A Permit to Pray: Part 2
In case you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.
03/21/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “As of November 2018, al-Sisi’s government only issued eight permits for building new churches under a new church construction law. That is a pittance for a Christian population in the neighborhood of 10 million people,” said Andrew Miller, the Deputy Director for the Project on Middle East Democracy. According to a recent report, this number is actually lower than what occurred under former President Hosni Mubarak.
The sluggishness of approving new churches stems from components within the 2016 law that reinforce the state’s treatment of churches as a security issue. The law says that an application may be denied for any security reason, and the presence of churches should be proportional to the Christian population. However, since the Christian population is considered a security secret, it is impossible to meet this particular condition.
The security issues which can prevent a church from opening are not defined, and such vagueness causes a number of problems with applications. Felipe of Forn village shared with ICC how this has impacted his church. “It is the second church; the first is an Orthodox church in the village. We suffered to build this church. We faced resistance from the extremist Muslim youth for two months when the building operations were ongoing. They attacked the church.”
He continued, “Also through this time, the government was resisting us; they didn’t approve our official papers. But after about two months, the church was opened in 2018. Now we are very happy and have two churches in the village.”
The Christians in Forn village were fortunate that their church was eventually approved. But as the data shows, many other Christians are not as fortunate.
Sisi has stood on the steps of a new church, located in a place where Christians do not live, and delivered a message of support for Christians in the face of sectarianism. If he is truly serious, more must be done to protect their right to freedom of worship in places where Christians live.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org