Following their persecution under the Muslim Brotherhood regime and widespread attacks after President Mohammed Morsi's ouster, Egypt’s Christians may soon be able to feel a sense of relief, with a new law under consideration to allow the construction of churches, which for decades has been almost impossible to accomplish.
Egypt’s Al Ahram reported Monday that the parliament is likely to pass a draft law to ease the construction process, which since 1934 has been so severely restricted it's practically prevented any new Christian houses of worship from being built.
Christians gather at St. Fatima Catholic Church in Cairo to pray for Iraqi Christians who have fled their homes under assault by the Islamic State, Aug. 18, 2014. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A key reason behind the optimism for Christians is that provisions of the law were drafted by representatives of Egypt’s three major Christian denominations.
Gamal Habib, a legal consultant to the Coptic Catholic Church, told Al Ahram that the constitution ratified earlier this year stipulates that the church construction law would be considered by the Egyptian parliament.
"According to the constitution, this law needs to be approved," Habib said.
Worthy Christian News detailed just how complicated the building of churches has been in Egypt:
In Egypt, a church cannot be built within 100 meters of a mosque and Christian congregations must get permission to erect, renovate or even repair a church building under legislation that goes all the way back to the Ottomans. Previously, permission could only be obtained from Egypt's head of state, but though former President Hosni Mubarak delegated this authority to regional governors, the application process can take years to complete.
According to Al Ahram, before securing a presidential decree to authorize a new church, the interior ministry first had to give its approval.
The ministry’s strict rules limiting the location of churches are called “The Ten Commandments,” according to Al Ahram, which prohibited the construction of Christian houses of worship “near schools, canals, governmental buildings, railway tracks and residential areas for security reasons.”
"We could wait between 15 and 16 years in order to get one approval, and it would end up being a refusal," Orthodox Church representative Monsef Soliman said.
Greek-Catholic priest Rafik Greiche told the organization Aid to the Church in Need, "The mood has improved considerably” since the days Muslim Brotherhood supporters blamed the Christian community for promoting the removal of Morsi from the presidency.
"Christians feel a lot safer. They are going to church without feeling threatened as they did under President Morsi,” Greiche said.