Egypt pushing law streamlining church construction amid anti-Christian violence
Egypt's three main Christian denominations have approved a draft bill that could help ease restrictions on building churches, amid a spike in sectarian assaults against Christians.
The minister of parliamentary affairs, Magdy al-Agaty, said on Monday that the law will be discussed during a cabinet meeting this week, before it is sent to parliament for approval.
"The law sets a four-month deadline for governors to respond to any request for a license to build a church," Agaty told local media.
He added that it will also ensure that all heavily-populated areas have their own churches.
Egypt's Copts, the Middle East's largest Christian minority, have long struggled to obtain official permission to build churches. Discussions to address the issue have fruitlessly been going on for decades.
Egyptian authorities often refuse to give Christians building permits for churches on the grounds that doing so would disturb the peace with their Muslim neighbours.
Activist Jolia Milad told The New Arab: "Even if this law passes there will still be no equality in the building of places of worship, as building mosques does not require all of these measures such as the approval from a governor."
"It is, however, a positive step forward to ending discrimination."
The move comes as a string of attacks against Christians have hit the southern province of Minya, home to a large Christian community, in recent weeks.
|A chapel was recently torched in a village in the south [Getty]|
Last month, a mob stabbed a Christian to death over a personal feud.
Days earlier, in two separate incidents, mobs attacked and torched houses of Christians over a rumour that they intended to convert buildings into churches.
In May, a mob stripped an elderly Christian woman and paraded her on the street following a rumour that her son had an affair with a Muslim woman.
Also in May, a makeshift chapel was torched in the village of Ismailia during clashes.
The leader of Egypt's Coptic Christian church recently warned of increased attacks on Christians, saying national unity is being "defaced."
Pope Tawadros II said that since 2013 there have been 37 sectarian attacks on Christians - nearly an incident a month. He describes the situation as "very painful".