Last year, when a church in the village of Madamoud, east of Luxor, was discovered to be on fire, local Muslims assisted their Christian neighbours to put out the blaze. It was a rare example of Muslim support for the Christian minority, in a country where the presence of Christian places of worship is resented and sometimes violently opposed. There were multiple attacks on churches, or buildings rumoured to be converted into churches, in the last year. Although occasional arrests were made, Christian communities were also forced into one-sided “reconciliation” meetings with local Muslim leaders.
The overthrow of Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammad Morsi, in 2013 was followed by increased violence against Christians and the destruction of some 60 church buildings. President al-Sisi promised in January 2016 to rebuild those churches that were attacked and at the time of writing most if not all had been completed. There was further positive news for Christians in August 2016 with the passing of new laws governing the construction of churches, which were previously strictly regulated by a law dating back to the Ottoman Empire; the new legislation makes it easier to get approval to build a church, although the size of buildings is restricted.
Christians still face at times violent abuse and attacks, in addition to discrimination in employment. However, the new constitution introduced by President al-Sisi does formally protect freedom of belief and Christians’ right to practise their faith. In December, a suicide bomb at a church service in Cairo killed 27 Christians, mostly women. President al-Sisi declared three days of national mourning, and ordered the army to repair the building.
Praise God that the government of President al-Sisi continues to support and protect Christians. Pray that local authorities will implement the new laws governing church building and will deal favourably with believers looking to establish places of worship. Pray for continued protection for Christians from Muslim extremist violence, especially for converts from Islam and believers living in northern Sinai who face attacks by IS militants.