Feb 15

Copt out

Coptic Lives Matter

I really didn't want to talk about hate and violence again today. But there is so much of it in the world. But rather than dwell on it, I think my ideas are clear by now, I thought I would just take an educational tact today.

So, what's a Coptic Christian?

First, "Copt" means, by the very round about etymology of the middle east, "Egyptian."

Tradition has it that Mark (as in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) founded a church in Alexandria around 42 CE and spread through out Egypt. Indeed some of the earliest copies of the books of the New Testament are in Coptic, a language derived from Egyptian but written in a script largely borrowed from the Greek. One of the oldest Christian schools in the world was founded in 190 CE in Alexandria and was the home to some of the greatest theologians of the day. Christian monasticism also begins with the Copts. The Patriarch of Alexandria presided over the Council of Nicea and several other earl Ecumenical Councils that helped establish the foundations of Christian doctrine.

So how did such an important center for Christian learning and thought wind up being so forgotten by the church in the West?

641 CE Egypt fell to the invading Arabs, Muslims, and although there would be some armed resistance for the next three hundred years or so the Coptic Christians became a minority in an Muslim dominated state. To be fair, the vast majority of that time they lived as a perfectly safe and peaceful, if somewhat marginalized, group due to the inherent respect that "people of the Book" are afford in the Koran. They had to pay special taxes, could hold no political power, but were also exempt from military and other government service.

The early half of the 20th century saw the position of Copts improve in Egypt. This changed when Nasser began to seize property owned by Christians and gave it to Muslims. Sadat, his successor, was more favorably inclined to the Copts, but during his reign the Muslim Brotherhood grew, which forced many Copts to flee to the West. Mubarik's reign did little to improve the dangers faced by Copts, and emigration continued until the place we find ourselves today as noted in the article.

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