The government of Egypt legalized 125 churches and their adjacent buildings, which until now functioned without a permit for use, Al-Ahram reported. This brings the total number of Christian churches and service buildings granted legal status to 2,526, said cabinet spokesman Nader Saad. There are 5,540 requests for the legalization of temple buildings.
Egypt’s parliament voted a law on the construction and renovation of Christian churches in 2016. A year later, a government commission chaired by the prime minister was established to legalize church buildings in accordance with the new regulations. It involves representatives of the Christian community, several ministries, as well as the security services, intelligence services and the state regulator.
The new legislation replaces a 1934 law that required the construction of a new Christian church to meet ten requirements, including not being close to schools, canals, government buildings, railway lines and even residential areas, according to a Vatican News publication. “. Under the old rules, building permits were issued only by presidential decree.
In practice, these strict requirements make the construction of new churches impossible. However, Christian communities in Egypt often violate them and build temples without permission.
To solve this problem, Egypt’s 2014 constitution included Article 325, which mandated the adoption of a new law guaranteeing the freedom of religious practice for Christians.
Between 2014 and 2017, the Egyptian authorities allocated plots for the construction of thirty churches in newly built cities, and in 2018 for another eight. Among them is the largest Christian temple in the Middle East – “Nativity” in the new administrative capital, which was opened at the beginning of 2019. Egypt’s head of state, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, has made religious freedom and the protection of Christians one of the slogans of his policy.
Christians are estimated to be over ten percent of Egypt’s population, or over ten million. About 95 percent of them belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. In 2016 and 2017, several cruel and bloody attacks were committed against the Christian minority in the country. A military court sentenced 17 people to death in connection with the attacks, but daily outbreaks of violence and discrimination against the Christian minority continue.