FILE – Church cross against the sky – Public Domain Pictures/Peter Griffin
CAIRO – 9 January 2019: Egypt’s Ministry of Housing has issued decisions to allocate lands to establish 37 churches in various new cities since 2014, Walid Abbas, assistant housing minister revealed.
In an interview with Egypt Today, Abbas said that the government’s New Urban Communities Authority ordered allocating lands for 30 churches in different new cities from 2014 to 2017.
He added that the authority also approved establishing other seven churches in new cities in 2018, besides the Church of Nativity, the Middle East’s biggest church that has been inaugurated in full on Sunday evening in Egypt’s New Administrative Capital.
Abbas said that the ministry has approved establishing churches in Qalyubia’s Obour, Fayoum, Red Sea’s New Thebes, New Cairo, New Obour, Giza’s 6th of October city, October Gardens, 10th of Ramadan city, Sharqia’s Saleheyah, New Asyut, New Aswan, Helwan’s 15th of May city, Badr city, New Souhag, New Qena, Menoufia’s Sadat city and the New Administrative Capital.
The authority attaches great importance to all the requests submitted by the Copts to establish churches within the new cities, Abbas said, pointing out that it facilitates procedures to issue licenses directly after the allocation decisions.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas inaugurated on Sunday Al-Fattah al-Alim Mosque and the Cathedral of Milad al-Masih (Nativity) which reportedly accommodates 8,000 people.
"This moment is important in the history of Egypt, because two years ago in [Saint Mark's Coptic Orthodox] Cathedral in [Cairo's} Abbassia, I told the Pope (Tawadros II) that next year we will celebrate in the new cathedral. We [already] celebrated the first phase and today we celebrate in full," Sisi stated.
"We need to be aware that the strife will not end, but [we have to have] vigilance and awareness," Sisi stated, adding that Egypt is building 14 cities and embedding mosques and churches inside them.
The committee concerned with legalizing unlicensed churches announced in December legalizing as many as 80 churches and church-affiliated service buildings.
Approving licensing the churches came at a meeting headed by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly. Currently, the total number of regularized churches and their affiliated service buildings amounts to 588.
Nader Saad, Cabinet spokesman, said in a statement that the committee reviewed the outcome of legalizing the status of unlicensed churches nationwide over the past period.
The Cabinet’s decision comes according to 2016's article number 80 in Egypt’s law regarding regulating and building churches. Antiquities and parliament affairs ministers as well as representatives of relevant bodies participated in the meeting.
In October, 76 churches and 44 affiliated buildings were licensed.
It was stated in February, during the term of former Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, that in accordance with the country’s constitution that adopts “the right to practice religious rites within the different worship houses,” approval was given to study the cases of 53 churches along with several affiliated buildings to be legalized and licensed officially during the Cabinet’s next meeting.
Several conditions were laid in the statement for the churches to be finally recognized by the government as legal religious buildings. These conditions include meeting the requirements for civil protection within a period of four months, as well as fulfilling all the state's rights regarding the rationing of land on which such buildings are built.
The approval may be withdrawn if the buildings do not finish civil protection facilities in four months.