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04/22/2022 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Nine Christians who participated in a peaceful protest to rebuild their church in January 2022 remain imprisoned. In 2016, St. Joseph and Abu Sefein Church were destroyed in a fire. Egyptian authorities permitted the congregation to demolish the building, which was completed in July 2021. However, despite multiple requests, the church has not been allowed to be rebuilt.

The Coptic Christians of Ezbet Faragallah village protested in January of this year, requesting that they be permitted to rebuild and continue worship as they used to. Nine Christians were arrested about a week later and held incommunicado for 48 hours at a National Security Agency facility. Those arrested were blindfolded, handcuffed, and interrogated without any lawyers present. International Christian Concern, Amnesty International, and many other organizations have called for the immediate release of the Christians.

St. Joseph and Abu Sefein was the only church in the village where religious services were held. Egypt’s delay in granting permission to rebuild violates the Church Building Law No. 60 of 2016, which stipulates a four-month decision period. As of October 2021, only 1,958 churches and buildings received legalization. Nearly six years after the law was introduced, more than 5,540 Christian buildings lacked proper status. Authorities have also not allowed new churches to be built, with the exception of new desert cities, which are subject to different rules. Without a proper place to worship, Christians are discriminated against and left without their freedom of belief and expression.

An Amnesty International director commented, “For too long, the religious freedom [for Coptic Christians] has been undermined by discriminatory laws and practices, which place undue restrictions on the construction and renovation of churches and grant unbridled power to governors and security forces to make decisions over church repairs.”

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