Egypt: Coptic Church settles row with government over church buildings

Coptic Pope Tawadros II, head of Coptic Orthodox church, has welcomed an agreement with the government on church buildings.Reuters

Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church has reached agreement with the government over a draft law on building and restoring churches.

The Church had been at loggerheads with the government over the new legislation, which it had a hand in drafting but which the government had sought to amend. It wanted the final say on church construction to be held by the security services, which the Church said were biased against Christians. The Church feared that its priests would continue to face obstructions even to minor repairs of the kind they had endured for many years.

However, according to AhramOnline, following a meeting of 105 of its bishops yesterday and discussions with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Sherif Ismael, the Church says it now sees eye to eye with the government on the matter.

"Following amendments introduced recently and answers provided to [our] questions and inquires... the Holy Synod announces, in good faith, reaching a compromise formula [of the law] with government representatives," it said in a statement earlier today.

The law will got to the cabinet for approval and then be referred to the parliament for ratification.

Egypt's Coptic Christians make up more than 10 per cent of the country's 90 million population, but have suffered institutionalised discrimination and hostililty. Attacks by mobs on Coptic churches are common and it can take years to obtain permits to rebuild or repair them.

Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II had said that successive governments have adopted "crippling" conditions for church construction, but said he hopes the new law will streamline the process and cut bureaucracy.

Many churches were destroyed in riots following the 2013 uprising against Islamist president Mohammed Morsi. The government is restoring them at its own expense.