A much-anticipated law permitting the construction of new churches for Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox and Evangelical Christian communities has been condemned by the Coptic Orthodox Church. The attached amendments were criticized as “impractical” and “unacceptable “, drafted “with no consideration for the citizenship or patriotism of Egyptian Copts.” The amendments have not been revealed publicly, but church officials were infuriated after meeting with state officials, who conveyed the language of the draft law to the religious figures. The Evangelical Church has remarked that they are following the draft law closely, and have not directly criticized the amendments yet.
The law is still a work in progress. Church officials will meet with state officials again next week to discuss the eight-article bill. Egypt’s 2014 constitution includes a requirement that the Parliament pass a law that would ease the restriction on church constructions. The deadline for passing that law is quickly approaching.
The Christian population is nearly 10%, amounting to an estimated 9 million mostly Coptic Orthodox Christians living in Egypt. They face tough legal restraints. The construction of churches in Egypt is tightly regulated by the State, and anti-Christian sentiment amongst Egypt’s mostly Sunni Islamic population has led to a new assault on Christian identities in Egypt. Rumors of Churches being built have led to mobs of angry Muslims attacking Christians and looting their homes, shouting “Egypt will remain Islamic!”
Additionally, an Elderly Christian mother was stripped and forced to walk naked through the streets as men shouted “Allahu Akbar!” Attacks on Christians have been increasing in recent months, and the implementation of any law that is favorable for the faithful practice of Christianity by Egypt’s Christians could lead to more attacks. The attached amendments are likely meant to console Egypt’s Muslims, but they are more likely to anger Christians without consoling Muslims at all. Those who are angry about the construction of new churches will continue to be. Many Copts have to travel outside their own town, sometimes travelling a great distance, to find a church to worship at. The attacks on churches have made it more dangerous to pray, and as the stories above depict, even rumors of construction can lead to serious strife and violence aimed at Egypt’s Christians.