23 February 2018
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  • » 06/02/2011, 00.00


    New law on church and mosque construction

    New law should cut red tape for the construction of places of worship. “It is a good thing,” spokesman for the Catholic Church says, but a final appraisal must wait for the final version.
    Cairo (AsiaNews) – Egypt’s Ministry of Local Development has drafted a bill that would regulate the construction of places of worship. It would give Christians and Muslims the same rights. The text of the new bill was presented to Christian religious leaders. Mgr Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Catholic Church, said the draft bill “is a good thing”. He said he hoped it would not change before its final approval.

    “It is only a bill,” he told AsiaNews. “We have to evaluate the final version before approval, but it is rather good.” The law new bill, which has six articles, should be adopted by the end of June. It contains some revolutionary elements.

    “First, the same rules would apply to the construction of mosques and churches,” Mgr Greiche noted.

    “Towards the end of the Mubarak regime, parliament was considering a law on churches alone, which would be treated differently from mosques. The fact that both now would be treated the same way is a good thing.” Mgr Greiche said.

    In the past, under Mubarak, building permits for churches required the authorisation of the president or the prime minister. “Now, local councils are in charge,” Mgr Greiche said. “In addition, a two-month time limit is in place; if local authorities do not act, an application is considered approved by default.”

    “Egypt’s notorious bureaucracy used to undermine all attempts to build churches. One day, the required engineer was not in; the next day, the right official was not there . . . and this went on and on, for years.”

    Discrimination between churches and mosques existed also at another level. “Before, an application would be considered only if there was a certain number of faithful (up to 100,000). Under the new law, there are no preconditions. This is why the new law is a good thing.”

    Likewise, “The police cannot intervene. In the past, security forces had the power to block construction under any pretext, true or false. The bureaucracy and police tried to stop church building in any way they could. For mosques instead, it was always a breeze.”

    A different but real problem Christians still face is opposition from fundamentalist and Salafist groups who sometimes try to prevent Christians from using the churches they already have.

    “This problem is particularly acute in some parts of the country, like Luxor or Arman. In other parts, things are calm.”

    “The new law is especially important for the new satellite towns built around Cairo, where the need for churches is crying. In the villages, where poverty is high, fundamentalists do their best to prevent church construction. I hope this bill is not changed. I am cautious, but full of hope.”

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    See also

    01/12/2011 EGYPT
    Fr Greiche: Too early and misleading to comment election results
    Official results will be available only in January. The spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church warns against giving too much credence to claims by the Muslim Brotherhood that it won between 40 and 60 per cent of the vote. Despite their poor organisation and brief existence (six months), pro-democracy parties are growing in strength.

    24/05/2011 EGYPT
    The Egyptian government tries to mend fences between Al-Azhar and the Vatican
    In a meeting with the Egyptian foreign minister, Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb says he is willing to renew relations with the Vatican. However, he still wants an official apology from the pope for making an appeal on behalf of Egypt’s Christians and their security. A spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church expresses his appreciation for the government’s work in trying to relay the Holy Father’s concerns about Egypt.

    08/03/2011 EGYPT
    “Give us back our church,” Copts and Muslims tell Egyptian government
    Some 8,000 people demonstrate in front of Egyptian TV, demanding the rebuilding of the Coptic Church of Saints Minas and George, destroyed by extremists last Saturday. It is the first protest of its kind by Copts other than at their cathedral. For Fr Rafik Greiche, head of the press office of the Catholic Church of Egypt, this demonstration is a sign that Christians dare take to the streets. However, fundamentalists are still trying to take advantage of the situation of chaos to impose on Egypt Sharia and a radical version of Islam. “Western government can put pressure on our government to recognise the value of this equality on society,” the clergyman said.

    20/01/2012 EGYPT
    Death penalty always unjust, even for Mubarak, Catholic Church says
    Fr Rafik Greiche speaks about the death penalty request for Mubarak. According to the prosecution, he is responsible for the death of 850 people, gunned down during protests in January 2011. For days, hundreds of people have been demonstrating in Cairo, calling for the former strongman to be hanged.

    01/07/2016 18:20:00 EGYPT
    For Catholic Church spokesman, Christians are seen as "legitimate targets" in Sinai

    Extremist militias view non-Wahhabis as enemies to attack, says Fr Rafic Greiche. The Sinai has a long history of violence, with churches and priests seen as “legitimate targets”. It is “no accident” that a Coptic priest was recently killed on the anniversary of Morsi’s ouster.

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