Egypt government ‘legalises’ hundreds of churches
Egyptian President al-Sisi’s government has continued its process of legalisation by approving 168 locations on 30 November 2018. This follows a series of approvals of Christian places of worship in September and October, bringing the total number up to 508 for 2018.
While this is welcome progress – it is slow. Over 3000 churches that have applied for approval since 2017 are still waiting.
The delays are acknowledged by the government and early in 2018 Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Isamil called for the process to be “sped up”.
This development has come about as a result of a 2016 change by the Egyptian government to a centuries old law which strictly governed the building and registering of churches.
Although Egypt’s current leadership has acted more favourably toward Christians, they often face violence at a local level and many newly registered churches have been targeted by Muslim mobs.
Peaceful Christian gatherings may have been taking place in homes or unlisted buildings for many years, but the official opening of a government recognised church has often stirred up anger in many rural communities. In April of 2018, a mob of 300 Muslims attacked a church building in al-Kumeria, forcing it to close, soon after it received its official recognition from the government.
Muslim-majority Egypt has a substantial Christian minority, which is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back to the first century, before the arrival of Islam.