In Egypt, a special committee is scheduled to meet which would review requests for legalizing unlicensed churches which had been pending prior to the 2016 adoption of a law which restructured the approval process of new churches. This is the first time that the committee will meet. Although the 2016 law sought to improve the approval process for construction and licensure of churches, the process is still fraught with numerous difficulties. In particular, churches are routinely closed by local authorities under the pretext that their presence may incite sectarian strife. Consequently, hundreds of Egyptian Christians are denied the opportunity to exercise their right to worship.
10/09/2017 Egypt (Egypt Independent) – A committee to consider the legalization of unlicensed churches, formed by the cabinet in Egypt, is scheduled to meet on Monday with representatives from different Christian communities, informed sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The meeting is the first for the committee with an agenda to review the papers and requests for legalizing unlicensed churches, worship houses and all the places of prayer, since before the adoption of the law on church buildings last year, head of the Evangelical Church Andrea Zaki said in statements to Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Zaki added that there is cooperation to discuss requests and speed up process procedures, according to the law. He explained that the papers needed with requests include property contracts, engineering drawings, etc.
The Coptic Orthodox Church has collected 2,650 requests from all the parishes, all of which meet the requirements, church sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
The sources added that Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Tawadros II, was keen to set up a church committee to examine the cases of churches and continue it permanently.
Egypt’s parliament passed the church building and renovation law on August of last year, after discussions between Coptic Church leaders and government officials led to an agreed upon a draft.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) described the law as discriminatory against Christians due to various stipulations that maintain, “restrictions over the construction and renovation of churches.”
In Sohag governorate, People of Najaa Rizq Shenouda village in the Tahta district, said that they are about 3,500 citizens and are waiting to build a church for them on the land allocated for it since 1971, pointing out that they have submitted more than 30 requests to the Interior Ministry and the Sohag Security Directorate for building the church during the past 46 years, but all in vain.
Lawyer Zakariya Gerges, legal representative of the people said that despite the adoption of the church building law last year, it did not solve the church building crisis.
He added that on December 29, he submitted a new request to build the church in the village, with all the required documents and drawings for the building included. After more than nine months, the governor of Sohag refuses to issue the building permit for no clear reason, however the legal period to decide on a request is four months.