Amnesty International has called on Egyptian authorities to release nine Coptic Christians arrested after a peaceful protest in late January.
The nine were part of a large gathering of Christians peacefully petitioning the Egyptian government to honour the constitution, and a 2016 Church Construction Law (No.80) which states, “The governor must approve or deny the request within four months and must provide a “justified” explanation if the request is denied.”
The law corresponds to Articles 64 and 235 of Egypt’s 2014 refurbished constitution, promising freedom of religion:
64: Freedom of belief is an inviolable right. The State shall guarantee the freedom to practice religious rites and to establish places of worship for the divine religions, as regulated by law.
235: In its first legislative term after this Constitution comes into effect, the House of Representatives shall issue a law to organize building and renovating churches, guaranteeing Christians the freedom to practice their religious rituals.
Amnesty said the protest was a response to years of ‘Egyptian authorities ignoring calls to rebuild a local church.’
Cairo based human rights organisation, Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, recounted how the 800 square metres Church of St. Joseph and Abu Sefein was demolished in 2021 after a suspicious fire gutted the building in 2016.
EIPR added, after the local Christian community followed the government’s request to tear down what was left of the building, ‘the church submitted a request for reconstruction. It did not receive any responses from administrative and security authorities.’
This has left up to 800 Egyptian Christians, from the Ezbet Rashid Farag Allah village (between Alexandria and Cairo), waiting on local government approval for a Church rebuild.
In their retelling of the situation, EIPR said, the nine Copts arrested ‘were charged with participating in an assembly that endangers public peace, and committing a terrorist act with the aim of disturbing public security.’
Damning the “terrorism” charges “bogus,” and the detention as something “akin to enforced disappearances”, Amnesty explained, that the nine men were arrested, “and held incommunicado” 1 week after the event.
Each protester was “blindfolded, handcuffed, then interrogated without lawyers being present, while their families were denied information about their fate or whereabouts.”
The arrest furthers the unconstitutional behaviour of Egyptian authorities, who were also in breach of Article 54 of their constitution.
Article 54 rules in favour of due process against arbitrary detention.
The most relevant part reads:
“All those whose freedoms have been restricted shall be immediately informed of the causes therefor, notified of their rights in writing, be allowed to immediately contact their family and lawyer […] citizens are to be interrogated only in the presence of a lawyer.”
Critics of the Church Construction Law such as The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy argued, “Although the Egyptian government celebrates the law as a beacon of inclusivity for the Christian community, the law furthers discrimination by subjecting Christians to a separate and unequal legal system.”
Tahrir stated, “the Church Construction Law entrenches an approval system that is long, bureaucratic, and subject to discrimination and lack of standardization.”
There is no ‘recourse available for communities that do not receive responses to their requests within four months.’
The law isn’t all bad news.
A Barnabas Fund assessment illustrated the law’s life-giving potential, “Since the repeal in 2016 of Ottoman-era restrictions on the construction of church buildings an Egyptian Cabinet committee has granted licences to 2,162 churches out of 3,730 applicants.”
Although the law ended impossible to meet 1856 Ottoman Caliphate requirements for building Churches, in some cases, the law appears to have the same, vain pretence as that of virtue signalling.
Islam is Egypt’s State religion. Shar’ia is where Egypt draws its laws. This fact, the arbitrary nature, and vagueness of the Church Construction Law reveal its substantial flaws.
As legal scholars have asserted, “the [10-point No.80] law uses wide and ambiguous terms that allow different legal interpretations.”
For example, “A governor could deny Christians their right of worship by rejecting their request to construct a church because they are few in number or if the governor feels that there is no need to build a church in that area.”
Egyptian authorities not living out the standards set by Egypt’s constitution is not a problem solely affecting the North African nation.
It’s worth restating the parallels.
The curtailing of civil liberties vis-à-vis COVID-19 authoritarianism shows that constitutions are not failing the people. The people are being let down by dishonest authorities failing to uphold, verbatim, their respective constitutions.
The Coptic Christian experience under Shar’ia offers a semblance of what Westerners can expect if the sleepy majority continue to ignore political religions like Leftism, LGBTQ+, CRT-BLM, and their destructive – deconstructive – Cultural Marxist war on faith, family, and freedom.