Page 3 of 5

image Click for more images

As a response to the growing sectarian threat, Copts turned inward. The Coptic Orthodox Church provided the youth with social outlets in a safe environment, including sports, theater and summer camp activities, but also segregated the population further. The church — especially its powerful patriarchate — became the Copts’ main negotiator with the state, further reducing the role of laity in society and politics.

Under President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly three-decade rule, Islamists were suppressed but the state maintained Sadat’s religious style of public discourse, leaving Christians still feeling isolated.

According to Mr. Sidhom, “Christians under Sadat and throughout the reign of Mubarak were persecuted. They were treated as second-class citizens, they were hit hard in their right to equality in all aspects of life — mainly [the right] to build churches and maintain them, as well as the right to occupy chief executive posts and high-ranking jobs in all state bodies, security services and the military.”

Those Coptic politicians appointed to ministerial posts by the Mubarak regime were generally seen as powerless puppets who had been co-opted. The Coptic Orthodox Church discouraged their members from engaging in political protest, instead preferring to negotiate with Mubarak with the hope of securing its flock. Civic participation among Copts dwindled.

On 25 January 2011, Egyptians of all stripes took to the streets to protest the moribund Mubarak regime. Cairo’s Tahrir Square reverberated with chants that “Muslims and Christians are one hand!” Coptic youth — despite the admonitions of some within the church — established a political voice for themselves outside the main religious institution for the first time in decades.

Nationalism and a common enemy had again created an atmosphere of perceived equality. After 18 days, Egyptians toppled Mubarak. It was a resurgent moment for Copts, who anticipated that long-denied rights of equality and tolerance would spring from the nation’s communal experience in the square. But in the aftermath of the uprising, Islamists came to dominate national politics, and after the first free elections in six decades, the Muslim Brotherhood controlled the country. Attacks on Christians increased and many considered leaving Egypt. A palpable sense of fear of their future in their own country was widespread.

Yet, dissatisfaction with the Islamist government grew quickly within the general population. On 30 June, Egyptians once again took to the streets — Christians and Muslim alike — to call for newly elected President Morsi to resign.

On 3 July, the military intervened and deposed the president. The vast majority of Copts rejoiced and rallied behind the new military-appointed government and consequently backed the new constitution, which passed by 98 percent in January 2014.

“People came to life as a result of the revolution, then the window of opportunity closed. So they stood by the window and when it reopened they barged out,” says Adel Iskandar of Georgetown.

“For Coptic public life, the removal of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from the political reins of the state was important and transformative.”

Post a Comment | Comments(0)

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |