By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
CAIRO (Worthy News) – Egypt’s government has legalized thousands of church buildings, but persecution of Christians is still happening in several parts of the Muslim-majority nation, Christian investigators say.
“With the latest authorizations, 2,526 of the 3,730 applications have now been approved,” since the process began in September 2016, said advocacy group Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC) said late Thursday.
“Regrettably, not all Egyptians support the increasing freedoms being granted to the Christian members of society, and so persecution does continue,” the group added.
Researchers of the well-informed Open Doors charity confirmed reported difficulties saying that persecution of Christians in Egypt “commonly occurs at a community level.”
It noted that despite some progress, “Churches and Christian groups face many difficulties when trying to construct new buildings, be it from state restrictions or communal hostility.”
Open Doors also expressed concerns about the situation in the Upper Egypt region “where ultra-conservative Islamic Salafist movements are active in rural communities.”
The group noted that “Christian women are regularly targeted through coerced marriage, rape, and forced conversion, especially those living in rural and economically disadvantaged areas. Female converts from Islam are also vulnerable to house arrest, physical abuse, divorce, disinheritance, torture, or even death.”
CHRISTIAN MEN ABDUCTED
Additionally, “Christian men are regularly the victims of abduction. This is often carried out to secure a ransom. Such incidents engender fear among the local Christian community,” Opal Doors added.
The group said that social media are also used “as a tool to accuse Christian men falsely. Christian men’s challenges in Egypt extend to difficulty finding work, particularly in rural areas.”
While Open Doors acknowledged that “the government speaks positively about the Christian community,” it complained that “the lack of serious law enforcement adds to the vulnerability of believers.”
Yet several Christians told rights investigators that their situation has unproved. “Some have welcomed the safety measures brought in through the licensing process,” VOMC noted.
In published remarks, a church leader who wasn’t identified said his Christian community is “very thankful for the care being shown to our community by the cabinet committee. And we are working closely with them to ensure that all the legalized churches are safe for worshippers and those who live around them.”
VOMC told Worthy News that although “the progress made thus far has been slow and steady,” it hopes relations between Christians and Muslims in local areas may improve considerably.”
The group asked supporters to pray that government officials “continue to take positive measures for the promotion of peace and equality” and that “remaining church applications will be streamlined to prevent any further unnecessary delays.”
There are just over 16 million Christians in Muslim-majority Egypt, comprising 16 percent of the country’s population, according to Open Doors estimates. The country ranks 20th on the Open Doors annual World Watch List of 50 nations where it is apparently most challenging to be a Christian.
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