In Egypt, several parliamentarians want to change the legal status of Christians, so that they will be able to adopt children, which the law, based on the principles of Islam, has so far forbidden them.
Can a Christian couple enjoy the same adoption rights as Muslims? This is the whole point of the revision of the law regulating the status of Christians in Egypt.
It all started four years ago, when a Coptic priest found an abandoned newborn baby on the threshold of his church, who he entrusted to a childless couple in the parish. They had the child baptized and gave him the name of Shenuda, and obtained a birth certificate for him.
A few years later, a relative of the man who adopted Shenuda, fearing the possibility of having to share his inheritance with the adopted child, decided to report the couple to the justice department for what is considered to be an illegal adoption.
Indeed, “Egyptian law, referring to the principles of Islamic law, currently does not allow adoption for Christian couples. Only a form of foster care is considered legal, which does not allow children entrusted to the care of their [adoptive] parents to take their surname and become heirs of their assets.”
In February 2022, after a highly publicized procedure, little Shenuda was taken from the Coptic couple and placed in an orphanage, triggering a wave of sympathy throughout Egypt.
Several lawyers, moved by the court's decision, have decided to offer their services free of charge to Christian parents, while several people, both Christian and Muslim, have started to demand a change in the rules which prevent Christian couples from adopting children, baptizing them, and thus making them able to inherit their property.
The case of little Shenuda came at the time of the revision of the law on the legal status of Christians, a revision which did not plan to change the question of adoption.
The situation could change with the initiative by Najib Suleiman, member of the parliamentary committee for religious affairs, who, in certain statements made to the newspaper al Shorouk, defined the adoption of minors as fully compatible with the rules of family law reserved for Christians.
Since his accession to the top of the Egyptian state, Marshal Sissi has shown himself as an ally of Christians by attending Christmas Mass each year, but the status of the Copts has not changed much.
A process of modifying the legislative text on the personal status of Christians was initiated in 2014, but the time required for its drafting lengthened disproportionately until 2021, mainly due
to the negotiations aimed at achieving a unitary text. However, there are more or less important differences between the various protagonists, especially on marital separation and divorce.
Thus, neither the Catholic Copts – who have around 250,000 members – nor the Oriental Orthodox Copts who are estimated at nearly 20 million in Egypt, recognize religious divorce. While the “evangelical” Copts, whose number is estimated at 100,000, recognize it, as do all Protestants.
The question of adoption was not initially planned for this revision. It was the recent affair of little Shenuda which provoked a movement of parliamentarians to include it in the project.
For their part, the adoptive parents of young Shenuda want to believe in it, and hope that soon their child will be returned to them, and that they will be able to teach him the life and the law of Jesus Christ.