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Minister: Egypt may ease barriers to church building

Egypt's government and ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) are considering a set of proposals to better facilitate the construction of churches, according to State Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Moufid Shehab.

Minister: Egypt may ease barriers to church building

Egypt's government and ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) are considering a set of proposals to better facilitate the construction of churches, according to State Minister for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Moufid Shehab.

The reforms “will be achieved through full coordination with the Egyptian Coptic Church," Shehab told reporters in a statement given at the NDP’s seventh annual conference on Saturday.

Pointing to a law already in place that regulates the matter, the minister added that President Hosni Mubarak has never turned down a request to build a church that complied with licensing requirements.

Egypt's parliament has yet to pass a law that standardizes procedure relating to places of worship. The law was first proposed in 2005 and may help reduce Muslim-Christian tensions given the heated Christian opposition to current laws regarding church construction.

Copts are prohibited from building or restoring a church without approval from local authorities. A 2009 report released by the Egyptian government said that Egypt has only 2000 churches, compared with 93,000 mosques.

Muslims and Christians sporadically clash over issues related to land ownership and church building. Copts are believed to represent 7-9 percent of Egypt's population of over 80 million people.

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