Egypt court grants Christian civil servants same paid pilgrimage leave as Muslims

Egypt's High Constitutional Court has released a ruling that says Christian civil servants should be given paid leave for pilgrimage just as Muslims are given stipend for the Hajj.

(REUTERS / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Egyptian caretaker of the Coptic Church, interim Pope Bakhomious (C) holds a piece of paper with the name of Bishop Tawadros written on it, after it was picked by Bishoy Gerges in Cairo November 4, 2012.

On Saturday, judges announced that the Hajj stipend which was established in 1978 is unconstitutional because it excludes Christians from that privilege. Egypt's current constitution guarantees equal rights for all Egyptian citizens regardless of their religion, RT notes.

"The ruling is a major step towards full citizenship rights for Egyptian Christians," lawyer Naguib Gabriel, who fought three years for the ruling, told news firm Ahram.

Coptic Christians are prohibited from visiting Jerusalem as part of their protest against Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. Nevertheless, the ruling is considered a landmark victory for Egypt's Christians, who are a religious minority in the country.

Egypt has ranked 21st on Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the top 50 worst countries for Christians. Just last month, five Coptic Christians were killed within 13 days, the World Watch Monitor reports.

On Jan. 16, Ishak Ibrahim Fayez Younan was found dead at his flat in Cairo. The method in which he was killed - with his throat slit and valuables untouched - is similar to the deaths of the other Copts killed in previous weeks before that. Despite the fact that the victims' money was untouched, police say robbery is the suspected motive in at least one of the five incidents. The latest victim worked at a factory which supplies soft drinks to supermarkets.

Younan's brother Magdy, who discovered the dead body, told WWM that the victim had no enemies and was a very simple and peaceful person. He said he found his brother lying in a pool of blood but there was no sign of struggle and he still had his wallet and money with him.