Egyptian Christians will be officially permitted to hold meetings in unlicensed buildings, pending their formal recognition as places of worship, following a decision by the government’s Ministry of Housing.
Ottoman-era restrictions on church building were officially abolished in 2016, but requests for the formal registration of 2,600 buildings as places of worship are still pending. A committee was set up to review applications in January 2017.
Karim Kamal, a Coptic political researcher and president of Copts for the Nation, welcomed the announcement, but stated that “The real problem lies in the ultra-conservative Islamists in some villages in rural and Upper Egyptian governorates, who fuel tensions over small unlicensed churches to pressure security officials into closing these churches to prevent sectarian strife.”
In November, four churches in Minya were shut down by authorities over “security concerns” following attacks on churches by Islamists.