Two years ago, Egypt passed a landmark law that allowed Christians to construct church buildings, a massive reversal of the Ottoman-era ban.
However, a vast majority of the proposed church projects still have not been approved.
According to the worldwide ministry Barnabas Fund, 3,510 Egyptian church buildings still need official government permission.
Only 220 projects have been approved in that time.
Barnabas said the 2016 change in the law removed a “long-standing restriction on the construction of church buildings.”
And in 2017, a committee was appointed to review the status of thousands of unlicensed churches.
The report said pressure to block the church construction has come from Muslims.
“At a local level, Christians continue to experience violent opposition to attempts to get official recognition for church buildings, even when congregations have been meeting in the same location for a number of years,” Barnabas said.
For example, on Aug. 24, Muslims in the village of Sultan Basha, about 150 miles south of Cairo, uprooted Christians’ crops after police intervened to stop a mob damaging a church building which is awaiting registration.
The building had been purchased by the Christian community in 2006, and Muslim villagers have even attended Christian weddings there.
“One week later, a Muslim mob attacked Christian homes in the village of Demshaw Hashem in Minya governorate, claiming that a house was being used as a church. The attackers ‘stole quantities of jewelry and money, destroyed household appliances and set fire to property.’ Two Christians were also stabbed in the head and face. Police subsequently detained 38 Muslims and are understood to be pursuing charges for 19 of those arrested,” the report said.
An Egyptian commentary website pointed out that the government has accepted the applications, which meant they all met the requirements established by the government for documentation.
The commentator said: “With the 3,730 files all complete, it stood to reason that a swift final decision could be made by the cabinet committee regarding each. The prime minister had stipulated in his official decision to form the committee that it was to convene once a month. I thus imagined that it would take a few months to see a tangible outcome of the committee’s work. I expected that every month would bring about numerous decisions to unfetter the chained churches and service buildings, imagining that the numbers of buildings legalized every month would be in line with the huge target of 3,730 cases needing legalization.
“But this was not to be.”
The commentator pointed out the committee has looked into only 6 percent of the cases, and at this rate, the full list won’t be addressed until 2034.