JAFFA, Israel – Christians in Egypt have protested their government’s foot-dragging on passing a new law regulating church building in the country.
A revision of a centuries-old law imposing severe restrictions on construction of Christian places of worship has been awaiting parliamentary ratification for many weeks.
The Coptic Pope, Tawadros II, said in a statement that his community has come to believe that “we are not treated as equal citizens,” adding that a plan drafted in 1972 to advance the status of Christians in Egypt has not been implemented.
As the number of Copts continues to rise, the construction of new places of worship has become an urgent issue.
“Every bureaucrat has started stalling the process for no apparent reason, and apart from the discrimination and extremism that the Copts suffer from, to the great pain of our homeland, the situation has played into the hands of our enemies who have sought to exacerbate that pain,” the Pope said in a statement.
Things have become so bad, adds Tawadros, that “Christian worship has become a crime and a transgression, as if the Christian needs a special permit to meet his god.”
He said that the government passed a resolution saying that the law has to be passed in the current parliamentary session, and the church authorities have set up a committee to coordinate the issue with the government and prepared several drafts, “and we expect the law to pass, because it’s free of discrimination and contains no attempt on the part of the government to impose a certain hegemony on us; it’s a law that will not create artificial sensitivities without any hint of reality.”
“Egypt’s national history is the best witness of the church’s national positions, which are profoundly faithful to the homeland,” the Pope concluded. “We remain committed to national unity, and the role of the Christian Copts in this sense is clear and admired by all, at home and abroad.”
The Pope’s protest was supported by some social media users and condemned by others.
Hatem, who fumed at the government’s foot-dragging, wrote: “God is the master of the land. Pray wherever you wish, don’t ask for a permit.”
الله يملك كل الأرض، صلي في أي مكان بدون تصريح.!.
— حاتم سِباق (@HatemSebaq) July 19, 2016
Others said the Pope deserve no sympathy because he supported President Abdel Fatah Sisi. “Ask your despicable ally, your partner in lies and injustice,” one wrote.
اسأل الخسيس حليفك في الكذب علي الله وظلم خلق الله
— Egy Dolphin (@EgyDolphin) July 19, 2016