17-January-2014 -- ZENIT.org News Agency |

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Egypt's New Constitution Overwhelmingly Approved in Referendum

New Document Promises to Improve Rights for Christians

CAIRO, January 17, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Egypt's new constitution, which has the backing of the country's Christians, was convincingly passed in a referendum on Thursday.

Around 90 percent of the people who voted approved the new document, according to state-run media, which estimated turnout to be about 40 percent. The Interior Ministry put it higher, at 55 percent, according to Reuters.

Ehab Badawy, Egypt's spokesman for the presidency, said in a statement that the vote "represents a resounding rejection of terrorism and a clear endorsement of the roadmap to democracy, as well as economic development and stability."

The new constitution bans political parties based on religion and protects the status of minority Christians, the AP reports.

The Muslim Brotherhood had called for a boycott of the referendum, saying the vote was part of what it argues was a coup last summer that toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

Under the new constitution, Egypt's Christians are now expecting a new law to be enacted within a year that gives them the right to build churches without restrictions. Until now, regulations have forced them to build make-shift ones, many of which were torched by pro-Morsi protesters when he was removed from office.

Christians have also been assured that high posts in government and the military - positions that until now had often been denied them - would be addressed.

But sporadic attacks against Egypt's Copts continue and observers say it will be some time before the country's 5 million Christians feel fully reassured about the future.

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