Twenty-one churches have received approval from local authorities to rebuild, restore and expand. Some of the churches had been waiting for more than 20 years for a permit to come through.
Permits have been issued by Essam al-Bedeiwi, governor of Egypt’s southern Minya governorate. The approvals may have been the result of visits by international evangelical delegations to Cairo. A local source said that Egypt’s President is keen to “show the US that Egypt is standing with the Christians and that there is no persecution in Minya governorate”.
This is a rare moment of good news for Minya’s beleaguered churches, many of which have been forcibly closed or set on fire. In November in one weekend alone, four Coptic churches were closed by local authorities in Upper Egypt. The Bishop of Minya, Anba Macarius, said: “It is as though worship is a crime that Copts have to be penalised for.”
In the same month 19-year-old Ahmad Saeed Ibrahim al-Sonbati was sentenced to death for the murder of a 45-year-old Coptic priest Samaan Shehata, who was on a visit to Cairo.
Meanwhile Coptic churches around the country rang bells in solidarity with the victims of a bomb attack on the al-Rawda Mosque in North Sinai which killed at least 309 people and injured 128. A local IS affiliate known as Sinai Province is threatening to impose its hardline interpretation of Islam on Egypt’s North Sinai population around El-Arish, Sinai’s largest city. Hundreds of Copts have already fled the Sinai peninsular after eight Copts were murdered and Islamists posted videos and leaflets telling Copts to leave the area or be killed.
- That the churches would be able to rebuild without danger or interference
- That Christians in Egypt would be supported and protected