Egypt

Coptic Easter among closed churches, "condoned" places of worship and rumors of thwarted attacks

Cairo (Agenzia Fides) - The Egyptian government has accepted the indications of the follow-up committee which in recent days had certified the full compliance of other 74 churches and ecclesiastical buildings with the rules on the construction of Christian places of worship currently in force in the Country. Thus the number of churches and ecclesiastical buildings condoned since the process of "legalization" of Christian places of worship built in the past without the necessary authorizations rises to 1568.

The list of new Christian places of worship and condoned ecclesiastical properties was also disseminated in the Egyptian media last Monday, while Coptic Christian communities prepare to celebrate Easter on Sunday 19 April (according to the Julian calendar) without being able to access churches, due security measures put in place to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.

In Egypt, the beginning of Holy Week was disturbed by information filtered by security services, according to which a cell of terrorists killed on Tuesday 14 April in gunfights with police apparatuses in the area of al Amiriya (suburbs of Cairo) were preparing to carry out attacks against Coptic objectives in conjunction with the Easter celebrations.

The process of verification and regularization of churches and ecclesiastical buildings erected in the past without the required permits began with the approval of the new law on the construction and management of places of worship, ratified by the Egyptian Parliament on August 30, 2016.

The churches subject to scrutiny by the ad hoc governmental committee are mainly those built before the new law on the construction of Christian buildings of worship entered into force. The Committee is responsible for checking 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.
In the past 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 to be used occasionally as a pretext by Islamist groups to foment sectarian violence against Christians.

The law on places of worship of August 2016 represented an objective step forward for Egyptian Christian communities compared to the so-called "10 rules" added in 1934 to the Ottoman legislation by the Ministry of the Interior, which also banned the construction of new churches close to schools, canals, government buildings, railways and residential areas. In many cases, the rigid application of those rules had prevented the construction of churches in cities and towns inhabited by Christians, especially in the rural areas of Upper Egypt.

Source: fides.org

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