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Egypt’s Copts decry recent spate of church closings

Egypt's Coptic Christians say they are under attack by both extremists and the Egyptian government.
Minarets of a mosque and the cross above a church are seen at the agricultural road which leads to the capital city of Cairo, Egypt, April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh - RC11420D7D70

When a long-awaited law on building and restoring churches went into effect in Egypt in September 2016, several Christian members of parliament hailed it as “a step in the right direction.’’ Members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian community — the country’s largest religious minority — celebrated the “landmark legislation” they hoped would ease restrictions on church building, some dating back more than 150 years, to the days when Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Before the law, a presidential permit was required to build or renovate churches, and requests for church building or renovation licenses were open-ended. The 2016 legislation set a time limit of four months for provincial governors (instead of the president) to respond to requests to legalize churches that had been built without permits.

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