06/21/2011, 00.00
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Egypt’s obscure law on religious buildings. Doubts of the Christian communities

The draft stipulates that religious buildings must be at least 1 km from other existing buildings, but it does not explain whether mosques or churches. Also challenged the minimum size of 1000 square meters and regional governors management of permits.
Cairo (AsiaNews) - The new law for the regulation of new religious buildings proposed by the Council of the Egyptian armed forces is confusing and fails to convince the representatives of the Christian minorities, which in these days, has sought clarification from the authorities.

Fr. Greich Rafiq, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, explains that there are several inconsistencies in the law and at least three points of the current draft should be reviewed. "First things first to note - the priest says –is that for the first time this draft also legislates the construction of mosques and does not distinguish between Islam and the minorities. According to the draft new religious buildings must be at least 1 km from existing constructions. However, the draft has not specified whether the regulation rgeards buildings of the same religion, for example, Coptic church, Protestant or Catholic, or between different religions, such as Islam and Christianity. "

The second point concerns the disputed minimum size of a building, which must be at least 1000 square meters. "Finding the resources for a building of this size - said Fr Greich - it is very difficult and in many cases virtually impossible. Upper Egypt, where Christian communities are very small and scattered in villages a church of this size is not needed. The existing buildings do not exceed 200 square meters. Moreover, especially in cities, it is hard to find such a large lot of vacant land. "

The third point concerns the authorization for the construction of religious buildings, which for Christians went from president to regional governors. "The State - says Fr Greich - gives regional authorities the power to grant approval as a last resort for churches and mosques. However, in the draft there is no criterion for allowing or not one or other religious building. "

The priest says this presents a risk of an arbitrary application of law to the detriment of minorities.

Proposed last June 2, the law is considered the first fruit of the Jasmine revolution and the new post-Mubarak Egypt. It was created with the intent to eliminate the absurd bureaucratic rules, which for decades have prevented the Christians from building new churches, and the obligation to request authorization from the President of the Republic or the Prime Minister. During the Mubarak government projects were often blocked by the Muslim community, despite the authorization of the highest offices of state. In many cases the buildings were razed to the ground by radical Islamic groups or for family vendettas, using the lack of security or use of substandard materials to build the building as an excuse, forcing minorities to start the approval process from the beginning. (Sc)
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