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Egyptian Copts Campaign to Rebuild Church

The Egyptian Orthodox Church -- also known as the Coptic Church -- has joined a campaign launched by the Coptic Diaspora to obtain permission to rebuild a church in the governorate of Sohag, the Daily News Egypt reported.

"There is legislation that differentiates between Egyptians versus the right to build and/or maintain places of worship. The procedure for Egyptian Muslims to build a new mosque is not in the hands of our president and does not require a presidential decree," Youssef Sidhum, editor-in-chief of the Egyptian newspaper Watani told The Media Line.

The church building had collapsed during the lengthy bureaucratic process that a Coptic congregation needs to go through in order to receive permission to maintain churches.

Instead of just going to the local authority, parishioners have to apply to the national security service, which then brings the paperwork to President Hosni Mubarak for approval, Sidhum said.

Mubarak claims to never having denied a request for either the construction or maintenance of a church; this is due to the fact that the security services, which can't be held accountable, never handed him the papers, Sidhum said.

Friction between the Copts, who constitute some 10 percent of Egypt's total population of 78 million, and the Muslim majority, is frequent and sometimes violent.

In February 2009, two Coptic writers were arrested at the Cairo Book Fair for handing out bibles. According to the police report, the men were arrested for "defaming Islam."

Some 95% of all Copts are members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is the oldest form of Christianity in Africa and one of the earliest forms of Christianity in the world.

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