JAFFA, Israel – Major churches across Egypt oppose a government bill regarding the building of churches in the country, according to Halim Boulous, a spokesman for the Egyptian Orthodox church.
According to Boulous, the bill is fraught with articles that threaten national unity in Egypt.
It was during a meeting with government representatives, Boulous stated, that church representatives were surprised to hear of changes made to the original bill that they viewed unfavorably. “These changes pose a danger to national unity and they do not take into account the implications for the feelings of Christians in the country and their national rights,” said Boulous.
Christian member of parliament and head of its Human Rights Committee, Margurette Azar, also warned against the passing of the bill. Azar stated, “The bill does not meet the aspirations of Coptic Christians in the country and doesn’t guarantee the full exercise of citizenship of the Copts.”
Azar added that the bill ran into trouble because of “wrong views among Egyptians. It cannot be that 90 percent of churches are missing a fence due to a lack of space.” She said that small renovations of a bathroom in a church should not require a series of permits and approvals from the governor’s office in each region.
The Christian MP added that “a true Muslim doesn’t feel provocation because of the building of a church.”
In recent weeks, and after complaints from Christian community leaders in the country over the delay of legislation regarding the construction of churches in Egypt, the government sent a draft of the bill to churches around the country for their review before bringing it to parliament for approval.
In recent months, in a number of locations across Egypt, clashes erupted between Christians and Muslims after the latter began to suspect that Christians were planning to build churches in their communities. During the violence, the homes of Christians were set on fire and many Christians were forced to flee until tensions calmed.
The issue of church construction isn’t the only source of sectarian clashes that have broken out between Muslims and Christians.
In recent months, a Muslim mob attacked Christians in a town in the Delta region due to rumors of a romance between a Muslim woman and a Christian man. The man’s mother was beaten and dragged through the streets naked by the mob, an incident that shocked the Egyptian public.