The Egyptian parliament should affirm equality and freedom of religion, a US-based Coptic group has said, urging Egypt to “abandon the historically systematic discrimination against Copts”.

“Draconian stipulations, related to the historical condition of Dhimmitude, make construction or even renovation of a church in Egypt a near impossibility,” Coptic Solidarity (CS) added.

‘Dhimmitude’ refers to conditions non-Muslims have historically had to endure in order to safeguard a second-class existence under the rule of Islam.

“Over the past decades, the number of new churches averaged a paltry two per year. In spite of the growth in the number of Copts over the years, the total number of the churches of all denominations does not exceed 2,600, or about one church for every 5,500 Christian citizens,” a CS statement on 4 August said.

Copts in Egypt and abroad have expressed concern that the pledge to prioritise the issue in the new parliament (inaugurated in January 2016), has not been honoured.

“Not only is this an issue of insufficient places of worship for Egypt’s Christians, but it has become a flashpoint and a cause for repeated violence by fundamentalist Islamists against the Copts who dare to exercise their basic right of freedom to worship,” said the group, adding it “demonstrates the extent of discrimination against Copts in Egypt, which has escalated lately to an almost daily occurrence.”