CAIRO – On July 1, the presidential committee for the legalization of churches announced that it had processed yet another wave of approvals. Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told reporters that another 127 previously unlicensed Coptic Christian churches had been added to the list of properties approved as places of worship.
The reauthorization was mandated by Law 80 concerning the organization and construction of churches passed in 2016. The total number of churches now considered “legalized” has reached 1,021. At least twice that number continue to wait for the approval.
When the 2016 Law 80 was passed, news agencies and other reporting entities wondered if the law was beneficial to Coptic Christians or if it were just another form of persecution in the predominantly Muslim country.
Although, at first blush, the legislation appeared to be a legalized way of closing the targeted churches. Nonetheless, a majority of the professing Christian legislators voted in favor of its passage.
A senior official in the Coptic Church was quoted as saying, “Thank God we have this law now.”
Why would he say that?
Because, in context, the previous state of affairs was that any construction or renovation of Christian churches required presidential approval. The September 1, 2016, issue of CP World explained,
“Before this law, Christians had to get presidential approval to build new churches or even renovate old churches. This meant that fixing an old bathroom in a church in Egypt required permission from the country’s highest office.”
Although the overarching religion-related laws in Egypt still hinder the existence and growth of the Christian community, the government has been keeping its promises to reauthorize churches that were closed due to the enactment of Law 80.
To meet the requirements of being a legal, religious building, the facilities must meet government standards for civil protection within four months of approval by the committee. Other reasonable conditions also apply.
A columnist for the Egypt Independent lauded the number of church buildings that have been approved. Though the process may be slow, it appears to be picking up its pace due to the prime minister’s determination to exercise his political will to see the process through to the end.
We might be well-advised to see the process from his perspective.
“The completion of the first 1,000 churches is truly good news.
A thousand steps have been taken on the road ahead, and we hope more good fortune follows until the fulfillment of all legitimate demands of our Coptic siblings for their long-neglected rights.”
To read more news on Christian churches in Egypt on Missions Box, go here.
- Egypt Independent, Another 1,000 churches
- International Christian Concern, Egypt Approves 127 Churches
- The Christian Post, Egypt’s Christians Unsure if New Law Relaxing Church Renovation but Tightening Construction Is Good
- The Christian Post, Egypt legalizes 156 church buildings; about 3,000 more awaiting approval
- The Christian Post, Egypt legalizes 127 Christian churches; over 1,000 approved by government
- Egypt Today, Gov’t approves legalizing 127 unlicensed churches, service buildings
- Wikimedia Commons, Ricardo Liberato [CC BY-SA 2.0]