Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Magdy El-Agaty announced Monday that the representatives of Egypt’s three major churches approved the government’s draft law proposal regarding the construction of their houses of worship.
According to El-Agaty’s press statements, the law will be discussed in the ministers’ cabinet during the Wednesday meeting and then sent to parliament.
Among the highlights of the law, the request to construct a church should be responded to within a maximum period of four months. El-Agaty’s meetings with church representatives also tackled the issue of legalising the status of existing houses of worship. The churches in question are the Coptic Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical churches.
Coptic Orthodox Bishop Paula of Tanta spoke to the media earlier this week praising the government’s response to their objections on several articles. “Many articles were removed and others amended according to our wishes,” he told the local CBC channel.
Church officials rejected security interference in construction permits, restrictions on activities held by the church, and the non-legalisation of churches and affiliated buildings constructed before the issuance of the law. According to the Copts United website, the bishop said: “an article was added to protect the current churches including those which had not obtained all due permits before the law is issued.”
Similarly, Catholic Church representative Gameel Halim told the media that the new law would allow the judiciary to settle disputes in case any construction requests were denied.
Both Al-Wafd and the Free Egyptians Party (FEP) had also submitted draft law proposals to the parliament.
The law comes amid repeated calls by political and social factions demanding the improvement of the rights to practise religious rituals, in addition to increased incidents of sectarian strife and intolerance towards the construction of churches in several areas of Egypt.
In a meeting with members of parliament last week, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II warned against the repercussions of recent sectarian violence, citing 37 assaults on Copts since 2013.