On 16 April the Egyptian cabinet met to consider the legalisation of 102 unlicensed Christian churches and 64 church-related service buildings throughout the country. Adding to the 53 churches that were given legality in February. Local news sources confirm approval was granted to the churches in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.
Prime Minister Ismail has taken a close interest in proceedings, ordering studies to be carried out on legal and technical issues for a number of churches. He stressed the importance of coordination between authorities to speed up decisions on the status of thousands of non-legalised churches still awaiting registration.
However, severe delays to approving church buildings continue. A local lawyer commented, “There is total frustration among Christians because of the failure of the government to legalise the churches.”
Despite the Egyptian government’s announcement in 2017 that Christians would be officially allowed to use unlicensed buildings without penalty pending formal recognition, a court in Atfih imposed a large fine on the owner of an unlicensed church building in January this year.
After the repeal of Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings in 2016, it was announced that Christians would be allowed to meet freely in registered buildings. However, protracted processing times for registration has meant that many growing congregations have no option but to worship illegally in unlicensed buildings.
International human rights group Human Rights Watch described the law as discriminatory against Christians due to various stipulations that maintain fundamental “restrictions over the construction and renovation of churches”.