Middle East Published Articles TIMEP

Egypt’s Other Churches: Smaller Denominations React to New Construction Law

This article was first published at TIMEP.

Father Rafic Greiche, a Catholic priest; Father Bishoy Helmy, an Orthodox priest; and Reverend Rifaat Fikry, a Protestant pastor speak at a meeting of Egypt Council of Churches.

Egypt’s recent church building law was largely negotiated behind the scenes between the government and the three largest Christian denominations: the Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant churches. Despite concerns over insufficient public dialogue and loopholes which may hinder implementation, many Christians celebrate a formal legal process over the ad hoc nature of security intervention and presidential permits.

And among those who hope to gain are the smaller Christian denominations of Egypt. Largely overlooked in the national discussion, they also have a right to freedom of religion and worship.

Christians are generally estimated to be 10 percent of the population, the vast majority belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church. But in 2006, the Ministry of the Interior published its most recent major clarification of Christian denominations, recognizing also the Coptic Catholic Church and the National Evangelical Church as “Egyptian” churches. Eighteen others are approved but designated as “foreign,” An additional 17 Protestant denominations are not mentioned specifically in the 2006 statement, but are recognized under the umbrella of the Evangelical Church.

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