By Lisa Zengarini
A long-awaited law on the personal legal status of Christians in Egypt is expected to be approved soon by the Egyptian Parliament. According to a member of the parliamentary legislative committee, the draft law should be discussed shortly after Parliament opens its new session on 23 January.
The drafting of the new legislation, which includes provisions on sensitive issues relating to family law, has been a long process that started in 2014 and in which all Egyptian Churches have been involved.
A long process
The Ministry of Justice ended the drafting process in June 2021 after 16 sessions, during which it consulted legal experts, government officials and Church representatives to reach consensus on the wording of the text.
Discussions have focused in particular on delicate matters like divorce and legal separation of spouses, to which Christian Churches have different ecclesial approaches. Christian leaders had delivered their joint proposed text to the Egyptian authorities on 15 October 2020.
Cooperation with Churches
The cooperation with Christian leaders in drafting the law confirms the good existing relations between the local Churches and the present Egyptian government led by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.
Since he took power in 2014, the Egyptian president has made a number of friendly gestures towards the local Christian Churces, especially the Orthodox Coptic Church, the largest Christian community in the country.
Al-Sisi is the first Egyptian President to have attended Orthodox Coptic Christmas liturgies. on more than one occasion, he has defined the Coptic community as an essential part of the Egyptian identity.
In 2015 he reacted strongly to the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians held by the Islamic State in Libya, and in July 2016 announced he would increase penalties against those fomenting religious violence.
On 30 August that year, the Egyptian Parliament approved a new law designed to make it easier to build new churches in Egypt, which for years has been a major reason of tension with the Muslim majority especially in the south. However, improved relations have not stopped Islamist attacks against Christians in Egypt.
Christians count for some 10% of the country's 87 million population.