Christians seek decisions based on law, not "arbitrary acts'
Cairo — The draft of a bill on the construction of churches, prepared by representatives of the major Churches and Christian communities in Egypt, was sent last week to the Egyptian government. It is not expected to make any progress, though, at least until the next election and the establishment of the new Parliament.
"The underlying intention that inspires our proposal is to facilitate the implementation of streamlined and clear procedures that depend only on the law, and are excluded from any kind of arbitrary act," Anba Antonios Aziz Mina, Coptic Catholic Bishop of Guizeh, told Fides.
The draft law was delivered into the hands of Judge Ibrahim al-Heneidi, Minister for Justice and National Reconciliation. It is expected that the draft law will be discussed at a parliamentary level during the first session of the new parliament.
According to local sources, no article of the draft links the building of churches to the percentage of the Christian population in this area, simply because there is no census capable of representing the distribution of the baptized throughout the country. An article indicates 60 days as a period within which the application for the construction of a church must be rejected. After 60 days, the project should be considered as approved, according to the principle of tacit consent.
According to the proposal made by the churches in Egypt, the granting of permits for the construction of places of Christian worship should be exercised by the local municipal authorities, as is the case for the construction of private buildings, without involving the provincial and national levels of the administrative.
The bureaucratic constraints that complicate the construction of new churches date back in part to the Ottoman period. In 1934, the Interior Ministry said the so-called "ten rules" prohibited, inter alia, building new churches near schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas. In many cases, the strict application of those rules prevented building churches in cities and towns inhabited by Christians, especially in rural areas of Upper Egypt.