Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Egyptian Christians see fruit from protests

Demonstrators in Cairo protest
the demolition of a church building.
(Photo: Compass Direct)  
Christian protests in Egypt which began in January against discrimination may be coming to fruition, reports the Catholic News Agency (CNA).

New government proposals to remove burdensome regulations on the building of churches would mark a “major step forward for the citizenship of Christians,” the Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos Kamal William Samaan of Assiut said to CNA.

The uprising around President Hosni Mubarak’s ousting led to increased tensions between sectarian groups in Egypt. Peaceful Christian protesters often found themselves facing violent opposition.

“What we are seeing here is one of the first fruits of the demonstrations back in January. When the Christians demonstrated, they asked for their rights and the first right they demanded was the construction of churches,” Bishop William explained.

The problems surrounding the construction of churches have been huge for Christians. Bishop William said this fact is becoming more and more recognized by the public. He said more than half of the problems faced by Christians in Egypt would be resolved if these restrictions are removed.

Egypt’s laws currently require presidential confirmation of requests to construct churches. The approval process often takes years and sometimes even decades. Changes to this process would see proposals going before the regional governor with decisions being disclosed within three months.

Islamic jihadists and other extremists are resisting the political movement. On May 7, extremists attacked three Coptic Orthodox churches in Cairo. Fifteen people died and more than 230 were injured.

However, the bishop said the Islamists are losing support in the fall-out of Mubarak’s regime. Many governors are sympathetic to Christians and resistant to the Islamic push for an Islamic theocracy.

Moderate Muslims are not supportive of the extremist actions and interfaith meetings between Christians and Muslims are promoting cooperation between the groups.

To learn more about the trials Egyptian Christians face, consider reading our Egypt Country Report.

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