said Thursday the law constitutes "interference in Egypt's internal affairs and foments discord and discrimination" between Egyptians.

The Coptic Orthodox Church said in a statement that the government has carried out its "full duty in repairing and renovating the churches," a process it said is about to be completed as pledged by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

"Egyptian national unity is above all, and can never be compromised," it added

In August 2013, dozens of churches, Christian institutions, schools and homes were torched or damaged by mobs following the violent dispersal of two large camps of pro-Mohamed Morsi protesters in Cairo.

The State Department currently issues an annual report on the state of religious freedom in 195 different countries, including Egypt.

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