While some Coptic churches remain closed by Egyptian authorities, Gov. Essam el-Bedawi of the Minya governorate approved the building, restoration, and construction of several other churches in the past six months, according to World Watch Monitor.
Some churches waited more than 20 years for government permission, which is nearly impossible to obtain. Coptic news source Watani indicated the 21 new permits were for evangelical churches. Authorities also gave renovation permission to an evangelical church in Tama in the Sohag governorate on Nov. 17.
Some permits preceded recent meetings involving President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and U.S. and international evangelical delegations. The reopening of an unlicensed Pentecostal church in October was viewed as a goodwill gesture ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence later this month, according to World Watch Monitor. A local source told the news site that al-Sisi wants to “show the U.S. that Egypt is standing with the Christians and that there is no persecution in Minya governorate.”
But there is persecution, especially for Coptic churches, which continue to endure building closures and hostility from Muslim extremists.
A UN attorney chastised Egyptian leaders in November, demanding the reopening of all closed churches, including four Coptic churches in Minya that authorities shut down in October. El-Bedawi claimed it was because they were unlicensed. —Julia A. Seymour