By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
CAIRO (Worthy News) – Egypt has registered its largest single batch of churches and church-affiliated buildings in a move that Christians hope will reduce hostility towards them in the Muslim-majority nation.
Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli presided over the licensing committee, which granted 239 permits—its most significant number since the licensing process began.
The first batch of 53 approvals was granted in February 2018, Christians recalled. The 23rd batch brings the number of churches given licenses to 2,401.
That is out of the 3,730 applying for registration under a new Law for Building and Restoring Churches removing Ottoman-era restrictions on church buildings in 2016, Worthy News learned.
Madbouli reportedly told members to speed up their work to clear the backlog of unlicensed church buildings as swiftly as possible. At its previous meeting in January, members approved 141 churches.
Barnabas Fund, the Christian aid, and advocacy group welcomed the move. “Before the committee started work in late 2017, it was extremely difficult for churches to obtain a license. Many congregations had no option but to worship illegally in unlicensed buildings,” it said in a statement.
In early 2018 the Egyptian government permitted Christians to worship in unregistered buildings pending the completion of the licensing process.
Barnabas Fund told Worthy News that it gives “thanks for the work of the licensing committee” but prays that “it will complete its work swiftly.” The group urged supporters to pray “that the licensing process will reduce hostility towards the Christian community” amid concerns about Islamic extremism.
It referred to church leaders and hundreds of Christians who have been killed in recent years, often by angry Muslim mobs.
In one of the latest known attacks, a man was charged with killing Coptic Orthodox priest Arsanious Wadid in the coastal city of Alexandria, in northern Egypt, on April 7.
Wadid, 56, was ordained to the priesthood in 1995 by the late Pope Shenouda III, the former head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
Prosecutors referred his alleged attacker Nehru Abdel-Moneim Tawfiq, 60, to the criminal court on April 19 after testimonies of 17 witnesses, trial observers said. Besides being charged with murder, he is also held for possessing a weapon.
Egypt’s Copts, one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East, comprise at least some 10 percent of Egypt’s roughly 108 million people, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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