28 January 2021 07:51 AM

June 30 State institutionalizes Principles of Equality and Non-Discrimination

Wednesday، 06 January 2021 - 07:32 PM

Through infographic…. Egyptians lay the Foundations for Building the State of Citizenship and National Unity

The country lives in the greatest state of social peace, harmony, solidarity and understanding between the two poles of the Egyptians: Muslims and Christians. This embodies an integrated model of national unity in light of the continuous efforts of the political leadership to institutionalize and instill the values of citizenship politically, socially and legally, as they are one of the most prominent factors for the country’s stability and an inherent component of national security. These values are based on enhancing the participation and equality among all citizens in the rights and duties without distinction or discrimination, in addition to the acceptance of the others, coexistence, constructive cooperation, respect and enforcing laws that guarantee the rights of Christians at various levels, which made the Egyptian state and its political leadership the subject of praise and appreciation on both levels internally and externally.

In this regard, the Media Center of the Egyptian Cabinet published a detailed report that included infographics that highlights the efforts and pillars of building the state of citizenship and national unity in Egypt and consolidating the principles of equality and non-discrimination since June 30 revolution.

The report recorded a number of evidences that confirm the political leadership’s keenness to lay the foundation stone to establish the values of citizenship and national unity in the country, pointing to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s statement that:

 “There is no discrimination between religions. All are equal. These are necessary practices that must be implemented and instilled in the state's policies and mechanisms of action, in addition to his statement, "We issued a law to build churches in Egypt, a 150 year-long dream, as the state is concerned with guaranteeing the right of worship for all its citizens”, as well as his statement “The state should build churches for its citizens because as have the right to worship”.

His excellency also directed the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces and the government for building churches in the new cities and instructed the Authority to quickly build and restore all the churches that were attacked during the violent terrorist actions in 2013.

The President has also instructed the Egyptian army to direct air strikes to the terrorist ISIS camps against camps, concentration areas, training center, and weapons and ammunition stores in Libya, in response to the crime that was committed against citizens on one of the Libyan coasts.

The report referred to the visits of the President to St. Mark's Cathedral in Cairo since his assumption of power. The President Al-Sisi is the first Egyptian President that attended the Christmas mass at the Cathedral in 2015 and he attends it every year since then

The report stated that the President laid the cornerstone for the Church of the Nativity of Christ, which is the largest cathedral in the Middle East along with the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque as the first facilities of the New Administrative Capital of Egypt.

The report revealed that Egypt has good relations with Vatican, as President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi visited it in November 2014 and during this visit, he announced his appreciation for Pope Francis' stances towards Egypt. In April 2017, the Pope Francis visited Egypt, which is the first of its kind to the country, seeking to consolidate the values of tolerance and the inter-religion dialogue.

The report indicated the constitutional development in the Egyptian constitutions due to the people's consensus on citizenship and national unity as the Article 40 of the 1971 Constitution states that All citizens are equal before the law, and they are equal in public rights and duties without discrimination between them due to race, ethnic, language, origin or belief. Article 46 also states that the state guarantees the freedom of belief and the freedom to practice religious rites.

Regarding the 2012 constitution, the report clarified that Article 40 of 1971 constitution was retained with the deletion of the provision “due to sex, origin, language, religion or belief and retained Article 46 of 1971 constitution with addition “establishing places of worship for the monotheistic religions”.

Article 3 was added, which states that the principles of the Egyptian Christians and Jewish laws are the main source of legislation that regulates their personal status, religious affairs and nomination of their spiritual leaders. Moreover, Article 6 was added, which stipulates that the political system is based on the principles of democracy, consultations and citizenship under which all citizen are equal in rights and public duties.

Regarding the 2014 constitution, the report stated that 3 representatives of the three Egyptian churches were appointed at the Committee of Fifty, along with 3 representatives of Al-Azhar to prepare the final version of the constitution.

The report mentioned that a number of relevant articles were introduced, namely Article 4, which states that sovereignty belong to people alone, which exercises and protects it. They are the source of power and they safeguard their national unity, which is based on the principles of equality, justice and equal opportunities between citizens. Article 9 which states that the state is committed to achieving equal opportunities for all citizens without discrimination.

 Article 53 was added, which stipulates that citizens are equal before the law and equal in rights, freedoms and public duties and may not be discriminated against based on religion or belief. Article 64 states that freedom of belief is absolute and the freedom of practicing religious rituals and establishing places of worship for the followers of revealed religions is a right regulated by law.

