The Cabinet-affiliated committee charged with looking into the status of unlicensed churches to grant them legality has on 2 December 2019 approved the legalisation of a new batch of churches and affiliated service buildings. Cabinet spokesperson Nader Saad said that the new batch comprises 87 places of worship, and is the 12th since the committee undertook its task more than two years ago according to the 2016 Law for Building and Restoring Churches.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli headed the Cabinet-affiliated committee meeting on 2 December; participating were the ministers of justice, local development, housing, and parliamentary affairs. Also attending were representatives of the Christian sects in Egypt.
The recent decision brings the number of churches and affiliated community centre buildings approved for legalisation up to 1322 buildings out of a total 3730 that had applied for legalisation according to the 2016 law. Legalisation becomes final only when the approved churches comply with provisions of structural soundness and civil defence conditions, and pay the required dues.
Mr Saad said that the committee, over which Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli presides, reviewed the work achieved since its last meeting on 22 October 2019. It also reviewed the civil defence conditions in the churches whose legalisation had already been approved, stressing the importance of fulfilling these requirements in order to protect lives and property. He said the civil defence building code had been modified to ease some conditions which the Church said had been too stringent.
For his part, Father Mikhail Antoun who represents the Coptic Orthodox Church, said that the church and Church-affiliated buildings approved for legality pending fulfillment of civil defence requirements have already gone a fair way towards complying with those requirements.
The Prime Minister stressed that churches that need to pay the State for State-owned land they were built upon should pay their dues, for legalisation to be final. The Church confirmed its absolute commitment to do so, especially since the PM agreed to arrange that large payments may be done in installments. This, the Church said, eases a lot of the burden.
Until the Law for Building and Restoring Churches was passed in Egypt in September 2016, it was next to impossible for Copts to obtain official licence to build or restore a church. Copts, who direly needed churches in view of the growing congregation and declining conditions of existing churches, thus resorted to circumventing the law and building churches without licence. The 2016 law includes provisions for legalising already existing unlicensed churches and church-affiliated buildings.
3 December 2019