Coptic church gets help from liberal groups after Islamists protest construction

Coptic church gets help from liberal groups after Islamists protest construction

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Thu, 28/02/2013 - 00:43

After an Islamist attempt to halt construction at an Egyptian Orthodox Church in Qalyubiya earlier this week, political groups visited Coptic leaders to express their support and resolve the dispute.

Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated protesters had surrounded the Abu Maqar Church in Shubra al-Kheima Monday in an attempt to stop construction on the church's annex, claiming that the building was not licensed, church leaders and security forces said.

A political delegation including National Salvation Front members in the governorate visited Bishop Morcos of the Shubra al-Kheima diocese Wednesday and agreed to form popular, legal and political committees to deal with the issue and contact local Salafi leaders.

Lawyer Hakim Gabriel called on security forces to intervene and stop such protests.

Local Wafd Party leader Mahmoud Seif al-Nasser said that Coptic citizens should not be subject to discrimination.

“No one has the right to besiege or disable the construction of a building with licenses issued by the official authorities,” he said.

Badr Sharaf Eddin, local secretary of the liberal Free Egyptians Party and a National Salvation Front member, said Islam is tolerant and does not allow the seizure of land from others.

"Copts have the right to build their churches without complications or obstacles," he said.

The church has all the required licenses from the municipality for the construction, which had been postponed due to a lack of security and ongoing political instability, church official Ramsis al-Deiry has said.

Religious minorities have longed faced tough restrictions and bureaucratic red tape in constructing new places of worship or adding onto existing ones.

Christians have for decades pushed for a law unifying regulations for Muslim and non-Muslim religious structures.The government of former Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, in October 2011, failed to get the approval of churches and Al-Azhar on a proposed law for that purpose.

Bishop Morcos said no churches have been built since Islamist President Mohamed Morsy took office last year.

"I think that the unified law for building houses of worship will never come out into the light," Morcos said.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm