Egypt’s 2016 Church Construction Law established what was, on its face, a streamlined process for the construction of churches, and also provided for a committee to formalize churches which had been built illegally. But Christians still face both official and social restrictions on building their houses of worship, as officials have been slow to issue permits (even to existing churches seeking recognition), security agencies have failed to protect churches and Coptic properties, and violence from neighbors has succeeded in keeping churches out of contested areas.
The Coptic Orthodox Church celebrated the Coptic New Year, also known as All Martyrs Day, on September 11. Earlier this year, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria, accompanied by a number of bishops in a mournful procession at Cairo airport, received the relics of the Coptic martyrs beheaded by the Islamic State three years ago in Libya.
Sectarian tension and violence continued in the years that followed, although the direct targeting of churches declined up until the massacre at All Saints Church at the beginning of 2011, in which 25 people died. In November 2013, assailants opened fire on a group of Copts in front of St. Mary Church in Waraq.The nature of these attacks has become more frightening as the perpetrators have become more confident and daring. In most previous incidents, churches were targeted from the outside, but the perpetrator of the St. Peter and St. Paul Church attack breached security and blew himself up inside the church.
تعيدنا هذه المذبحة إلى أجواء الثمانينيات والتسعينيات، حين كان الأقباط وممتلكاتهم مطمعًا للجماعات الإسلامية، خصوصًا في صعيد مصر، حيث فرض الجزية والقتل على الهوية الدينية، فقد وقعت عشرات الأحداث التي جرى فيها الاعتداء على الأقباط، ومن بينها حوادث اقتحام كنائس وإطلاق نار على مصلين، وهو النمط السائد وقتها، ولم تتحرك الدولة إلا بعد تحول الإرهاب إلى استهداف الشرطة والسياح، والتي كان من أبرزها مذبحة الأقصر، وعلى أثرها أقيل وزير الداخلية حسن الألفي.
Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II made an exceptional visit to Jerusalem last Thursday to lead the funeral prayers for Bishop Abraham, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Near East. The trip triggered a wave of controversy and divided public opinion, although state bodies and senior officials didn’t comment on the visit.
Long governed by separate laws on personal status issues—marriage, divorce, and other family law—Egypt’s Christians are awaiting the government’s latest move. The issue of the personal affairs law for Egypt’s Christians has recently returned to the forefront of national debate in Egypt, with President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi instructing the Cabinet to review a draft law it had previously presented to Egypt’s churches.
Over the past week, the village of al-Aour in the governorate of Minya—home to thirteen of the twenty Coptic Egyptian victims killed by the Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya—has been transformed. The once obscure village has become a site for official delegations and mourners to visit, and offer condolences and support to the bereaved families of the victims. This influx of visitors is new for al-Aour.
The fate of 20 Egyptian Copts, who were kidnapped by masked men in two separate incidents in the Libyan city of Sirte, remains unclear. In the first kidnapping, which took place on December 31, 2014, militants forcefully stopped a microbus transporting Egyptians and kidnapped seven Christians at gunpoint.