 Article 50 states that Egypt's moral civilizational and cultural heritage of all types and from all Pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic and modern periods are a national and human heritage that commits to protect and maintain it. Article 180 points that every local unit elects a local council by direct, secret, ballot for a period of four years and these percentages include an proper representation of Christians.

Article 235 stipulates that the Council of Representatives, in its first session after this constitution comes into effect, the House of Representatives shall issue a law to organize building and restoration of churches, guaranteeing Christians the freedom to practice their religious rites.

Article 244 indicates that the state grants youth, Christian's appropriate representation in the first House of Representatives to be elected, also Article 3 was added which state that the principals of the laws of Egyptian Christians and Jews are the main source of laws regulating their personal status, religious affairs, and selection of spiritual leaders.

Regarding the legalization of the Egyptian churches, the report clarified that there is a civilizational shift that consolidates the principle of freedom of belief, indicating that activation of Article 235 of the Constitution, Law No. 80 of 2016 was issued for regulation the construction and restoration of churches.

This law states that the provisions in the accompanying law are applied in the matter of organizing construction and restoration works of churches and their annexes in the  local unit, tourist and industrial areas, new urban communities and residential complexes, taking into account that the area of the church required to be built and annexes to the church should be in a manner commensurate with the number and need of the Christian denomination in the area in which it is established, taking into account the  population growth rates.

The law refers also to the need for taking quick steps to legalize the existing churches and buildings. Consequently, the legal representative of the denomination submits to the competent governor a request to obtain the legally required approvals to carry out any of the works required to be licensed or to demolish and rebuild a church built with a license or the status of which has been reconciled. The competent governor is obligated to decide on the aforementioned request, after making sure that all legally required conditions are fulfilled, within a period not exceeding 4 months from the date of its submission and notify the applicant by a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt of the result of the examination of his application.

Regarding the regulations of the legalization of the conditions of the existing churches and buildings, the law stipulates that every building existing on the date of the enforcement of the provisions of this law is to be considered licensed if Christian religious rituals are practiced there, provided that its structural integrity and its commitment to the controls and rules required by the defense affairs of the state and the laws regulating the state's public and private property are proven. Every building used as an annex to a church, service building, or retreat existing on the date this law came into force is also considered licensed, as long as it is owned  by the denomination and the conditions and controls are fulfilled.

Regarding to the protection of the worship places, according to the law, it is not permissible to change the purpose of the licensed church or the licensed annex to the church to any other purpose, even if praying and religious rituals have stopped in it and any behavior that takes place otherwise is null.

Regarding the legalization the status of the Egyptian churches, the report indicated that a committee was formed in January 2017 under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister and a membership of 6 ministers, in addition to representatives of the concerned authorities and it started receiving requests. The committee is in charge of receiving the legalization requests, studying them and verifying that the conditions set forth are met.

According to the report, these conditions specify that the request should be submitted by the legal representative of the religious denomination.

The building should exist on the date of implementation of Law No. 80 of 2016. It is important for the building to be structurally sound according to an approved report from an architecture at the Engineers Syndicate; in addition, the building should abide by the controls and rules required by the defense affairs of the state and the regulatory laws.

18 legalization decisions were issued by the committee from May 2018 until December 2020.  In 2018, 4 decisions were issued covering 508 churches and buildings, covering 53 churches and buildings in May, 167 churches and buildings in May, 120 churches and buildings in October, and 168 churches and buildings in December.

8 legalization decisions were issued in 2019, for 814 churches and buildings, 119 churches and buildings in January, 156 churches and buildings in March, 111 churches and buildings in April, 127 churches and buildings in July, 88 churches and buildings in September, 62 churches and buildings in October, 64 churches and buildings in November, and 87 churches and buildings in December.

As for The decisions issued in 2020, the report indicated that 6 legalization decisions were issued for 478 churches and buildings, 90 churches and buildings in January, 82 churches and buildings in February, 74 churches and buildings in April, 70 churches and buildings in May, and 100 churches and buildings in October and 62 churches and buildings in December.

The report highlighted the geographical distribution of the churches and buildings that have been legalized and reconciled, which covered 1,800 churches and buildings, divided between 1054 churches and 746 buildings. 113 churches and buildings in Cairo governorate, 166 in Giza, 150 in Qalyubia, 141 in Alexandria, and 316 in Minia, 159 in Sohag, 111 in Assiut, 108 in Sharkia, and 105 in Beheira.

The conditions of of 92 churches and buildings were reconciled in Beni Suef governorate, 43 in Gharbia, 53 in Aswan, 26 in Luxor, 38 in the Red Sea and Dakahlia governorates, individually, 34 in Menoufia, 21 in Qena, 17 in Suez and Ismailia governorates, and 13 in Matrouh, 11 in Port Said, 10 in Fayoum, 8 in Kafr El Sheikh, 6 in North Sinai, and 2 in South Sinai and New Valley governorates, individually.

