Egypt (International Christian Concern) – Nine Coptic Christians were arrested in Ezbet Faragallah village after a peaceful demonstration requesting permission to rebuild their destroyed church. St. Joseph and Abu Sefein Church was destroyed in July 2016 after a fire broke out.
All activities relating to church buildings must be regulated by the Egyptian authorities. In July 2021, the church received permission to demolish the building. The congregation and leadership immediately requested a permit to rebuild when the demolish was complete, but to date has not received a response. The peaceful protest, which occurred in January 2022, resulted in the arrests of several Christians a few days later.
Those arrested were taken to the headquarters of the National Security Apparatus in Minya Governorate and later sent for interrogation at the Supreme State Security Prosecution on February 2 and 3, 2022, in connection with Case 65 of 2022. Egyptian authorities charged the Christians with participating in an assembly that endangers public peace, and committing a terrorist act with the aim of disturbing public security. Additionally, the accusation of “arranging a gathering that affects the public authority” was added to one of the nine.
Authorities decided to imprison the defendants for 15 days pending investigations, and then renewed the detention decision on February 12, 2022, without presenting them in person to hear their statements or in the presence of their lawyers.
The church was the only church in the village where religious services were held. Egypt’s delay in granting permission for rebuild violates the Church Building Law No. 60 of 2016 which stipulates a four-month decision period. As of October 2021, only 1,958 churches and buildings received legalization. Nearly six years after the law was introduced, more than 5,540 Christian buildings lack proper status. Authorities have also not allowed for new churches to be built, with the exception of new desert cities which are subject to different rules. Without a proper place to worship Christians are discriminated against and left without their freedom of belief and expression.
This article originally appeared here.