Over 1,000 churches have been legalized as a result of a constitutional change calling for greater religious freedom.
A governmental committee has screened and given legal approval for 1,109 churches since August 30, 2016, when a law was passed on construction and site management of worship.
“The committee is in charge of verifying whether thousands of Christian churches and places of prayer built in the past without the required authorizations meet the standards established by the new law,” explained the Fides News Agency. “In recent decades, many churches and chapels had been built spontaneously, without all the necessary authorizations. Even today, these buildings, built by local Christian communities without legal permits, continue from time to time to be used as an excuse by Islamist groups to foment sectarian violence against Christians.”
The development is seen as a step forward beyond a 1934 regulation prohibiting construction of new churches close to schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas. “In many cases, the strict application of those rules had prevented the construction of churches in cities and towns inhabited by Christians, especially in rural areas of Upper Egypt,” Fides said.
“Local Christian communities frequently ignored the 1934 law and built churches without government authorization,” said Vatican News. “Islamist groups sometimes used the ‘illegal’ churches as an excuse to provoke sectarian violence against Christians. To remedy the situation, Egypt’s 2014 Constitution (Article 325) ordered parliament to pass a law updating the 1934 rules ‘in a manner that guarantees the freedom to practice religious rituals for Christians.’”
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