The archbishopric of Malawy, in the southern city of Minya, has slammed “lewd” practices during Coptic marriage celebrations, warning in a statement that such practices could result in the cancellation of official marriage ceremonies conducted by the church.
The statement, a copy of which has been obtained by Mada Masr, criticized practices like dancing to music played by a DJ, drinking alcohol and drug use.
The archbishopric said that God is not happy with such practices, which “do not suit the sons of the church and are not suitable for building a new family, which should start with prayers.
“Thus, the archbishopric warns that it may take measures that could lead to the cancellation of the official marriage rituals,” the statement said.
The archbishopric explained that it had received various complaints from the Coptic community concerning these practices, and that those who wish to marry should know that marriage is a “divine secret”.
The warning will be communicated to all Copts across the archbishopric of Malawy, according to the statement.
The governorate of Minya has one of the highest concentrations Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Ishaq Ibrahim, researcher of religious freedoms in the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), slammed the decision, deeming it a flagrant violation of the personal rights of the Coptic community.
He explained that the essential problem with marriage among Copts is the fine line between the rights monopolized by the Church, and the rights that should be organized by the state. The Coptic Orthodox Church imposes strict marriage and divorce regulations for millions of Copts in Egypt, practically monopolizing marriage and divorce.
“The Church as a religious institution will always call for a more conservative lifestyle, which is acceptable as long as it is limited to preaching. The real problem is when the church intervenes with the power it possesses to control marriage procedures,” Ibrahim explained.
“It is not just a breach to the personal lifestyle of its followers, but also violates a basic right granted by the constitution, which is the right of marriage and creating a family.”
In this regard, Ibrahim said the state must intervene to legalize civil marriage for Copts, thus ending the monopoly of the Church on this issue.
Marriage and divorce regulations have long been a source of major contention within the Coptic community, with the Orthodox Church standing firm against calls for allowing civil marriages. In addition to being the sole organizer of the right of marriage, the Church allows divorce only in the case of adultery, and refuses to issue permissions for second marriages for those who seek divorce through civil courts.
Coptic activists have continuously slammed the Church’s position, demanding secular laws that would allow civil marriage. In September, a group of Coptic activists campaigning for secular marriage laws called for protests against Pope Tawadros II and his administration, but police rejected requests for a public protest.
At the time, the church released a strongly worded statement against the calls. The statement said that the church is led by “truth and justice” and that it cannot comply with demands that “violate the teachings and principles of the holy Bible.”
However, Ibrahim insists that the Church authorities should not seek to control the lives of Copts outside of churches.
“The Church may impose certain rules to organize personal conduct inside the church, but it has no right to intervene in whatever happens outside. This is very dangerous,” he said.