More than 3,000 churches and church-affiliated buildings are still awaiting legal recognition from the Egyptian government nearly two years after the passing of legislation hailed by some as positive step for religious freedom in the Muslim-majority country.
According to an October report from the Coptic-founded news outlet Watani International, only 340 out of 3,730 applications from unlicensed churches seeking legal status and building permits have been granted in the wake of a 2016 law meant to provide an avenue for Christians to legally build and renovate churches.
Although the law was said to have made it easier for Christians to renovate churches, many feared it gave too much power to local governments to deny church construction.
After over a year, the Egyptian Cabinet has granted some churches legal status in three different waves over the course of 2018, with the latest coming on October 10 when the cabinet approved the applications of 120 churches.
In April, 166 churches and church-affiliated buildings were granted legal status. In September, 220 more were approved.
Human rights activists have criticized the new Egyptian law because of the fact that it “allows governors to deny church-building permits with no stated way to appeal,” “requires that churches be built ‘commensurate with’ the number of Christians in the area” and “contains security provisions that risk subjecting decisions on whether to allow church construction to the whims of violent mobs.”
SOURCE: Christian Post