Egypt approved on July 1, 2019 the legalization of 127 churches and church-affiliated service buildings in the country, making the total number of registered places of worship to 1,021 since the implementation of a new law in 2016, reports Egypt Independent.
Nader Saad, spokesperson for the Egyptian Cabinet, said Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly presided the committee’s meeting. The committee has been reviewing applications for church legalization since April. The buildings were assessed if they met the safety and civil defense standards under the new Law for Building and Restoring Churches.
Registering a church in Egypt is criticized for its inefficiency. Out of 3,730 churches and affiliated-buildings that applied for government recognition, 2,863 are still waiting for approval.
Madbouly said unregistered churches and affiliated buildings must not be “disposed of.” He ordered the Cabinet committee last April to speed up the licensing process for places of worship and clear the backlog of unlicensed church buildings, reports Barnabas Fund.
Egypt is a predominantly-Muslim country and has a one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Open Doors ranked the country as #16 in its World Watch List.
In recent years, Christians live a more favorable life in Egypt under the leadership of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to power in 2014, compared to previous administrations.
The president made a public commitment to protect Christians, but the continuous persecution of Christians, both by the government and Muslim extremists made Christians cautious and vulnerable. Muslim militants are reported to be attacking unlicensed and newly registered churches making it difficult for Christians to find a place to worship.
Despite the hurdles Christians face, people feel that the process for legalizing churches in Egypt seems to be gaining speed.