modes of expression and of action close to those used by the Muslim community. Furthermore, the Coptic Church stresses family life and strives to draw groups from different social strata, age and education into the church system. Hence there are groups for women, children of different ages, youth, university students, young couples and so on. Service to the church and a social life that rallies around the church have become central for most Copts.48
The controversial question of building churches is traditionally one that divides the hawks and the doves in the Coptic community. Owing to the influx of peasants to the cities and the general problem of population growth, the need to construct churches is strongly felt. It is current practice that a set number of new churches are permitted to be built within Egypt each year and that each new building requires a presidential decree of authorisation. The regulations concerning church buildings are strict: before qualifying for a presidential permit the church site is required not to be situated beside a mosque, a major square or any government building. The congregation for which the church is to be built should also have the permission oflocal sheikhs and Muslim leaders. Obviously, several of these conditions are difficult to fulfil, especially if the Muslim population object and build a mosque beside the area designated as a church site. In 1972, Muslims set fire to an 'illegal' church in Khanka. A committee set up in the aftermath of the incident concluded that of 1442 Coptic churches only 500 had permits. For this reason some of the major clashes between Coptic and Muslim groups during recent decades have been centred on the question of legal and illegal churches.49
To these efforts at reviving Christianity inside Egypt corresponded initiatives to increase its worldwide influence. After showing its evangelising dynamism during the first centuries, the patriarchate of Alexandria withdrew into itself after the Muslim conquest. Shenuda has not really turned things upside down but has nevertheless imparted to Egyptian Christianity a certain missionary impetus in the only direction allowed, given the restrictions imposed by Islam, that is, Africa. Aware of the fact that the patriarchate of Alexandria has been the first and largest Christian church on the continent, Shenuda as early as 1976 appointed a bishop for African affairs. He was also the first head of the Coptic Church to undertake trips abroad, visiting Ethiopia, Sudan, Zaire and Kenya. In return, he entertained representatives of the African churches in Cairo. The
48 D. El-Khawaga, 'Les services sociaux dispensés par l'Eglise copte: de l'autonomisation socio-economique a l'affirmation politique', in Exils et royaumes: les appartenances au monde arabo-musulman aujourd'hui, ed. Gilles Kepel (Paris: Editions FNSP, 1993).
49 Sami Awad Albeeb Abu-Sahlieh, Non-musulmans en pays d'Islam: cas de l'Egypte (Fribourg, CH: Editions Universitaires, 1979).
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