Approval of Churches Amidst Turmoil

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St.Markos Church in Cairo, Egypt - Photo: Flickr / Andrew A. Shenouda https://www.flickr.com
Photo: Flickr / Andrew A. Shenouda (cc)

In April, it was reported that 74 applications had been approved, legalizing unlicensed churches across Egypt (read more). After the government committee met again on May 19th, a further 70 churches have been legalized, bringing the total to 1,638 since the committee was formed in January 2017. This leaves 2,000 further applications remaining for consideration.

Despite the positive action demonstrated by the government, local authorities in some areas continue to create problems. On May 20th, local authorities in Koum Al-Farag demolished a church building in response to sectarian protests. The one-story building had served as a place of worship for 15 years.

A few years ago, local Muslims constructed a mosque next door in an attempt to prevent the church building from being approved under the ongoing legalization process. When the church building was recently expanded to accommodate a growing congregation, tensions broke out between Christians and Muslims in the area. To prevent further escalation, local authorities demolished both the church building and the mosque. Fourteen Christians were arrested when they attempted to stop the destruction.

In consideration of the action taken, Mervyn Thomas from Christian Solidarity Worldwide described it as "not an effective way of addressing sectarian tensions." He went on to say that "the government must work with local authorities to formulate civic interventions that address and transform the societal attitudes underpinning sectarian tensions."

First of all, we thank God for the progress demonstrated by the Egyptian government in its endeavours to grant official approval despite the backlog of applications. Pray that the process will continue favourably, and hopefully even be expedited, so churches can receive their long-awaited legal status. Remember the people of Koum Al-Farag, as well as others who are facing sectarian tensions in their communities. May these citizens come to acknowledge that violence will not resolve their differences; for true peace and unity can only be achieved with God's love. Pray that He will give wisdom to the authorities as they work to resolve the issues underlying the tensions.