03/09/2019 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – On Tuesday, the Egyptian government legalized 156 churches, bringing the total to 783. More than 3,700 churches have sought legalization since Egypt passed a new law in 2016 which purported to streamline the legalization process.
The churches thus far legalized are not new buildings, but rather churches which have operated illegally prior to 2016. Reports indicate that since the law’s enactment, the approval of new church building projects have actually slowed considerably.
President Sisi has faced a combination of both praise and criticism for his leadership regarding religious freedom. Some Christians see the legalization of 783 churches as an improvement. Others, however, point to a contradictory narrative. For example, the government will not approve new churches, but will build the largest church in the Middle East in a location where no Christians live.
The persecution of Christians in Egypt has increased during the tenure of President Sisi, who has used this as an opportunity to declare a state of emergency that has enable him to further seize powers and solidify his rule. His administration has come under heavy criticism of human rights violations.