04/20/2018, 19.11
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Government authorises 166 illegal church properties

Christian communities will be able to complete the necessary red tape in four months. Egypt wants to improve the legal framework in which freedom of worship is exercised. The new step touches 102 churches and 64 places of prayer. Some 3,500 places of worship should follow.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - The Egyptian government has approved a plan to legalise at least 166 Church assets across the country, thus showing its support for the country’s Christian minority, which has been the recent victim of brutal attacks by extremist Islamic groups.

According to Egypt Today, the Egyptian government has approved legislation proposed by a committee established last year to vet Christian requests to legalise their places of worship. The committee was set up under a law passed in 2016 to protect Christian churches.

"The legal statuses of 166 churches and service buildings in several provinces around Egypt have been approved taking into consideration that all the requirements will be met within four months," said a cabinet statement.

The legislation is meant to respect “the provisions of the law and the constitution to give all Egyptians the right to perform [their] religious rites."

In January, the country's housing minister, Mostafa Madbouly, who was acting prime minister at the time, expedited the decision process for all the applications submitted. In all, Egyptian authorities received some 3,730 Church applications for legalisation.

A total of 102 churches and 64 church service buildings are slated for legal status as a result of Monday’s cabinet meeting.

According to official data, around 15 million Christians live in Egypt. Before the 2016 reform, for them getting official approval to build their places of worship was very hard. In 2011, there were under 2,900 churches against 108,000 mosques.

The Coptic Orthodox Church has at least 2,500 active applications on behalf of various parishes, some going back more than 150 years.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is one of the main backers of the new law that legalises Christian places of worship. He made religious freedom and the defence of Christians one of the issues of the recent electoral campaign, which saw him win a second mandate. 

Recently, an Egyptian military court imposed the death sentence on 36 radical Islamists and jihadists accused of involvement in terrorist attacks against three churches and a police checkpoint.

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