The Egyptian Government Tolerates New Churches

August 31, 2021
] Church of El Qseir, Egypt

“In July and August 2021, the Egyptian government confirmed that a further 76 churches and buildings owned by the church comply with the regulations for the construction of Christian houses of worship and the associated service buildings.”

This time the declaration of conformity concerned 27 Christian houses of worship and 49 associated buildings. The new list of “approved” churches and ecclesiastical buildings has been published in the Official Gazette.

The certificate of conformity of these constructions was approved by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, on the basis of the verifications made by the Government Commission created ad hoc to implement the general amnesty for Christian places of worship built in recent decades without the necessary governmental and administrative authorizations.

On July 25, the committee in charge of the project announced its verdict on the legal conformity of the newly approved churches and buildings.

The Council of Ministers’ decision to "legalize" definitively these buildings was taken on August 9. This brings to 1,958 the number of churches and auxiliary buildings approved since the beginning of the process of legalization of Christian places of worship which were built in the past without the necessary permits.

The verification and adjustment process began with the adoption of the new law on the construction and management of places of worship, ratified by the Egyptian parliament on August 30, 2016. Since then, the government committee created for this purpose has met 20 times and each time has approved the legalization of churches and buildings belonging to the Church, which up to that time were considered to be totally or partially non- authorized by law.

The previous approval of the government committee for the legalization of churches, chapels and ecclesiastical properties dates from April 12, 2020 and affected 82 buildings, including places of worship and adjacent buildings.

The churches examined by the competent government committee are mainly those constructed before the new law on the construction of Christian houses of worship came into force.

The Committee is responsible for verifying whether thousands of Christian churches and places of worship, built in the past without the required permits, meet the standards set by the new law. The control generally leads to the regularization of places of worship.

In recent decades, many churches and chapels have been constructed spontaneously throughout Egypt, without the necessary permits. Even today, such buildings, erected by local Christian

communities without legal permission, continue from time to time to serve as a pretext for sectarian violence.

The August 2016 law on places of worship represented an objective step forward for the Christian communities of Egypt compared to the “10 rules” added in 1934 to the Ottoman legislation by the Ministry of the Interior, which prohibited in particular the construction of new churches near schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas.

In many cases, the strict application of these rules has prevented the construction of churches in the towns and villages inhabited by Christians, especially in the rural areas of Upper Egypt.