Egypt: Full religious freedom? Church attacks continue

November 13, 2013 by  
Filed under newsletter-world


Restrictions on church buildings could be lifted under new constitution

Restrictions on church buildings could be lifted under new constitution

Egypt, November 06, 2013: The committee tasked with re-writing the Egyptian constitution has voted in favour of articles that would grant religious freedom to all citizens and would cancel the restrictions on church buildings in the country.

A 50-member body is amending the 2012 constitution, which was suspended following the removal of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July. His Islamist allies had dominated the constitutional assembly and pushed through that code, which threatened basic rights and freedoms and laid the foundations for Egypt to become an Islamic state, against the opposition of liberals and Christians.

A draft of the revised constitution is now being drawn up and has a distinctly more secular character.

Last week, a spokesperson for the constitutional committee said that the majority of members were in favour of absolute religious freedom. His statement followed a debate about whether or not the right should be restricted to the three Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism).

The committee also adopted a transitional article that will cancel existing restrictions regulating the building of churches. Christians currently need a special presidential permit to build or renovate a church, and this is often a protracted and fruitless process.

Committee member Mohamed Abul-Ghar, chairman of the liberal Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said:

Under a liberal constitution, all Egyptians, particularly Christians, must be allowed to build their own places of worship freely.

Other proposed revisions to the constitution include a ban on the formation of political parties on a religious basis. This would affect the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, which was the most successful in elections following the 2011 revolution, and the Salafist al-Nour Party.

The constitution is expected to be put to a public vote by the end of the year.


The proposed changes to the constitution are very encouraging for the country’s Christians. But in the midst of such positive political developments, they are continuing to come under attack by Islamic hardliners.

A church in Zaytoun, eastern Cairo, was targeted on 1 November by a group of Islamists who came straight from Friday prayers at a neighbouring mosque.

The attackers marched on the church, shouting anti-Christian slogans. They tore down a banner in front of the building and graffitied the façade with insults against Christians and the Egyptian military. Christians were able to prevent the Islamists from storming the building.

Morsi supporters have blamed the Church for his removal by the armed forces in July and have attacked scores of churches, Christian institutions and homes.

– barnabas team

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