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Friday, June 18, 2010

Egypt prepares separate personal status law for Coptic Christians

Jun 17, 2010, M&C

Cairo - A key piece of legislation sought by the Coptic Christian church in Egypt to enable it to govern members' familial ties in accordance with church teachings is nearly ready, an Egyptian minister said Thursday.

Minister of State for legal affairs and parliamentary councils Mofid Shehab was referring to a so-called unified personal status law and said a committee formed by the Justice Ministry had 'almost finished' work on the draft of the new law.

Shehab's statement came after a meeting with Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of Saint Mark Episcopate at the papal residence.

The church has requested a unified personal status law for Christians several times, the first request dating to 1979.

The church opposes the current personal status law, which allows divorce on nine grounds.

Since taking the papacy in 1971, Pope Shenouda has maintained that divorce is only permissible in cases of adultery or conversion to another religion or sect of Christianity.

Tensions between the church and the government escalated after a recent court ruling compelling the church to allow divorced individuals to remarry.

Pope Shenouda asked the court to reconsider the ruling, saying it constituted religious pressure on Christians. He said that those who marry 'against church teachings' will not be allowed to re-enter the church.

According to government figures, Christians account for roughly 10 per cent of Egypt's population.

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