Church-Building Law Denounced in Egypt

Christian leaders and human rights groups in Egypt are raising serious concerns about a law that would govern the construction of churches and mosques. The proposed law would place the power to permit or deny building in the hands of local communities, a decentralized system that critics argue places the Christian minority at a distinct disadvantage. “The bill before us now utterly fails to dispel the foundations of prejudice experienced by religious minorities, particularly Copts, who had hoped to see the institution of licensing procedures...made identical to those governing construction by their Muslim peers,” the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies wrote in a statement calling for the bill to be withdrawn. In a joint statement, the Egyptian Coptic, Anglican and Catholic Churches also expressed their disapproval of the current draft. Among the bill’s controversial items is a stipulation that a new church or mosque could not be built within one kilometer of an existing place of worship, a requirement that Christians say would make it nearly impossible to build in densely populated neighborhoods.

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