Under the title “Back to legalising unlicensed churches”, I wrote earlier this month reviewing the latest decision by the Cabinet committee charged with looking into the legalisation of unlicensed churches and Church affiliated community service buildings. The last Cabinet decision approved legalisation of a 17th batch of such buildings, comprising 45 churches and 55 community service buildings. This brought the number of buildings approved for legalisation since the Cabinet committee started its task on 28 September 2017, up to 1738 out of 3730 buildings that had applied for legality ahead the deadline set by the September 2016 law for Building and Restoring Churches, representing 47 percent of the total. Legalisation becomes final only when the approved buildings comply with provisions of structural soundness and civil defence conditions, prove unequivocal ownership of the land they stand on, and pay the required dues.
In its current issue, Watani prints the detailed lists included in the Cabinet decision approving legalisation of the 17th batch of churches and service buildings. The 100 buildings approved were divided into five sets according to the condition of the building.
The first set includes the churches and community buildings unconditionally approved for legalisation. These have fulfilled all the requirements stipulated by the administrative bylaws of the Law for Building and Restoring Churches, and have no pending conditions or paper requirements to fulfil. This set includes 44 churches and service buildings in the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Menoufiya, Beheira, Port Said, Fayoum, Minya, Qena, Suhag, the Red Sea and South Sinai.
The second set includes 46 churches and service buildings approved for legalisation provided dues owed to the State are paid, and indisputable proof of land ownership is furnished. These 46 buildings are in Cairo, Giza, Qalyubiya, Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Beheira, Fayoum, Minya, Luxor, the Red Sea and South Sinai governorates.
The third set involves five churches and community centres approved for legalisation provided their buildings, which were found to be structurally unsound, are restored. These five buildings are in Sharqiya and Daqahliya.
The fourth set includes four churches and service buildings in Ismailiya, Minya and Sohag. Their legality hinges on paying State dues and submitting indisputable proof of land ownership, also on demolition and rebuilding on account of structural unsoundness.
Only one church is on the fifth set; it is in Sohag, and its legality hinges on paying State dues, submitting indisputable proof of land ownership, and undergoing reconstruction on account of being currently structurally unsound.
In summation, the details of the most recent Cabinet decision reveal that apart from the 44 buildings the legality of which was unconditionally approved, the 56 buildings on the four other sets were granted only conditional approval of legality pending fulfilment of administrative, financial or technical requirements. Accordingly, the preliminary count of these buildings among the 47 per cent of buildings approved for legality is only nominal, given that their legality status is not yet final. In this context, it is very important to follow up on the cases granted conditional legality, to observe how far they proceed in completing the procedures required or conducting the necessary works of restoration, demolition or reconstruction. Only then can we confirm that all the churches and service buildings which had applied for legality have moved from “illegal” to “conditionally legal” and on to “fully legal”. Once again, I invite those in charge of all the buildings that were granted conditional legality to inform Watani of the development and progress of the conditions of their buildings, in order for us to create a realistic tally of the churches and Church affiliated buildings that were fully legalised.
20 November 2020