Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made history in February 2022 by appointing the first Christian to the post of President of the country’s Supreme Constitutional Court. This made Judge Boulos Fahmy Eskandar, 65, the country’s highest judge. The appointment of a Christian to such a high position in a Muslim-majority country is rare, and exemplified President al-Sisi’s long-term support for his country’s Christian minority.
Christians, who make up 10% of the population, say their situation is better now than it has been for years. President al-Sisi has been swift to give verbal and practical backing to the Christian community whenever anti-Christian incidents occur. Al-Azhar University now controls most of the mosques so that the extremist Muslim Brotherhood has become less influential.
Another change was the government’s decision to pass the 2016 Law for Building and Restoring Churches, which repealed Ottoman-era restrictions that made it almost impossible for churches to obtain a licence, forcing many congregations to worship illegally. At the time of writing, 2,526 out of the 3,730 churches that applied for registration have received licences, which leaves 1,204 awaiting processing.
The licensing authorities have worked closely with churches to improve fire safety measures following the tragic deaths of 41 people, including 18 children, in an accidental church blaze at Giza, near Cairo, in August 2022. President al-Sisi also pledged financial support for the bereaved and funding to reconstruct the church.
While attitudes are improving, some hostility towards Christians remains at local level, particularly in rural areas. In June 2022 Muslim extremists in al-Halla village, Luxor, attacked a church, which had operated peacefully as an unregistered place of worship since 2003, and the homes of Christians. The extremists were enraged after the church was granted a licence followed by the stationing of guards outside it (standard government procedure to protect registered churches).
Give thanks for the support of President al-Sisi, and the change of attitude from the authorities towards Christians. Ask for guidance for Judge Boulos in his role. Pray that harmony will be restored in al-Halla.