For more than 160 years, Christians had to get permission from Egypt’s head of state for new church buildings. The building law was issued in 1856 under the Ottoman Empire.
But in August 2016 a new bill – approved by the Coptic Catholic, Coptic Orthodox and Evangelicals – gave local governors the power to permit the construction of new churches.
In Kom Boha, Coptic Catholics waited 30 years to start building their own church. Several previous requests for planning permission had been refused, even though the Catholic community numbers 1,500. They cannot fit everyone into the large room where they celebrate Holy Mass, so the seating inside is given to women and children, while the men stand in the road outside.
But Catholics in Kom Boha – some 40 miles from Assiut – have finally started building a church dedicated to Saint George. ACN is helping with more than £50,000.
Church building has been a highly controversial issue in Egypt. In June 2016 – just two months before the new law was passed – more than 80 Christian families in Al-Beida were left homeless, after a mob torched their houses following rumours that a building owned by a Christian man was being turned into a church.
And the new law – which was passed by a two-thirds majority after a heated four-hour debate – still restricts size of new churches according to the number of Christians in the neighbourhood. Mosques have no such restrictions.
This is a vital time to help communities – which have often suffered violence and persecution – that have waited decades for their own building.
Through your generosity, Coptic Christians in places like Kom Boha can finally have their own church.