Egypt (MNN) — In 2016, the Egyptian government formed a committee dedicated to processing applications to legalize unlicensed church buildings. At the time, there were 3,730 outstanding applications. Now, seven years later, almost three thousand applications have been approved.
It’s a big shift in the way officials treat Christians in Egypt. On a podcast with Voice of the Martyrs Canda, Fayez Youssef said that it was “unprecedented in our modern history to have this number of legalized and licensed Christian churches and church buildings and conference centers.”
Before this committee took action, Christians might have to wait as long as 20 years to get a license to build just one building. With recent efficiency boosts, however, churches can get approval for their buildings in a much shorter amount of time, meaning they can start meeting in physical buildings for community and worship.
Youssef believes that this committee is a way for the government to say, “‘We want to give you your rights. We know this is your right. You didn’t have it before, and this is time to have it.’” He also believes that this is unprecedented.
“It [has] never happened in all my life to see this number of licensed churches,” he says. “We are in a positive change now.”
Why the shift? Some might point to pressure from both local and international communities calling for more religious freedom in Egypt. Youssef, on the other hand, has a different theory: “This is coming from a very deep conviction that this is the right thing to do.”
Keep praying for Christians in Egypt, and consider supporting Voice of the Martyrs Canada and their work in Egypt and around the world. Believers in the Egyptian Church are encouraged by the presence of their God, the support of a global Church, and the promises of Scripture. While in many parts of the Bible, Egyptians are antagonists, there’s one passage that Youssef says Egyptians find encouraging: Isaiah 19:19-21.
“In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them. And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them.”
Header photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs Canada.