Christians in Egypt were ordered by police on 23 April to stop holding services in a building they have been using as a church, amid local reports of Muslims being stirred up to attack it because it was not licensed for worship.
The 1,500 Christian families in Mit-Nama, north of Cairo, had only recently bought the building and the closure leaves them with no other place to worship in the lead up to Easter Sunday on 28 April (when Orthodox Christians will be celebrating Easter).
Previous attempts by Christians to build a church on land they bought in 2001 had to be halted twice, once in 2001 and again in 2007, because of Muslim extremist attacks on workers at the site.
The Christians remain sceptical about police assurances that construction of the new church would be allowed to go ahead provided they agree to leave their present building.
Egyptian President al-Sisi’s government has continued the process of legalising all churches and church-affiliated buildings, approving 894 applications since the process began in 2017. However, progress is slow and 2,836 out of the 3,730 churches that originally applied for approval are still waiting for licences.
Barnabas Fund, barnabasfund.org