Fifty-three Coptic Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches were recently granted licenses by the Egyptian government, as Catholic news agency Fides reported last week.
These churches and annexed buildings already existed before the new law on the construction of Christian buildings of worship was passed by the Egyptian Parliament on 30 August 2016.
There are, however, more than 3,500 pending applications from other churches that still need to be examined by a government commission set up to verify whether they meet legal requirements.
Church sources told Erem News “the Copts are angry about the government’s approval to license a few churches”, and indicated that churches in various communities will hold a meeting “to discuss the crisis and prepare to meet with the Interior Minister on this matter”.
Samuel Tadros, a Senior Fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out that the number of licenses approved was just a tiny fraction of the 3730 churches that had applied for permits.
Egypt: Government approves permits for 53 preexisting Churches without permits. This comes from 3730 churches without permits that were submitted to them https://t.co/4XbeepuWQZ
— Samuel Tadros (@Samueltadros) February 27, 2018
Many of the churches that have submitted applications – and are now waiting to undergo assessment by the government commission – had been built without authorisation. However, before the August 2016 law, precise legislation didn’t exist regarding the requirements for churches.
Meanwhile, Copts recently celebrated the construction of a new church in Al-Our village, in Upper Egypt’s Minya province, for which President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s government allocated the equivalent of half a million US dollars. The church was dedicated to the 20 Egyptian Copts and one Ghanaian Christian beheaded by IS on the Libyan coast in 2015. The inauguration of the church on 15 February marked the third anniversary of their murder. Footage of the event was shared by Christian TV channel Sat-7: