New Government Proposal Could Ease Restrictions
ASSIUT, Egypt, JUNE 20, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Coptic bishop of Assiut, Egypt, is optimistic about a new government proposal that, if passed, would make building a Church in Egypt a little easier.
Bishop Kyrillos Kamal William Samaan told Aid to the Church in Need that a new proposal to ease restrictions on church-building mark a crucial step forward for the 10 million Christians in Egypt, where tight restrictions on Church-building are frequently cited as one of the most serious forms of anti-Christian oppression.
Currently, the law states that permission to build a Church must be given by the president himself, and decisions over applications for new churches can take years, even decades.
According to the new law, put forward by the interim military regime that replaced President Hosni Mubarak’s government in February 2011, proposals would go before the regional governor for a decision within three months.
"If these proposals come into law," Bishop Samaan said, "it could mean that building churches will be almost on the same level as constructing mosques. It is a major step forward for the citizenship of Christians."
"What we are seeing here is one of the first fruits of the demonstrations back in January," he added. "When the Christians demonstrated, they asked for their rights and the first right they demanded was the construction of churches.
"Everybody knows that this has been a big problem for the Christians. Many moderate people have recognized it. In fact more than 50% of the problems Christians face will be resolved if we can make progress on this issue."
The bishop reported that permission to build two churches in his diocese in Upper Egypt came through before the January Revolution that ended with Mubarak’s departure from office. Applications for another three churches have been approved in the last few weeks, he added, leaving just one outstanding, with a decision expected soon.