11/27/2018, 10.20
EGYPT
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Cairo, Muslim parliamentarian: no to religion on documents. Fr. Rafic: 'Positive'

For Esmail Nasr Al Deen, the reference violates the principle of equal rights and opportunities. Employers hire on the basis of religion. The proposal meets resistance in Parliament, among Muslims and even among Orthodox Copts. Spokesman Catholic Church: "The parliamentary debate will not be quick, there are many obstacles".

Cairo (AsiaNews) – The proposed billto abolish reference to a citizens’ religious status on documents is "still being studied by Parliament" and the approval process "will not be short" because there are several obstacles, even among Christians themselves; however, it would be a "positive" step for the future of the country, says Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesperson of the Egyptian Catholic Church. "It will be a very slow journey of reflection and debate [of the legislation] - foresees the priest - because there are not many, especially in the Assembly, who seem to share this proposal".

The parliamentary initiative was taken by Esmail Nasr Al Deen, who is sure to enjoy the support of the majority of deputies. "The reference to religion on identity cards - he says - violates the constitutional precepts that enshrine equal rights among all citizens, in spite of faith, gender, race or social status". He then added that from the standpoint of civil status and the safeguarding of the values ​​of citizenship, it is necessary to remedy this "incorrect situation". In this regard, he cites the example of employers who hire on the basis of religion.

According to the country's constitution, a bill must receive the approval of at least one third of the 596 members of parliament to have legal effect. The deputy - of Muslim faith - concludes by reminding that "dividing Egyptians into Muslims or Christians should be limited to mosques or churches". Recently, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, a Muslim, has affirmed the principle of equal rights among citizens as a cornerstone and legal basis of Egypt.

However, the bill has met the clear opposition of some colleagues in Parliament [who claim it would create confusion and controversy about marriages] and religious leaders - mostly radical - Muslims. "This proposal - states Mahmoud Mehna of al-Azhar - shows that the importance of religion in Egypt is unknown".

Fr. Rafic confirms  "resistance" to the law,  which is still under study by experts from the Islamic University of al-Azhar and the Church ". It will be a "slow" journey and "may seem surprising, but not even the Coptic Orthodox community really wants to erase the religious element from the identity cards" because they consider it important "to know who is Christian and who is Muslim". "In my opinion - concludes the spokesman of the Egyptian Catholic Church - the idea is good, I think it is right to remove the religious reference from the documents, even if the question must be accompanied by a serious study possible consequences".

In a Muslim majority nation of almost 95 million people, Christians [especially Orthodox Copts] are a substantial minority of around 10% of the total population. Between 2016 and 2017 a series of bloody attacks targeted the Christian community itself. A military court sentenced 17 people to death in mid-October in connection with the attacks.

However, this has failed to stop attacks and violence. On 2 November, an armed commando attacked a busload of pilgrims in a desert area south of the capital, causing at least 10 deaths and several injured. In the past the escalation of violence led to fears that the apostolic journey of Pope Francis to Egypt was be called off. However, the pontiff respected the program by meeting the president of the Republic, the great imam of al-Azhar and celebrating mass in front of tens of thousands of faithful.

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