Egypt: Where Even Official Permits Can’t Help Churches


Church of Saint Simon, Muquattam, Cairo, Egypt Photo: Diego Delso [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Church of Saint Simon, Muquattam, Cairo, Egypt
Photo: Diego Delso via Wikimedia Commons

Security forces in Upper Egypt recently arrested 10 Coptic Christians for trying to build a wall around a piece of vacant land in order to expand their current church into the territory or possibly even build a church.

A church already exists in the village of Abu Hannas in Samalout, Minya; but, according to Father Stephanous Shehata, the current church, named after the martyr, Saint Abu Maqqar, is too small to serve the large Christian population of the village.  So the church purchased an unused piece of land next to it in the hopes of expanding the current church or building another.  The 10 Christians were arrested while attempting to build the wall, pending an investigation.

Islamic law, or Sharia, bans the renovation of existing Christian churches and the building of new ones.  Accordingly, in Egypt, building, expanding, or even renovating churches is extremely difficult.  The first hurdle is the government; it often takes many years to get permits.  Once and if a permit is issued, Christian minorities must then face angry Muslim mobs, who often go on rampages, including against existing churches.

For example, one month earlier, another church under construction in Minya was attacked by a mob consisting of at least 400 Muslims believed to have been incited by local officials.   After the attack, and although the church had obtained the necessary permits required for construction, it was closed by officials. source Raymond Ibrahim

Further explaining the church attack above, the nearly 3,000 Coptic Christians in Swada village comprise about 35% of the village, yet there isn’t a Coptic Orthodox church in the village. There is one evangelical church, but the nearest Coptic Orthodox church is more than 8 km from the village.

The Eshhad Project explains Egypt’s church construction law and it’s discriminatory affect for Christians in Egypt, which is a violation of domestic and international law.  While Coptic Christians face this hardship, an underground church leader told Voice of the Persecuted, “Those who have converted to Christianity have an even harder time and worship in secret”. He also shared that the underground church movement was rapidly expanding in Egypt. He explained in they’re mission alone, nearly 10 new ‘underground churches’ were planted in the past year with plans of over 20 more.  He asked for prayers of protection and the ability to get the needed materials to train pastors, as more and more Muslims become believers in Christ.

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