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Egypt Makes Church Repairs Easier
Grant Swank Jr

“Safwat El Baiady, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told Compass Direct, a Christian news agency, that the decree ‘will solve almost 80 percent of our problems, rebuilding old churches, but we have to be very frank: It doesn’t solve all our problems.'”

Christians compose 7 to 10 million in Egypt , a primarily Muslim country.

It was an Ottomoan law going back to 1856 that governed if and when Christian church buildings could be repaired. It was the Hamayouni Decree.

Now Decree No. 291 does not necessitate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to grant repair requests. Previously, he had to personally approve of church repairs, even the simplest of repairs. Now the law has been updated.

That is because of standing requests and appeals and pleas from the Christian community over many years. Assisting the church community have been human rights groups attempting to lessen the discrimination against Christians in Egypt , according to Religion News Services’ Michele Chabin.

Now “the government with the decree has 30 days during which to approve church requests for renovations. Governors—the officials entrusted with making church-related decisions—must justify a rejection.”

In 2005, only 12 requests for church-related repairs were granted. This is recorded in the US State Department report for International Religious Freedom.

Ninety percent of Egypt ‘s Christian believers are Copts. They have consistently been discriminated against concerning church building renovations and building rights.

An example: “Jubilee Campaign, an interdenominational Christian human rights pressure group based in England , noted that permission has been denied for the last four years to build a toilet for St. Mary’s Church in El Kosai in Assiut Province .”

Further, as an example of purposefully blocking of Christian church presence in Egypt, Islamic fanatics have created “makeshift mosques near the site of planned churches or beside churches in need of repair, thereby giving the government a legal pretext for preventing construction or repair.”

Now one can understand all the more the following: “Safwat El Baiady, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, told Compass Direct, a Christian news agency, that the decree ‘will solve almost 80 percent of our problems, rebuilding old churches, but we have to be very frank: It doesn’t solve all our problems.'”