Egypt: Coptic Christians Protest Delayed Church Construction Permit

February 3, 2022

There are thousands of applications for permits to build churches that have not yet been approved. Christians encounter opposition from government officials as well as local non-Christians. The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its 2020 Annual Report, notes that “In 2019, the Cabinet committee charged with implementing the registration of informal churches and church-related buildings under Law 80/2016 made some limited progress in approving applications—a process for which Coptic Orthodox and Protestant leaders alike have expressed their support, including Pope Tawadros II. The committee had approved only 627 applications by the end of 2018; in 2019, it cleared an additional 725—bringing the total to 1,412 approved applications, or just over 25 percent of 5,515 currently in process.”

This is, however, not as encouraging as it sounds, as “most of these approvals have been conditional, pending security, safety, and other forms of review; only around 200 church properties have received final approvals for registration. Furthermore, this progress has only taken place for preexisting, de facto churches, mainly for rural Christian communities that had no other access to local places of worship. The governing authorities have issued few to no permits for new churches in previously inhabited communities while shuttering around 25 churches since the passage of the law, including several in 2019. At its root, Law 80/2016 also avoids addressing the long-term, systematic disparity between religious communities. Muslim worshippers face no such registration restrictions, so even with the recent church approvals, there is approximately one mosque for every 820 Muslims and one church for every 2,430 Christians—roughly a 320 percent disparity.”

There are around 300,000 Greek Orthodox Christians in Egypt; like our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters, they suffer sporadic persecution, discrimination, and harassment, as well as official obstacles to the building of churches.We remain in prayer for all the Christians in Egypt as their difficulties continue.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Egypt, see here.

“Coptic Christians Protest Delayed Church Construction Permit,” International Christian Concern, January 31, 2022:

01/31/2022 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Coptic Christians in Egypt’s Minya Governorate peacefully demonstrated requesting that the appeal for the reconstruction of their demolished church be granted. St. Joseph and Abu Sefein Church in Ezbet Faragallah was destroyed in 2016 when a fire broke out due to unknown causes and later demolished in July 2021. The church congregation immediately requested a permit to rebuild and has received no response.

After the church was severely damaged in the fire, the leadership applied for a permit for demolition, which was granted. To date, the church has received no response or permission to rebuild the church, despite the fact that Egypt’s Church Building Law No. 60 of 2016 stipulates a four-month decision period.

In protest, about 70 congregants gathered in peaceful protest in the diocese and chanted “we want to build a church” and “we want to pray”. Those seeking to worship in church now must visit churches in surrounding villages for Sunday school classes for children and prayers.

Human Rights Watch recently submitted observations and questions ahead of the UN Human Rights Committee review of Egypt and included the discriminatory 2016 church-building law. As of October 2021, only 1,958 churches and buildings received legalization. Nearly six years later, more than 5,540 Christian buildings lack proper status. Authorities have also not allowed for new churches to be built, with the exception of new desert cities which are subject to different rules….