Christians in Egypt pray in a torched church.

Christians in Egypt pray in a torched church.

Christians wait for Egypt government to end a 160 year ban on the construction of new churches

While Muslims are facing a lot of discrimination and are finding an increase in legislations that restrict their religious freedom, Christians in Muslim-majority nations like Egypt have also been facing tough opposition and restrictions to practice their Christian faith. Things have scarcely changed in the 21st century. Even now, Christians in Egypt are fighting tough laws that restrict their freedom to build houses of worship.

Egypt has had a complete ban on building churches until around 160 years ago when the then sultan, under the directions of the Ottoman Caliphate, gave his permission to allow Christians to do so. Countries that are governed under the Sharia law do not allow any faith other than Islam to build their places of worship. This is what made the move of the sultan seem a step forward towards progress. Under the new ordnance, Christians who wanted to build churches had to seek the permission of the ruler of Egypt to do so. However, this step remained static at just that, because today, Egyptian Christians still have to seek permission from Egypt's ruler to build a church. The only difference is that the ruler is no longer a sultan, but a president.

This draconian law made things worse for the Christian population of Egypt around 80 years ago when an amendment required the community to seek the permission of local Muslim bodies too, in addition to the president's approval. The proposed church would have to be built at a certain distance from the area's mosque, school, government offices or any other such public institutions. Needless to say, very few churches have been constructed so far and Christians end up meeting secretly in houses, with a constant fear of getting penalized heavily if discovered.

A new law is said to be currently under draft which if passed will allow Christians to approach just the local governor rather than the president. While this would definitely make things a lot easier for the community, a number of problems still dampen the hopes of the Christians. For one, nothing concrete has been said about this draft and the news is just based on rumors. The other issue is that rumored draft is worded in a very ambiguous manner so that multiple interpretations can be possible, which may always work against the community in future.

Whether the new ordinance will help the community or only make things worse for them is still not clear. However, the Egyptian Christians are hopeful that things will get better for them with time. 

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