Source: Al-Azhar and Church reach agreement on house of worship law

The Coptic Orthodox Church and Al-Azhar have come to an agreement on a unified law for building houses of worship, according to an informed Church source.

The new law contains different provisions governing the construction of churches and mosques, the source said, adding that any place in which church services have been held for some time will be recognized as a church, even if it had not received a government permit prior.

National Justice Committee member Amir Ramzy said Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb gave his consent after demanding some amendments to the law as proposed by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s cabinet. Ramzy added that the cabinet has agreed to the amendments and promised to add them to the new law.

In June the military government proposed a law giving governors the power to grant or deny permits to build, modify or renovate places of worship. The bill also put a minimum on the size of houses of worship ― at least 1000 square meters in floor area ― and on the number of such places allowed in a given area. The draft, however, was rejected by Coptic activists as too restrictive.

Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) proposed an amended law on places of worship in October. The NCHR’s draft softens the rigid conditions set by the government, such as the requirement that places of worship be at least 500 meters apart. The floor area minimum was also removed. This draft is thought to address most of the contentious issues in previous proposals.

The European Union of Coptic Organizations has demanded that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) immediately compensate the families of victims of the 9 October Maspero violence and give them the same treatment as that received by families of victims of the 25 January revolution. They have also demanded that the SCAF formally admit to the Coptic Church that the victims are martyrs.

“The [European] Union [of Coptic Organizations] holds the SCAF and Sharaf’s cabinet responsible for the repeated violent attacks against Copts, including the Atfih [church burning] incident, the Imbaba events and finally the Maspero events, in which the real instigators and perpetrators have yet to be arrested,” union head Medhat Kelada told Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Translated from the Arabic Edition

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