A total of 3,510 Egyptian church buildings are still awaiting confirmation of official registration from authorities nearly two years after the government passed a landmark law which abolished draconian Ottoman-era restrictions on Christian places of worship.
In 2016, the Egyptian parliament approved a new law removing a long-standing restriction on the construction of church buildings and in 2017 a committee was set up to review the status of thousands of unlicensed churches. Because church building permits were previously so difficult to obtain, some congregations had no option but to worship in unlicensed buildings, and some had been doing so for many years.
The committee set up to assess church registration applications was created in May 2017, with its first meeting in October 2017, and has so far only approved 220 (5.8%) of the 3,730 applications.
At a local level, Christians continue to experience violent opposition to attempts to get official recognition for church buildings, even when congregations have been meeting in the same location for a number of years.
On 24 August, Muslims in the village of Sultan Basha, around 150 miles south of Cairo, uprooted Christians’ crops after police intervened to stop a mob damaging a church building which is awaiting registration. The building had been openly purchased by the Christian community in 2006 and Muslim villagers have even attended Christian weddings there.
One week later, a Muslim mob attacked Christian homes in the village of Demshaw Hashem in Minya governorate, claiming that a house was being used as a church. The attackers “stole quantities of jewellery and money, destroyed household appliances and set fire to property”. Two Christians were also stabbed in the head and face. Police subsequently detained 38 Muslims and are understood to be pursuing charges for 19 of those arrested.