Middle East and North Africa

Coptic Church protests against laws preventing building of churches

The Coptic Church in Egypt decried the ‘Unified Law for Houses of Worship’, which discriminates against Christians by preventing them from building churches.

The Copts say the Egyptian government claims it wants to provide a fair playing ground for Christians and has embarked on a campaign against Islamic State (IS) in the Peninsular which has targeted the Egyptian Christians for elimination, but within the country, Christians are treated as second-class citizens.

Coptic Solidarity, an a human rights organisation which has cataloged attacks against Copts, said that Coptic Christians have continuously suffered attacks by “fanatic Muslim neighbors and homegrown Islamists.”  The group said that no one was being “held accountable for these atrocities, fostering a culture of impunity.”

Security forces have been accused of arriving “well after attacks have taken their course, investigations are superficial, Copts are pressured into “reconciliation meetings,” and suspects are released within a short time. In this culture of impunity, the Egyptian government has failed in its duty to protect Coptic citizens,” according to Coptic Solidarity.

The government’s refusal to grant permits for the building of churches has force Christians to congregate in homes. This has always created conflicts with Muslims, whenever Christians meet to pray or worship in these residences. Often times, “Security forces typically side with Islamists and respond by closing churches and other places of worship on the charge that they create “security threats.” The organization says.

Mr. Bahey el-Din Hassan, speaking at a Coptic Solidarity conference, said, “it was under President Sisi’s tenure that the Copts, for the first time in Egypt’s modern history, became officially and legally recognized as a ‘sect’ and not equal citizens through the passing of the Church building law and the dropping of Egyptians’ long standing collective demand for ‘A Unified Law for Houses of Worship.’” The passage of separate laws regulating the building of Coptic Churches, which used to prevent Copts from building and repairing churches, he explained, is official discrimination.

The Coptic Orthodox Diocese in Minya has said that in the village of Kedwan the government prevented Copts from reopening more than 15 churches closed by the Security Apparatus using “discord between Copts and Muslims to its benefit, and uses local opposition by Islamists as an excuse for refusing to reopen the churches and stopped the Christians from building any new churches.”

 

Hassan John is West Africa editor, Global Christian News. He is also a priest of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Diocese of Jos.

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