Church building in village in the southern part of Egypt. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Churches in Egypt’s rural communities often cause controversy. Even the rumours of a church being built have sometimes led Muslim villagers to riot. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

A cabinet committee met on Monday 8 October to start work on the legalisation of unlicensed churches, following the approval by Egypt’s parliament of a law relating to the building and renovating of churches, reports the Egypt Independent.

Andrea Zaki, President of the Protestant Community of Egypt, said there was a willingness to “cooperate in discussing requests and speed up procedures” following the adoption in August last year of the law governing the construction and renovation of churches, a contentious issue for both the country’s Christian minority and Islamists.

Christian MPs, rights workers and researchers condemned the proposed law as an attempt to pacify Christians in the name of public order, while not effecting real change.

The Coptic Orthodox Church also protested, calling the law “a danger to Egypt’s national unity” because it did not remove certain restrictions and therefore did not “consider Egyptian Christian citizens’ equal rights”.

In preparation for the committee’s meeting, the Church collected 2,650 requests from parishes waiting for a permit or license to renovate or build.

According to church sources, Coptic Pope Tawadros II “was keen to set up a permanent church committee to examine the cases [of churches applying for permits]”.

It is hoped the new bill will remove a host of hurdles which often make building a church impossible.

World Watch Monitor has reported regularly about Coptic communities being denied the right to build a church and also how, in rural communities, rumours about the building of a new church have sometimes caused Muslims to riot.