U.S. International Religious Freedom praises religious freedom in Egypt
Washington, July 30, 2018
CAIRO - 30 July 2018: The head and the members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) praised the tangible efforts exerted by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in preserving religious freedom in Egypt, according to Assistant Foreign Minister for Human Rights and International Humanitarian and Social Affairs Ahmed Ihab Gamaleldin.
This was during his visit to Washington, D.C., during which he met with the head and the members of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and participated in the ministerial meeting on religious freedom, which U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for and representatives from eight countries took part in as well.
Gamaleldin added that they lauded President Sisi’s guidelines to purge schools’ curricula to promote the values of tolerance, citizenship and equal rights, revive religious speech and combat extremism by taking drastic actions in this regard.
He pointed out that they expressed their pleasure to the successful visit paid by the members of the commission to Cairo in March, during which they met with several officials from Egyptian religious institutions and government bodies.
In the same context, he met with U.S. Congressmen Chris Smith, French Hill, and Dave Trott, who expressed their appreciation of Sisi’s efforts in combating extremism and facilitating the necessary approval requirements to build new churches and to construct the biggest cathedral in the Middle East in the New Administrative Capital.
Egypt has launched an initiative to rectify religious discourse in order to revive the moderate and tolerant values of Islam. Previously, President Sisi has called in several occasions for a "religious revolution," asking Muslim leaders to help in the fight against extremism.
"I say and repeat, again, that we are in need of a religious revolution. You imams are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting on you. The entire world is waiting for your word ... because the Islamic world is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost. And it is being lost by our own hands," said Sisi in 2015 in his speech celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.
Additionally, the Cabinet approved the legislation proposed by its committee for legalizing unlicensed churches and service buildings on April 18. The legislation is set to legalize 166 churches and buildings across the nation.
The committee was formed by the Cabinet and was assigned to rectify the status of churches that are not yet licensed in accordance with the 2016 law regulating the construction and renovation of churches.
Then-acting Prime Minister and current Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly issued a decision to provide all possible means to speed up the procedures for legalizing unlicensed churches nationwide.
Formed in January 2017, the committee was empowered to study and verify applications submitted by Christian congregations to legalize the status of churches and attached places of worship.
According to official statistics from 2011, Egypt has 2,869 churches and over 108,000 mosques.