Catholic Charity Hopeful Egypt’s “One Church for Every Mosque” Law Will End Oppression

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Portugal

Egypt's President, Marshal Abdel Fattah al Sisi, has confirmed an initiative to construct a church in the same locality where there is a mosque, a move that Catholic Pontifical foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Portugal, says shines hope for Christianity in the Northern African country.

The “One Church for Every Mosque” arrangement has been said to be part of Egypt’s urban development program, which dictates that a church must be constructed as part of city planning.

President al Sisi is quoted to have said, “Where there is a mosque… there must also be a church. And if the church to be built will be attended by even only 100 people, it must be built anyway. So, no one will have to meet in an apartment and present that private house as a church.”

In a Tuesday, March 15 report, ACN Portugal that supports the faithful experiencing persecution and oppression all over the world notes that President al Sisi’s statement is “historic” and that it demonstrates the importance of Egypt’s Christian community.

“This decision is historic and comes to end a decades-old legislation that prevented the construction of new Christian temples near, for example, schools, government and residential areas, which led to the appearance of many churches with a clandestine character and motivated many disputes and even attacks instigated by more radical Muslims,” ACN Portugal has reported.


The charity foundation adds that already since 2016, President al Sisi has shown signs of wanting to resolve the religious issue, having initiated an administrative process for the legalization of worship spaces that were considered as “illegal.”

ACN Portugal also lauds the appointment, on February 9, of a Christian to the presidency of the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Boulos Fahmy, 65, was appointed to the post following the resignation, for health reasons, of the previous incumbent.

ACN Portugal says that the decree of appointment, signed by President al Sis Sisi is “particularly significant because it is the first time that a Christian has been called to hold this high office.”

The mission of Fahmy’s office is to review the constitutionality of the laws and regulations produced by the Egyptian authorities. ACN Portugal describes the office as an independent judicial body, “which is also the last instance to which one can appeal in conflicts of jurisdiction or other judicial matters.”

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Egypt's current constitution recognizes in its second article the “principles of Islamic sharia” as the main source of legislation, the Catholic charity foundation says, and notes that the appointment of a Christian to the presidency of this body “may be a further indication of the country's willingness to open up in this sensitive area as well.”

According to ACN Portugal, the appointment of the Christian Boulos Fahmy as president of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the decision that allows the construction of churches in new housing developments, while very positive, do not hide the fact that this religious community, which represents about 10 percent of the population, is still marginalized and even discriminated against.

The Pontifical charity foundation has published a report on Religious Freedom in the World that explores that extent of discrimination against Christians in many countries across the world, including Egypt.

About Egypt, the report says, “Discriminated against by the law, and not enjoying the same rights as their Muslim fellow citizens, Christians are often victims of crimes such as blackmail, violent assaults and kidnappings.”

The document further reads, “Victims report that, in most cases, police forces do not intervene in attacks against Copts, while their attackers benefit from legal impunity. In many cases, it is the Copts who end up in prison.”


The ACN report explores ways in which Christians continue to suffer great discrimination in Egyptian society, despite the efforts that have been made, particularly by President Fattah al Sisi.

In the March 15 report, ACN Portugal says that discrimination against Christians in Egypt occurs in virtually every sector of society.

The Catholic entity explains, “Regarding the recent African Cup of Nations, a soccer competition in which Egypt came in second place, it is noted that there is not, for example, a single Christian athlete in the country's national team, despite the enormous fervor with which the community follows this sport.”

“It may be that the appointment of Boulos Fahmy to the presidency of the Supreme Constitutional Court and the opening for the construction of churches on a parity basis with mosques means the beginning of a greater openness to the Christian community that will also extend, in time, to the world of soccer,” the charity reports. 

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.