Egyptian Government Acknowledges Plight Of Christians But Is The Response Sufficient?

09/01/2021 Egypt (International Christian Concern) –  The Egyptian government has recently commented twice giving nods towards its Christian minority population. In one instance, on August 9, 76 more churches and church buildings have been approved for legal use of Christian worship. In another, according to a reporter, President Sisi expressed a desire to remove religion from the national ID cards. Both efforts acknowledge that Egyptian Christians face discrimination in varying ways, but perhaps are insufficient to address deeper issues, though at face value are laudable actions.

In 2017 the review process began to legalize churches after a 2016 law that prohibited the construction of new churches close to schools, canals, government buildings, railways, and residential areas. Prior to the August approvals, the last round of church approvals occurred on April 12, 2020 and permitted 82 church buildings to operate legally. With this latest round, there are 1,958 licensed churches out of 3,730. The nod to Egyptian Christians and their legal rights is a good step, but perhaps insufficient.

President Sisi’s reported comment of potentially removing the religion portion on national ID cards presents a similar issue. “While welcome, it’s the lowest cost way to give a win to Christians while failing to address structural sectarianism they face,” reporter Timothy Kaldas commented. Many Egyptian Christians would welcome the removal from the ID cards, but in practice, the change would unlikely cause any decrease in sectarian discrimination against them. Christians who are not Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) are easily identifiable outside of the religion listed on their ID cards by their names. Muslims and Christians are often easily distinguishable by their full names, inciting a question about the true impact of the national IDs categorization. Other religious minorities, such as Bahai’s and nonbelievers would likely benefit from this change more so than Christians, as a member of the Abrahamic faiths acknowledged by the government.

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