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Promise to rebuild Egyptian churches might not happen, warns Middle East expert

Speaking at a Coptic Christmas Mass on 6 Jan, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi vowed to make the repairs by the end of 2016.

But the Chief Executive of Embrace the Middle East, Jeremy Moodey, told Premier's News Hour: "It will cost a lot of money and I think that's one of the question marks we need to raise over this. The Egyptian economy is in a mess.

"The government is in the grip of a major security crisis with Islamist insurgents in the Sinai and elsewhere. Whether it has got the resources to commit to this rebuilding programme remains to be seen. I think it's possible this is just a symbolic measure...but let's hope for the best."

More than fifty churches and Coptic buildings across Egypt were torched or stormed after President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were deposed from power.

One incident saw vandals target a church reportedly built in the 4th Century.

With Coptic Pope Tawadros standing next to him, President Sisi told worshippers at St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Abassiya: "We have taken too long to fix and renovate [churches] that were burned. This year everything will be fixed.

"Please accept our apologies for what happened...God next year there won't be a single house or church that is not restored."

"We will never forget the honourable, respectful and great stance you and the Pope took during this period."

Despite holding reservations over the restoration promise, Mr Moodey said: "Many people argue that (the violence) was organised with the help of the local authorities and the local police and that was one of the conerns of the Copts at the time. So the fact that the government has said it is now prepared to put that right and to allow these churches to be rebuilt is an encouraging sign."

He also believes Christians in Egpyt have benefited from the government of President Sisi.

"He is obviously a Muslim and he needs to go with the flow of the Muslim majority in the country. But what he has brought is a degree of security to some extent, especially to Cairo and to Alexandria.

He has also rolled back some of the more extremist measures that were introduced by the Muslim Brotherhood. He seems to be a more inclusive President and his visit to the Cathedral yesterday was symbolic of that."

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