Posted by: Dave | February 13, 2011

Monitoring the Fate of the Egyptian Coptic Christians

       An often overlooked concern in the overthrow of the Mubarak government is the fate of the Egyptian Coptic Christians, whose future hangs in the balance as the country establishes a new government.  

     The Copts make up an estimated 10% of Egyptian population.  Their heritage predates the Arab invasion and occupation of Egypt in the 7th Century.  The Copts are mostly members of Orthodox denominations, but also include some protestant churches.  “Copt” refers to the early Egyptian language.

       Throughout Egypt’s modern history, the Copts have suffered from varying degrees of persecution or tolerance, depending on who was in charge. The Mubarak government provided limited protection to the Copts, who have been the subject of a recent increase in violent attacks.  On  January 7, 2010, the day the Copts celebrate Christmas, a Muslim gunman attacked a congregation departing church, killing 7 people and wounding 10 others. On New Year’s Day of this year, 23 Copts were killed in the Egyptian City of Alexandria as they attended a midnight prayer service .  Other instances include the burning of homes and businesses and random violent attacks against persons.  Justification for these attacks is usually an alleged transgression against the Muslim community by a member of the Coptic Christians such as a rape, or the conversion of a Muslim to Christianity.  Prosecution for these crimes is inconsistent.  Government officials generally blame foreigners for the attacks.

        Prior to the fall of the Mubarak government, thousands of Copts had taken to the streets in protest of the recent attacks and the lack of government protection. Some of these demonstrations had turned violent, with the Egyptian police firing rubber bullets and tear gas to dissipate the protestors.  The Copts may indeed be cheering, along with other Egyptians, at the fall of Mr. Mubarak and the potential for a representative government.   However, the future of Egypt is uncertain and is even more so for the Copts, who will suffer if not protected from radical elements.              

     It is anyone’s guess what will replace the Mubarak regime. We can hope for a representative government and a powerful leader that will protect the Coptic population. 

     Anything less than that almost certainly guarantees that the Copts will face greater persecution.  Indeed, if the extremists win power, the very existence of the Coptic population may be in peril.


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