Christians In Egypt Unsure If New Law Relaxing Church Renovation But Tightening Construction Is Good

(PHOTO: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY) Relatives of the Christian victims of the crashed EgyptAir flight MS804 attend an absentee funeral mass at the main Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt on May 22, 2016.
(PHOTO: REUTERS/MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY)
Relatives of the Christian victims of the crashed EgyptAir flight MS804 attend an absentee funeral mass at the main Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt on May 22, 2016.

Christians in Egypt are split on whether to support a new law that no longer requires Christian churches to get approval from the country’s president just to make renovations but also puts in place unprecedented regulations that govern the construction of churches.

On Tuesday, lawmakers in Egypt passed the nation’s first-ever law providing specific rules and regulations on the construction of Christian churches, which critics argue gives too much power to local governments to deny church construction for the sake of conservative Muslim objection.

Although the law is being criticized by Christian activists and lawmakers, the law has actually been approved by the Coptic Orthodox Church, even after the church body rejected a draft of the bill on Aug. 18. Additionally, the Associated Press reports that a majority of Egypt’s 36 Christian lawmakers also largely favored the bill, as did two-thirds of the Egyptian parliament.

Father Sergius, a leading official in the Coptic Church, called the law “historic.”

“The church and the government reached a reconciliatory agreement,” AP quoted Sergius as saying. “Thank God we have this law now.”

Additionally, Abdel-Masseh Basit, the head of the Coptic Church’s Bible Studies Center, explained that the church felt somewhat inclined to accept the law as part of ongoing negotiations.

“We are no longer talking about a constitutional right but about negotiations,” AP quoted Basit as explaining. “The church couldn’t reject the law because it will put the state in a bad spot.”

Other Christians are not so happy with the law, saying that threats of ultra-conservative Muslim retaliation to church construction will lead many governments to ban church construction.

“What if Salafis protest against the construction of a church, would this prompt the governor to turn down the request, for fear of national security?” asked Christian activist Nader Shukry.

William Stark, a regional manager with the United States-based Christian persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, told The Christian Post on Thursday that Christians are split over the law because the law has both positive and negative aspects pertaining to the religious freedom of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the Egyptian population.

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SOURCE: The Christian Post
Samuel Smith