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  • » 01/29/2015, 00.00

    EGYPT - ISLAM

    For Catholic Church spokesman, al-Sisi's Egypt is more liberal on new churches and freedom of expression



    The government has issued construction permits for a new church in New Cairo and two in Upper Egypt. Some permit applications go back 8-10 years. Mubarak never favoured church construction. After the elections, the new parliament is required to upgrade legislation governing the construction of places of worship. Representatives of Christian Churches drafted the bill. A Christian family law is also on the drawing board.

    Cairo (AsiaNews) - Things are much better under President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi compared to the Mubarak regime, said Fr Rafic Greiche, spokesman for Egypt's Catholic Church. The recent decision to grant three churches a building permit and the greater freedom of speech seen in newspapers and television are signs of the improvement, Fr Greiche told AsiaNews.

    Egypt's current law on church construction dates back to the Ottoman period. "Some permit applications to build new churches date back to the days of Mubarak, but he never granted them." Even when all the requirements were met (minimum congregation size, distance from mosques, smaller building and non-visibility), Mubarak allowed applications to pile up.

    "Now the government has decided to speed up issuing permits for existing applications," Fr Greiche said. "A permit has already been granted for the construction of a church in New Cairo and two in Upper Egypt. These applications date back to 8-10 years ago. Others go back 15 years ago and have not received any answer."

    The most important sign for greater freedom of religion lies in the president's decision to adopt a new law on churches and religious buildings. As part of this, the President's Office called on Church (Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) representatives to draft a more modern bill.

    "The project is almost ready," Fr Greiche said. "In the new constitution there is a paragraph that requires the new parliament - which will sit after elections in March - to pass the law within a year. This means that by March 2016, we will have a law on new church construction without the current hassles."

    Another positive sign is the draft bill in the area of Christian family law. "Until now, even Christians were subject to Sharia. At present, the authorities want to value the Christian marriage and recognise it civilly." All these signs show that Egypt's al-Sisi is moving towards a more modern and liberal society.

    Recently, the international community criticised the Egyptian government for cracking down on some demonstrations marking the fourth anniversary of Mubarak's fall. Some 15 people died in the clashes, including some police officers.

    The government blames Islamists for stirring things up in order to undermine state security. Others blame al-Sisi for restricting freedom of expression.

    "You Westerners do not understand the situation," Fr Greiche said. "In Egypt, there is broad freedom of expression. Talk shows and newspapers have a wide margin to criticise the government; no one is gagged." However, "there is a problem with those demonstrations in which activists undermine the security of society and the economy."

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    See also

    07/03/2016 16:56:00 INDONESIA
    Bekasi: Islamic extremists demonstrate against the construction of a Catholic church

    Hundreds of people come into the streets against the St Clara community. Some protesters even tried to attack the site of the future church, but police kept them back. Graffiti saying ‘No church construction allowed’ appeared near the site. Local authorities give Catholics a green light to go ahead.



    23/10/2009 INDONESIA
    Bishop of West Java: dialogue on the church of Saint Mary’s. Or legal action
    Bishop Johannes Pujasumarta Pr, Bishop of Bandung, explains that a "constructive dialogue" can achieve a "good solution". The prelate promises a battle and does not exclude the possibility of legal action. Among the reasons that have blocked the construction of the church are protests of "special groups" in the area.

    23/01/2017 16:49:00 EGYPT – ISLAM
    “We shall build the biggest church,” says Al Sisi

    Egypt’s president makes the pledge to Patriarch Tawadros. The Institute for Islamic Legal Research defends the right of Christians to build churches in Muslim countries. However, Copts are still discriminated in society.



    30/04/2009 INDONESIA
    Muslim mayor rescinds construction permit for Protestant church
    Christians in Depok have been trying to build a church for many years. When they were granted a building permit they decided to postpone construction so as not to irk local Muslims. But for the local Christians synod the decision to rescind the permit is “illegal” because the mayor, whom some say has extremist views, cannot revoke it.

    06/04/2010 INDONESIA
    Indonesian Christians turn to administrative courts to obtain permits to build churches
    Court rulings help Christian communities build their churches. Administrative courts tend to overturn decisions by municipal authorities taken to appease Muslim extremists who want to stop the construction of churches and other Christian places of worship. Extremist mobs stop Good Friday services in West Java.



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