Egypt's Coptic Christians granted their own 'Hajj' holiday

Egypt's Coptic Christians granted their own 'Hajj' holiday
Egypt's Coptic Christian civil servants have been granted the same right as their Muslim counterparts to take a month-long pilgrimage to Jerusalem, despite a late Pope's Israel travel ban.
2 min read
06 February, 2017
Egyptian Christians can get a month's paid leave to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem [Getty]
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court has granted the same right to the country's Coptic Christian civil servants to take a month's paid leave to visit Jerusalem that their Muslim counterparts get to take the pilgrimage to Mecca.

The ruling provides civil servants from Egypt's Coptic Christian minority the same paid time off work for a Jerusalem pilgrimage.

The Coptic Orthodox Church has a permanent, yet small, presence at Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the site where Christian tradition holds is the sight of Jesus' crucifixion.

The head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church visited Jerusalem in 2015, in the first such visit to occupied Palestinian territory in 35 years.

The trip by Pope Tawadros II, who came to take part in the funeral of a local Coptic bishop, aroused great controversy in Egypt.

Egyptian Copts were forbidden from visiting Israel in 1980 by the late Pope Shenouda III, in protest of Israel's occupation of east Jerusalem.

Despite the ban, hundreds of Egyptian Copts have visited Israel over the past few years during the Easter period.

The court ruling comes amid a rise in deadly violence against Egypt's Coptic community, who make up about 10 percent of the North African country's 90 million population.

In December 2016, a suicide bombing in a Cairo church killed 26 people, mostly women and children, during Sunday mass. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared three days of national mourning in the wake of the attack, claimed by the Islamic State group.

Since taking office in 2014, Sisi has been reaching out to the religious leadership of Egypt's Christian minority.

Earlier this month, during his third successive year in attendance at a Coptic Christmas Mass at Cairo's St Mark's Cathedral, Sisi vowed to build Egypt's largest church and mosque to stand together "side by side" in the Egyptian capital.