The report clarified that building and restoration of churches have had  witnessed a peak during the period from 2014 to 2020 after putting an end to the bureaucratic complexities that lasted for decades as many decisions were issued for allocating lands for building churches in new cities at the request of the three Christian denominations. In 2014, the lands were allocated to build 7 churches in 5 cities (Obour, New Fayoum, New Tiba, New Sohag and New Cairo)

In 2015, lands were allocated for the construction of 5 churches in 5 cities (New Tiba, 10th of Ramadan, El Shorouk, Obour and 6th of October), in addition to allocating lands for building 9 churches in 8 cities in 2016 (New Salhia, 6th of October, New Fayoum. New Aswan, 15th of May, New Minia, New Assiut and Badr )

Besides, lands were allocated to build 10 churches in 6 cities in 2018 (New Sohag, New Qena, Sadat, 10th of Ramadan, Nasser, and The New Administrative Capital). Lands were also allocated to build 10 churches in 6 cities in 2019 (New Mansoura, Hadayek October, Beni Suef, Badr, Nasser, and New Sohag )

In 2020, lands have been allocated to build 10 churches in 8 cities (Sadat, New 6th of October, Hadayek October, New Beni Suef, New Sohag, West Qina, Nasser, and New Mansoura)

The report indicated that 40 churches were established, and 34 other churches are being constructed, in new cities during the period from July 2014 until December 2020. Besides, 75 churches that were destroyed during the terrorist violence in 2013 were replaced and renovated. In January 2019 the new "Cathedral of the Nativity of Chris, the largest Cathedral in the Middle East, was opened in The New Administrative Capital.

The report mentioned that 16 Ancient Coptic Antiquities were restored, in addition to the restoration of Ancient Coptic Antiquities that are distributed over the governorates as follows: In Cairo governorate, 4 churches and Coptic archaeological site have been restored. In Behira governorate, Wadi Natrun, the restoration of 4 monasteries are being carried out and the completion of the restoration of 2 churches in Giza Governorate is underway.

The restoration of 4 monasteries in Luxor Governorate has been completed and 2 monasteries are being restored in the Red Sea Governorate, plus the restoration of a monastery in Dakahlia, a church in Port Said, 3 churches in Gharbia and a monastery in Beni- Suef is underway.

The report indicated that 2 churches are being restored in Menoufia governorate and 2 monasteries in the governorates (Fayoum, Assiut, Aswan), as well as 3 monasteries in Minia governorate and 4 other monasteries in Qena governorate, while the restoration of 3 monasteries in Minya has been completed.

Moreover, the Abu Mina area in Alexandria is being developed, plus in Sohag the restoration of a church has been completed besides the restoration of 13 other churches and monasteries is being carried out. The restoration of Saint Catherine in South Sinai was completed.

The report pointed to the most prominent Coptic discoveries, as in 2015 group of prayer rooms "kellia" were discovered next to the Church of Al Syrian Elamer Monastery in Wadi al-Natrun . In 2016 a Coptic Church, a residential complex, many gold coins and potteries bearing tribal and Greek inscriptions were discovered in Ain al-Sabil area in New Valley.

In 2019, the structure of the Deir Al-Balayza Church in Assiut and many archaeological evidences bearing Coptic writings were discovered, plus the discovery of buildings and prayer rooms "kellia" in Deir Abu Fana, next to the ancient church in Minia, in 2019.

The report reviews the state’s efforts in implementing the Journey of the Holy Family project, as the governorates, through which the trail stations are located provided 448 million pounds to establish some projects and carry out the development works in them .The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities allocated EGP 41 million for the project.

The report stated that a documentary video was prepared in the Arabic and English languages, in addition to preparing a photo catalog to record the celebrations that were held on the stops of the Holy Family Journey.

Restoration has also been carried out in the archaeological sites located on the trail including the Church of the Virgin Mary and the Martyr Abanoub in Samannoud, the Church of Abu Sarjah in Old Cairo, parts of the Wadi Natrun monasteries, the Virgin Mary's tree site and Well in Al-Matariyah.

The report pointed that the Tourism Development Authority is preparing an investment plan to establish projects that serve the trail, such as hotels, shops, bazaars and cafeterias.

Concerning the efforts exerted to include the Holy Family journey on the list of pilgrimages, the report referred to the visit of the Pope of the Vatican to Egypt in 2017, which resulted in the enrollment of the Holy Family icon in the catalog of Christian pilgrimage in Vatican.

