Minya Governorate is one of the governorates of Upper Egypt. Its capital city Minya is located on the left bank of the Nile River. Governor Essam al-Bedeiwi approved the twenty one applications over the last six months. Some of the churches had been waiting for more than twenty years for a permit to come through.
Some analysts say that these approvals have preceded several visits by international evangelical delegations to the capital city Egypt Cairo.
Last week, leaders from evangelical churches around the world met Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, as part of the celebrations marking 500 years since the Reformation. This change followed a visit in early November by a delegation of Christian evangelicals from the United States to meet evangelical leaders in Egypt.
US Vice President Mike Pence is also expected to visit Cairo in late December.
A local source told that Egypt’s President is eager to show the US that Egypt is standing with the Christians and that there is no persecution in Minya governorate.
Meanwhile the Coptic community in Minya has seen many of its churches forcibly closed and many are set on fire. Some of them have been reopened but others are still waiting for a permit by the governor.
In November, four Coptic churches were closed by local authorities in Upper Egypt in order to ease tensions between Muslim and Christian villagers. In this response, the Bishop of Minya, Anba Macarius, said, “It is as though worship is a crime that Copts have to be penalized for.”
It is quite impossible for Christians to obtain a license to build a church in Egypt. But last year the Egyptian parliament approved a law for the building and renovating of churches, and in October.17 a cabinet committee met to begin work on the legislation of unlicensed churches.
A local Islamic State affiliate known as Sinai Province has attempted to impose its hard line interpretation of Islam on Egypt’s North Sinai population around El-Arish (Sinai’s largest city and approximately 80km east of Bir al-Abed), where the attack took place.
After Islamists posted videos and leaflets telling Copts to leave the area or be killed, hundreds of Christians fled the area and relocated to Port Said in late February and March.
In October, an attack on a Coptic Church in El-Arish was repelled by state security forces stationed outside the building.
It is also trying to establish a foothold in Upper Egypt. It is an area marginalized by politicians, lacking in security and in which many people are poor and uneducated.
On Ascension Day (26 May) a bus attack killed 29 Copts travelling to a monastery in Minya.
While Abdul-Enein said,“In Egypt we all are one people, no difference between Muslims and Christians. We are all equal and live together in peace. Terrorism or aggression against peaceful individuals is a criminal action not only in Egypt but in the whole world.”
Last month the Coptic churches around the country rang their bells at noon on Saturday 25, in solidarity with the victims of Friday’s attack on the al-Rawda Mosque in North Sinai. The attack killed at least 309 people and injured 128.
The Church offered its sincere condolences to the grieved families. Church members were praying for recovery of the wounded.