Egypt’s Christians Given Equal Leave for Pilgrimage

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Egypt’s High Constitutional Court has ruled on Saturday that Christian civil servants should be entitled to the same rights as Muslims, who receive a stipend to go on the Hajj, RT reports.

The judges announced that Coptic government employees should be allowed a month-long paid leave to visit Jerusalem. This, after a three-year legal battle to grant religious equality.

Lawyer Naguib Gabriel argued that the country’s 1978 law allowing a one month off from work to visit Mecca and Medina unconstitutionally excludes Egypt’s Coptic community. An approved referendum in 2014 stipulates equal rights for all religions. “The ruling is a major step towards full citizenship rights for Egyptian Christians,” Gabriel said.

“The ruling is a major step towards full citizenship rights for Egyptian Christians,” Gabriel said.

Christians in Egypt represent over 10% of the country’s 93 million population. Most of them adhere to the Orthodox Coptic tradition headed by Pope Tawadros II.

The case follows the refusal of the government to allow Christian civil servants to take a holiday to visit Jerusalem, a historic and contested city. In 1980, Pope Shenouda prohibited pilgrimages to protest Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands, including the holy city.

“The Coptic Church does not forcibly prevent Coptic citizens from traveling to Jerusalem, instead its ban is considered as a ‘tradition’ that morally, all Coptic citizens should follow,” Coptic activist Nader Shokry told Daily News Egypt.

Sources:
Wwwrtcom. (2017). RT International. https://www.rt.com/news/376485-egypt-copts-pilgrimage-jerusalem/

Albawabacom. (2017). Al Bawaba. http://www.albawaba.com/loop/not-just-hajj-egypts-christians-granted-equal-leave-jerusalem-pilgrimage-934160

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