After the ratification of a law on the building of churches in Egypt in September, Copts and rights organisations have voiced concerns that this will not aid in turning the tide on discrimination against Egypt’s Orthodox Christian minority.
For decades the construction and renovation of churches has been obstructed by complex bureaucracy, resulting in the deterioration of church buildings and a shortage of places of worship for Christians.
While leaders of the Coptic Church approved the bill, a Holy Synod statement suggested the Church anticipates difficulties in the early phases of its implementation.
Christian MPs, rights workers and researchers have condemned the law as an attempt to pacify Christians in the name of public order, while not effecting real change.
Prominent Coptic figures see the law as indicative of the Church’s rapprochement with the government following the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood; a political move they fear compromises Christian interests.
Coptic activists say the law singles out Christians, when the country needs a unified law on the building of places of worship that would treat the construction of churches on a level playing field with mosques.
Activist Abraham Louis says the law could even prove more restrictive than before, as requests to build or renovate churches must now be approved by local governors, who could reject an application on the grounds of maintaining peace and stability among communities susceptible to sectarian clashes.
These concerns echo objections to the bill in the final stages of its drafting back in August.
Despite possible shortcomings in the law, Church authorities view it as a step in the right direction towards the protection of Coptic rights, according to Middle East Eye.