In addition to the reception of 5 churches leaders from some countries such as England and France during 2018 and 2019 and the reception of Italian, German and Swiss delegations representing tour operators.

Regarding the procedures for enrolling the Holy Family’s trail on the list of intangible heritage in UNESCO, the report referred to the issuance of a ministerial decision in June 2018 regarding the preparation of studies on the archaeological sites on the trail, adding to that, a specialized committee has been formed to include the Holy Family’s trail on the UNESCO intangible heritage list.

In March 2020, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities completed the preparation of a file on the celebrations associated with the trail, in accordance with UNESCO regulations and delivered it to the National Committee in Paris.

The report stated that the Holy Family’s trail project includes churches, monasteries, water wells and a group of Coptic icons indicating the Holy Family's trail to these sites, which extends for over 3,500 km back and forth from Sinai to Assiut, with 25 points in 11 governorates.

The report highlighted that the project of "Reviving the Journey of the Holy Family" has been awarded a certificate entitled "good practice" for the international cultural awards from the United Cities and Local Governments Organization (UCLG)

In continuation of the efforts to enhance the citizenship, two endowments bodies for the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Community were established and Law No. 190 of 2020 was issued in September 2020 for their establishment, with the aim of managing and investing the assets and the funds endowed for the benefit of both the Catholic Church and the Evangelical community, in  the light of the existence of a legislative regulation governing the management of the  endowments and investment for the Coptic Orthodox community.

The report stated that for the first time a unified personal status law for Christians (Orthodox, Evangelical, and Catholic), proposed by the three churches is being prepared in the Ministry of Justice.

The representation of Christians in the representative councils and the leadership positions has witnessed an unprecedented increase, as the number of Christian parliamentarians reached 31 elected Christian representatives in 2021, compared to 5 Christian representatives elected in 2012. It is worthy to mention that Amani Aziz is the first Christian female representative to be appointed in 2015 as the deputy of the Religious Committee in the history of the Egyptian parliament.

The report also indicated that for the first time in the history of the Senate, the number of Christian seats reached 24 in the 2020 elections, compared to 15 Christian seats in the 2012 elections. "Febi Gerges" is the first Christian woman to hold the position of the second deputy to the Council.

The report indicated that the governors’ appointments, for the first time, include 2 Christians as governors in 2018. Manal Awad Mikhael is the first Christian woman to hold the position of governor in Damietta governorate.

The report indicated that thanks to efforts to enhance citizenship values, Egypt has witnessed an improvement in societal stability indicators, as it advanced 12 places on the US News Citizenship Index, to occupy the 65th place in 2020, compared to the 69th in 2019, the 75th in 2018, and the 77th places in 2017.

Egypt advanced also 14 places on the Social Security and Safety Index within the Global Peace Index issued by the Institute for Economics and Peace, where it occupied the 100th place in 2020, compared to the 114th place in 2014.

Egypt's assessment on the Political Stability and Absence of Violence Indicator also advanced in the Worldwide Governance Indicator, to 12.9 points in 2019, 12.4 points in 2018, 9.1 points in 2017 and 2016, 8.6 points in 2015, 7.6 points in 2014, 7.1 points in 2013, 7.6 points in 2012, and 6.6 points in 2011.

The report reviewed the main facts monitored by the US State Department regarding the state’s efforts to raise awareness, such as the formation of the Supreme Committee to Confront  the Sectarian Events by the President, in addition to deleting texts inciting violence and extremism from the educational curricula, as well as the signing of the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Coexistence” by  The Grand Imam, Sheikh Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb and Pope Francis the pope of the Vatican.

The report reviewed also a number of evidences of the societal stability according to  US Department Report which stated that Egypt witnessed a retreat in the inter-community violence by 29% between 2018 and 2019. In addition, the American Commission on International Religious Freedom stated that Egypt has been excluded from the classification countries of particular concern for the fourth year in a row according to the International Religious Freedom Act.

The British government has released a report   indicating a decline in attacks by anti-Christian extremists since 2018.

The report recorded the main comments of the leaders of the three Christian communities. Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate, said that we are witnessing the building of the New Egypt and the state is taking a new and important unprecedented curve, such as the existence of a law to build churches and the construction of the largest Cathedral in the Middle East next to the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque in the New Administrative Capital.

He also thanked President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on the day of the opening of the church in the Administrative Capital, commenting “We see your Excellency fulfilling this promise and here we are witnessing this great opening on this honorable occasion. We thank you and all the participants in this great work in this short period”.

