Sunday, December 1, 2013

Egypt's constitution will oblige parliament to regulate church construction

A newly added article in Egypt's draft constitution aims to allow Christians to 'perform their religious rites freely'.

by Gamal Essam El-Din, Ahram Online — 11/30/2013

The finished draft of Egypt's new constitution, which was opened to final voting Saturday, includes an article that will oblige the coming parliament to issue a law regulating the building and restoration of churches.

According to the new constitutional article, number 235, "after this constitution goes into effect, the coming House of Representatives in its first session must issue a law aimed at regulating the construction and restoration of churches in a way that ensures that Christians perform their religious rites freely."

Mohamed Abul-Ghar, a member of the 50-Member Committee that finalised the draft of a new constitution and chairman of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, told Ahram Online that this article was drafted upon the request of several members.

"With a view to the fact that several churches suffered from destruction after former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted from office, I and several Muslim members proposed this article to ensure that Christians, who form the largest minority in Egypt, become able to exercise their rites freely and become able to build their churches in a much easier way," Abul-Ghar said.

The article dissuaded representatives of Egypt's three churches (the Coptic, Anglican and Catholic) from withdrawing in protest at the demands of the representative of the ultraconservative Islamist Salafist Nour Party on the role of Islamic Sharia in a new constitution.

The preamble to the constitution also favours the secular secular elements and representatives of the Egyptian churches in the 50-member committee. It will not include a definition of Islamic Sharia, as demanded by the Nour Party, deeming it enough to state that the definition of Islamic Sharia must follow rulings issued by the High Constitutional Court.

Also to the pleasure of representatives of Egyptian churches and secular members, the preamble clearly stated that "Egypt is now writing a constitution that complements the construction of a modern democratic state, with a civilian government." The Nour Party strongly rejected the word "civilian," but the majority of members voted in favour of it.

The preamble was approved by 47 members out of a total of 50 in a final vote. The representative of the Nour Party, Mohamed Ibrahim Mansour, opted to withdraw from the voting on this article...