Court ruling granting Copts paid vacation for Jerusalem pilgrimage a victory for equality: Lawyer

Ahram Online , Sunday 5 Feb 2017

Naguib Gabriel
Egyptian Lawyer Naguib Gabriel (Photo: Ahram)

Egyptian Christians can now take paid vacations from work to perform a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Naguib Gabriel – the lawyer who successfully challenged the constitutionality of an article in a 1978 law for civil servants that grants Muslims paid vacation to perform the Hajj – told Ahram Online on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that Article 71 of Law 47/1978, which regulates the work of civil servants and grants Muslims the right to take a one-off paid vacation to perform a pilgrimage to Mecca, violates several articles of the 2014 constitution.

Article 71 lists a number of conditions under which employees are to receive paid vacation, including maternity leave, but does not include Christian pilgrimage.

“The ruling is a major step towards full citizenship rights for Egyptian Christians,” Gabriel said.

Gabriel said he took legal action after a number of Christian civil servants failed to obtain a paid vacation to perform the pilgrimage.

Gabriel has said, however, that the ruling is not likely to lead to more Egyptian Christians travelling to Jerusalem given a decades-long ban by the church on Coptic Christians from travelling to the city, which is home to some of Christianity's most sacred sites.

The ban was put in place in 1980 by the late Pope Shenouda III in protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

However, some Egyptian Copts have visited Jerusalem over the past few years during Easter. 

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