Egypt: Lawmakers approve bill on building and restoring churches, marking an end to mpre than 160 years old restrictions

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On August 30, Egyptian Parliament had passed a bill concerning building and restoring churches- the bill has marked an end to the restrictions that have had been in place for more than 160 years. The bill has been met with a nod from the all the three denominations including the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelicals.

Churches building law in Egypt

At the same time, the much awaited law has been greeted with criticism from several Christian activists, political parties and groups. According to them, the bill is “sectarian,’ in its nature. The new-fangled bill, was passed with two-thirds majority however, under the new bill there are still more restrictions on building churches in the country than on building mosques. Notwithstanding, some of the Christian members of the Parliament termed it “a step in the right direction.”

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The law which harbors 13-articles permits the provincial governors to approve construction or renovation of churches’ buildings. The governors are bound to pronounce decision within four months of submission of an application. Previously, the Egyptian president was authorized to grant permission for construction and renovation of churches. In line with law the size of the church is also restricted to the number of Christians in the area.

The history of the restrictions dates back to the era of the Ottoman Caliphate, when it was decreed that in order to build a church one must seek consent of the ruler of the country- Sultan the supreme ruler at that time. The supreme powers vested with the president in contemporary times, therefore a permission from the president was required in order to build a church until now.