Pope Tawadros II also affirmed that with the issuance of the Churches

Building Law, there was a right to legalize existing unlicensed churches and building new ones. He thanked the President for his concerns for this matter.

Pastor Andria  Zaki, head of the Evangelical Community, explained that 310 churches and buildings for the evangelical community were licensed in just 4 years under the Churches Law, compared to about 500 churches over 200  years. which is considered unprecedented achievement. He also affirmed that the churches building law is considered a paradigm shift in modern Egypt’s history and affirmed also that the President is playing an important role to make the citizenship a realty.

Abba Ibrahim Ishaq, Patriarch of the Catholic Church, commented that "without exaggeration or complements, in the recent period a sense of citizenship has grown through its embodiment in the political will”.

The report monitored the prominent international visions regarding the consolidation of the national unity in Egypt. Pope Francis, Pope of the Vatican praised the efforts of the President to achieve coexistence between all religions, which was confirmed through the opening of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ in the New Administrative Capital next to the Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque, which reflects the will of the state to instill the principles of citizenship.

French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed his appreciation for the efforts of the Egyptian state to recognize all religions and ensure freedom of worship and belief. He expressed his aspiration to visit the Administrative Capital, especially in light of the President's opening of the mosque and the cathedral there.

US President Donald Trump expressed his happiness to see his friends in Egypt anuguring the largest cathedral in the Middle East, as President Al-Sisi is leading his country towards a more inclusive future.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel affirmed that Christians in Egypt are living in very good conditions with regards to the practice of their religious rites and government support is provided to them, which is an example to be followed.

 The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis affirmed that Egypt plays an important and pivotal role in promoting peaceful coexistence and communication between various individuals, religions and cultures that existed in Egypt for centuries.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, head of the Vatican Council of Eastern Churches, expressed his happiness when President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi also expressed his happiness for the inauguration of the Orthodox Cathedral in the New Administrative Capital along with the mosque, wishing to see in Egypt this joint cooperation between all religions.

Charles Michel, President of the European Council, stated that Egypt is a beacon of moderate Islam and has a remarkable efforts led by President El-Sisi to establish the values of coexistence, freedom of worship and respect for others and to achieve rapprochement and understanding between members of all religions.

 Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, commented that “there is no doubt that President Al-Sisi clearly expressed a point by establishing the largest cathedral in the Middle East here in this place, which is truly distinctive and influential, this is a beautiful place, and this is a wonderful opportunity to see that and a great symbol for Cairo and Egypt And all of the Middle East”.

According to the US State Department annual report on religious freedoms, Egypt, for the first time, witnessed during the era of President Sisi the appointment of the first Christian woman as governor in Damietta and the Ministry of Education continued to develop new curricula that guarantee increased coverage of respect for human rights and religious tolerance.

The American Committee on International Religious Freedom affirmed that the conditions for religious freedoms in Egypt have improved positively, thanks to the retreat of incidents of violence against Christians, the progress made in registering the unlicensed churches and the government efforts to address the religious intolerance in the countryside.

Johnny Moore, the Commissioner of the American Commission on International Religious Freedom, said that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi deserves great appreciation for his interest in the issue of religious freedoms and that he seriously takes the issue of compatibility between religions and sects and the peaceful coexistence among different sects and he personally works on them.

The American Embassy in Cairo praised the efforts made by Egypt to promote an inclusive and tolerant environment for citizens of all religions and welcomed President El-Sisi's positive message to establish national unity.

Regarding the newspapers and international news agencies, Reuters reported that President Al-Sisi opened a huge mosque and the largest cathedral in the Middle East, which is considered a symbolic message of tolerance in Egypt, while the Washington Post commented that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is the first Egyptian president to attend the Christmas mass at the cathedral.

Euro News commented that President Sisi's keenness to go to open the largest church in Egypt in the New Administrative Capital indicates cohesion and unity inside Egypt, while the New York Times reported that the Copts welcomed the President in the cathedral as his visit is a milestone and is a new step that confirms the close relationship between the President and Pope Tawadros.

BBC said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi opened the largest cathedral for the Orthodox Christians in the Middle East and the largest mosque in Egypt and the fourth largest mosque in the world in the new Administrative Capital, while France 24 reported that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has doubled the signs of openness to Egyptian Christians. He also never misses an opportunity to appear alongside Pope Tawadros.

According to what was published by the British Guardian newspaper, the Christians in Egypt see the President El Sisi as the savior and he is taking steps to affirm unity within the country, while the American Al-Monitor website stated that Christians feel that their rights are more preserved during the era of President El Sisi and there is a relative increase in their candidacy in the 2020 parliamentary elections. 
The Cabinet News Center

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