Christians in Egypt stage sit-in after church closure forces yet another funeral to be held on streets

Christians staged a sit-in at a church in Egypt on 17 July to protest about the building’s continued closure, which has forced them to hold another funeral on the streets.

Members of the 2,500-strong Christian community in Koum al-Raheb village, close to the city of Samalout, agreed to end their protest only after police assured them a way would be found to provide a licensed church in the village.

Christians have already had to hold at least three funeral services on the streets since 9 December 2018 when police closed what is the only church in Koum al-Raheb on the very day it opened, because it is unlicensed.

Church leaders met local politicians and security officials in March in an attempt to find a solution to the impasse that has arisen because the new, four-storey church falls between the provisions of two laws. Its construction began before September 2016, when the new Law for Building and Restoring Churches was introduced. However, it was completed after the September 2017 deadline for applications to legalise unlicensed existing churches under previous legal provisions.

Church leaders have rejected as “utterly unfeasible” the authorities’ suggestion that they build another church on vacant land across the road from the present building.

Of the 3,730 churches that originally applied for a licence after the Law for Building and Restoring Churches was introduced, 2,709 are still awaiting registration. These new registrations were in addition to church buildings that were already licensed before the law was introduced in 2016.

Source: Barnabas Fund