CAIRO – On 11 March 2018, Missions Box News reported that Egyptian government officials had granted licenses for 53 churches as a “first block” toward compliance with the legal requirements. The licensing mandate which had been proposed by the Housing Ministry became law in August 2016.
Yesterday the Egyptian Cabinet approved the legalization of 166 more churches, lending credibility to the government’s intent to speed up the process.
Once the law was introduced, church representatives were given one year to submit a list of churches and church buildings that needed to be inspected to ensure that they were compliant with laws governing the construction of public and private buildings.
Some church leaders decried the licensing laws as restrictions upon the freedom of religion. Others regarded them as protecting the citizens.
Coptic and Evangelical churches have legitimate reasons for concern. Most Egyptians are Muslims. Egyptian Christian churches have been targets of hostility for years. The intensity of hostilities increased during the so-called Arab Spring that began in 2010 and saw the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak and the rise of Mohammed Morsi and the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood. In 2013, after the Morsi regime had been overthrown, the government declared the MB a terrorist organization. Egyptian Christians and churches have continued to be victims of persecution, shootings, and bombings.
Under any circumstance, but especially under these in Egypt, the leveling of perceived restrictions on churches can be perceived – or could become – methods of persecution. However, as far as the situation is currently unfolding in Egypt, the Housing Ministry appears to be acting in the interest of safety, just as American churches must be built in accordance to building codes.
The Middle East Monitor reports that about 3,700 licensing applications have been submitted for approval. At the current approval rate, it will take more than 18 months for all to receive final approval.
The fact that the government is following up on its promise and that churches are being licenses is a beacon of hope for the 15 million Christians in Egypt.
- Missions Box, 53 Egyptian Churches Receive Full Legal Certification
- The Christian Post, Egypt Cabinet Legalizes 166 Unlicensed Church Properties
- MENA FN, Egypt: 166 unlicensed churches to be legalized
- Egypt Today, Cabinet approves law regulating unlicensed churches
- Middle East Monitor, Egypt legalizes 166 unlicensed churches
- Wikimedia Commons, By someone10x (4015996887_1f466d2cba P1260634_O) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons