Date: March 8, 2019
The Egyptian government legalised 156 churches and church-affiliated buildings on 5 March, making a total of 783 buildings now officially registered as legal places of Christian worship since the new Law for Building and Restoring Churches was introduced in 2016.
This latest batch of church buildings must meet certain safety standards for their legalisation to be confirmed and follow on from a series of approvals made in the latter half of 2018.
But the legalisation process remains slow. About 3,000 churches that have applied for approval since 2017 are still waiting. The delays have been acknowledged by the government and early in 2018 the previous Egyptian Prime Minister, Sherif Ismail, called for the process to be “sped up”.
The congregation of an unlicensed church in Koum al-Raheb were forced to hold a third funeral on the streets of their village, in the first week of February 2019, because their only church building was sealed by police on 9 December 2018.
Christian communities regularly face violence at a local level and newly registered churches are often targeted by Muslim mobs, despite Egypt’s current leadership acting more favourably towards Christians. Muslim-dominated Egypt has a substantial Christian minority, which is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back to the first century, and pre-dating Islam by some 500 years.