Egypt legalises more churches, but even PM thinks process is too slow

10 April 2019

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Another 111 churches and church-affiliated buildings were legalised in Egypt early in April but the Prime Minister, Mustafa Madbouli, has told the committee overseeing the process that it needs to get a move on.

The latest batch of churches to gain legal status is 45 fewer than the 156 granted approval on 5 March, bringing the total now approved by the committee to 894. The Prime Minister has told the committee it needs to speed up the work it began in 2017 and clear the backlog of unlicensed church buildings as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli has told off the committee legalising churches in Egypt for being too slow

This is the seventh batch of churches to meet safety and civil defence standards laid down under the Law for Building and Restoring Churches introduced in September 2016, but the process remains agonisingly slow.

It means that 2,836 churches or church-affiliated buildings out of the original 3,730 that applied after the law was introduced are still awaiting approval.

It is not the first time the Cabinet-affiliated committee in charge of the process has been given a dressing down by the government. Early in 2018 the previous Egyptian Prime Minister, Sherif Ismail, called for the process to be “sped up”.

Since coming to power in 2014, Egypt’s President al-Sisi has treated Christians more favourably and his government has passed laws making it easier to build new churches, reversing restrictions from the Ottoman era. However, Christian communities regularly face violence at a local level and church buildings are often targeted by Muslim mobs, especially those which are unregistered or newly registered. Muslim-dominated Egypt has a substantial Christian minority, which is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back to the first century, and pre-dating Islam by some 500 years.

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