CAIRO: Christian churches in Egypt are at an impasse over whether to allow divorce, and are stalling to return recommendations to the government on personal status laws.
“The Church is not wrong to disapprove civil marriage; the Egyptian state is neither civil nor theocratic,” expert in Christian research Suleiman Shafiq told The Cairo Post Wednesday.
Laws concerning marriage and personal status for Muslims are governed by Sharia law, however, the Ministry of Transitional Justice presented a draft unified law for Christians earlier in November and requested their feedback, as article three of the 2014 constitution stipulates that Christians and Jews may regulate their own personal affairs and select their personal leaders.
“An Egyptian Christian has two identities; an Egyptian citizen and a Christian. Thus, article three does not prevent the existence of both a religious and a civil marriage,” Shafiq said.
Each Egyptian church added its own addendum to their proposed law on personal affairs for Christians after they failed to agree on reasons for divorce, a source in the Orthodox Church told Youm7 Wednesday.
The ministry’s draft provided for 14 reasons for the “dissolution of marriage,” as well as an article that allowed civil marriage, according to Youm7.
The churches’ draft disapproved civil marriage, and also set a code to prevent Christians from getting a divorce from civil courts after they convert to a different Christian sect or to Islam, the source told Youm7.
Some Christians have used this tactic to obtain divorce and then they often convert back to their original sect, as the Coptic Orthodox Church does not sanction divorce.
“The state should not be forced to apply the rules of the Church, and same for the Church. Those who choose to get married at the Church should follow its rules, but those who choose civil marriage should not be forced follow the same rules,” Shafiq told The Cairo Post.
So far only the Evangelical Church approved of the principle of civil marriage, and only the Catholic Church refused the principle of divorce, but rather set adultery only as a reason for “physical separation,” hence the individual addendums.
Shafiq said he was not surprised at the Church’s feedback to the Ministry of Transitional Justice, adding that Al-Azhar would not approve civil marriage for Muslims either.
He also claimed that there are a million atheists in Egypt from Christian backgrounds, and that they cannot obtain divorce because they are Christian in the national IDs.
Egyptians must provide their religion when they produce an ID, and the state only recognizes the three Abrahamic religions.