CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak urged a committee formed to draft a personal status law for Coptic Christians to complete its task during the next two months, Naguib Gobrael, a lawyer representing the Orthodox Church and head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization, told Daily News Egypt.
Mubarak’s message was relayed to Pope Shenouda III, head of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church, by Minister of State for Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils Mufid Shehab Thursday after a meeting between both parties.
“The meeting carried a message from the political leadership to assure the Pope and the Coptic community that the new law is underway and that it will be in line with the Christian teachings and the Holy Bible,” Gobrael said.
The legislation, comprised of 31 articles, is meant to detail laws pertaining to familial ties of non-Muslim citizens in Egypt.
“Shehab’s visit to Pope Shenouda is a sign that the government is determined to issue the law this time around,” Gobrael added, referring to previous calls by the Church for a unified personal status law that “have been diffused along the years.”
“I suspect that the law will be issued by President Mubarak since the current session of the People’s Assembly will end on June 22,” he added.
Draft laws are generally discussed in parliament for approval before being implemented.
Among the main points included in the new law is an article pertaining to what constitutes adultery.
Gobrael said that the law “aims at widening the base on which adultery can be proven. It could be proven through romantic text messages or catching a couple outside of wedlock dancing, drinking or at a club.”
Meanwhile, Gobrael said, certain article will trigger controversy among Christian leaders.
He explained that some leaders already criticized Pope Shenouda’s decision to omit an article pertaining to laws of adoption because he believes they pose contradictions to Islamic Sharia.
Although the Church has long demanded a law, the issue returned to the forefront earlier this month when an Administrative Court ruling compelling the church to allow divorced Orthodox Copts to remarry triggered controversy.
Earlier this week, Pope Shenouda assigned the Church’s legal committee to file a lawsuit at the Supreme Constitutional Court to settle the legal controversy, stressing that divorce is only permissible in cases of adultery or conversion.
Shenouda previously announced his refusal to implement the verdict, maintaining that his stance is “not a personal stance, it’s an execution of the teachings of the Bible.”
On Thursday, he said: “Whoever settles for a civil marriage should document his marriage in a civil organization.”
Egypt’s Coptic population amounts to 10 percent of the population, with the number of divorced Copts estimated between 200 and 650 cases annually.