CAIRO: The International Coptic Council, which has among its ranks 12 global Coptic organizations and associations, called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to expedite the adoption of a unified law for building places of worship in an effort to end sectarian tensions in the country. This comes after Egypt has been in the mist of an increase in sectarian violence in Upper Egypt, or southern Egypt.
The council stressed in a statement that the adoption of this common law “will result in termination of accidents that occur because when Copts try to build houses of worship, and human rights organizations appealed to the President, to use his authorities, in accordance with Article 147 of the Constitution, which allows the President to take quick decisions, in case the country’s national unity is endangered.”
They also said that this new law would “achieve equality between Egyptians.”
For his part, Dr. Helmy Girgis, a member of the International Council said that “the undersigned organizations rejected the statements of Dr. Mufid Shehab, Minister of State for Parliamentary and Legal Affairs, who recently stressed that the State was still studying the draft law.
Baha’a Ramzy, head of the Dutch Coptic association, said that there have been proposed draft laws on the construction of houses of worship for years, proposed by MPs, including Mohammed Gouweili, the Chairman of the Proposals and Complaints Committee of Egypt’s People`s Assembly, and a number of other politicians.
“Those proposed draft laws did not see the light so far” for reasons he described as “unknown.”
Samir Habashi, head of the Australian Coptic Association said “the President’s intervention has become very important to counter the forces impeding the principle of citizenship, whose mark results in the continuing state of tension and distinction between citizens on the basis of religion.”
He added that the meaning of a unified law is the existence of one authority that would be responsible for granting building permits and renovation of places of worship and unite the procedures for building, and it is not intended to make the number of Coptic and Christians churches equal to the total mosques in the country.
The statement was signed by the Coptic community of the United States, the Copts of the United Kingdom, Australia, the Dutch Coptic Association, the Egyptian Federation for Human Rights, the Egyptian-Canadian Organization for Human Rights, the Integration of the Copts, the Friendship of Copts of Austria, The Integration and Friendship of Copts in Germany, the Coptic Youth of France, and the Coptic Youth of Australia.