Egypt: Muslim mobs force closure of 8 Coptic churches seeking ‘official’ recognition

August 31, 2018

The Egyptian government is very slow to approve applications for the construction of new churches. This story illustrates why: when such applications are approved, mob violence often ensues.

Please continue to remember in your prayers our brothers and sisters of the Coptic Orthodox Christian Church in Egypt as they are persecuted for their Christian faith, and pray that the government and police provide them the assistance and protection they need to construct churches and worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in freedom and without fear.

“Egypt: Muslim mobs force closure of 8 Coptic churches seeking ‘official’ recognition,” World Watch Monitor, August 29, 2018:

A Coptic diocese in Upper Egypt last week saw its eighth church closed following attacks by villagers protesting against the church building being legally recognised.

Across Egypt, there are thousands of churches informally acknowledged as ‘churches’.

Exactly two years ago, the government introduced a new common law granting church buildings the same rights as mosques. About 3500 pre-existing ‘churches’ were waiting to be legalised at the time: some had been waiting for over 20 years. Discussions to redress the imbalance had fruitlessly been going on since the 1970s.

In January this year, Egypt’s Ministry of Housing announced that Christians are allowed to continue to meet in unlicensed churches, pending the legalisation process.

But in Luxor governorate alone, eight churches have had to be closed while seeking legalization, Gamil Ayed, a Christian lawyer in the city of Esna, told World Watch Monitor.

“We haven’t heard that a mosque was closed down or the prayer was stopped in it because it was unlicensed. Is that justice? Where is the equality? Where is the religious freedom? Where is the law? Where are the state’ institutions?” he added.

Coptic political researcher Karim Kamal said in January, “The issue of unlicensed churches is not a problem from the state, governors, the Ministry of Interior or housing. The real problem lies in the ultra-conservative Islamists in some villages in rural and Upper Egyptian governorates, who fuel tensions over small unlicensed churches to pressure security officials into closing these churches to prevent sectarian strife,” he told the Egyptian news site AhramOnline….

The Virgin Mary and St. Mohrael Coptic Orthodox church in El-Zeniqa, 60 kms south of the city of Luxor, had to close its doors on 22 August, while Copts were celebrating the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.