Bishops say new Constitution Big Step towards Religious Freedom
Coptic Catholic Bishops in Egypt have hailed the result of the referendum on the country’s new constitution which they say represents a crucial step towards religious freedom and other civil liberties, reports CISA.
In interviews with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishops Kyrillos William of Assiut, Upper Egypt, Antonios Aziz Mina of Giza and Joannes Zakaria of Luxor all spoke of their delight at the recent vote, which officials say showed a 98 percent ‘yes’ vote for the new constitution, drafted under the country’s interim regime.
Speaking from Egypt, the bishops said that such an overwhelming majority result gave the government a clear mandate to act in accordance with the constitution’s guideline.
The bishops highlighted the contrast between the new constitution and its predecessor, ratified in December 2012 under the ousted President Mohammed Morsi, formerly of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was seen to assert the rights of Muslims at the expense of others.
The bishops also pointed to the new constitution’s emphasis on women, children and disabled people, whose rights they said were largely absent from the former constitution.
The bishops also said the rights of Christians were well represented in the new constitution.
Both Bishops William and Zakaria cited extracts from the constitution highlighting the priority need for new legislation governing the construction of churches, a process which until now has been very slow and cumbersome for Coptic leaders.
The constitution paves the way for the election of a new parliament and a new government and the bishops said that once the changes were in place they hoped the new regime would press forward with the recommended legislation on church construction.
The bishops said there was overwhelming public support in Egypt for religious freedom.
They said this was self-evident in the referendum result which showed 20 million voted ‘yes’ to the new constitution, far higher than the previous one where the turn-out was lower and only 64 percent were in favour.
The Muslim Brotherhood had urged its supporters to abstain from the referendum and, in response to fears that they may now react with violence, the bishops said the Islamists were now no longer able to resist the momentum for change and freedom.