Twenty one (21) churches finally received letters from the Egyptian government granting them permission to start construction work, World Watch Monitor confirmed on Wednesday.
The Persecution watch dog reported that Mr Essam al-Bedeiwi, the Governor of Minya Governorate – Upper Egypt approved 21 applications over the last six months, noting that this came with some of the churches waiting for more than 20 years for a permit to come through.
A local source was quoted as saying that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is keen to “show the U.S. that Egypt is standing with the Christians and that there is no persecution in Minya governorate.”
Some analysts note that the approvals have preceded several visits by international evangelical delegations to Cairo, according to World Watch Monitor.
Over 70 churches in the Muslim dominant country have been looted, destroyed or severely damaged in bouts of sectarian violence, particularly since the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011.
The Egyptian parliament last year passed a long-awaited law codifying the rights of Christians to build and renovate churches in the majority Muslim country. But changing 160 years of religious subjugation at a time when sectarian violence is at a high across the region has been no smooth feat.
The country required leaders ensuring that on approval, the church is built at least 340 feet from the nearest mosque. Churches also cannot be built near schools, canals, government buildings or between residential areas as well as a rule stating that neighboring Muslims must grant permission.
Construction of churches in this country has been heavily regulated since 1856, when the country was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and Christians were forced to seek approval from the sultan to build.
Christians in Egypt currently make up just over 10 percent of the population, according to Fox News, making her home to about 2,600 churches in total. By comparison, Egypt has a mosque for every 620 Muslims.
By Paul W. Dennis.