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The Actual War on Christians - Egypt's Copts are under attack
by Samuel Tadros, The Atlantic, December 17, 2016:
|A nun cries as she stands at the scene inside Cairo's Coptic cathedral, following a bombing, in Egypt December 11, 2016|
...Being a Copt was never a simple matter of attending different places of worship, but rather a salient feature shaping their lives. A Copt was a Dhimmi—the Islamic term used to refer to Christians and Jews, which means “protected person”—a tolerated second-class citizen, constantly reminded of his inferiority, and expected to behave.
Even at the height of Egypt’s experiment with liberalism from 1923 to 1952, a Copt could never escape his Coptic identity, nor, paradoxically, bring it to the public square. Under Egypt’s military rulers the Copts’ plight only worsened.
Despite proclamations of equality by the state, a Copt has never been an equal Egyptian citizen in the eyes of the law. Egyptian laws are, in fact, designed to remind him of his second-class nature.
For him, building a church remains a herculean task. He must follow Islamic inheritance laws, and cannot adopt children. Egypt’s blasphemy laws almost exclusively target him.
Legally, he is not barred from being appointed to any position. But functionally, this is the reality. The exclusion of Copts from important government positions is pervasive: The current government has only one Coptic minister, and not a single Copt serves as a governor, university president, or university dean. An unofficial one percent quota for Copts is maintained in the military, police, judiciary, and foreign service, while no single Copt is allowed in the state security or intelligence services.
Even his history is not immune to discrimination, with Coptic history and the contributions of Copts to Egypt through the centuries excluded from the country’s textbooks.
“A society that treats a segment of its population as less than fully equal is also [a] society that produces violence and terrorism against it.”
But the state’s discrimination, the Islamists’ incitement and violent attacks, and the state’s failure to protect them, along with its practice of forcing them into reconciliation sessions after every attack instead of applying the law and punishing the aggressor, are not what make the lives of Copts unbearable. Rather, it’s the bigotry they encounter from many of their fellow citizens. Copts necessarily know much about Islam through the education system, media, and their neighbors. The same cannot be said of most Egyptian Muslims and their knowledge of the Copts. The exclusion of Copts and their identity from the public square has made them alien creatures onto which wild fantasies are projected...
What does the future hold for Egypt’s Copts? Could a community that has endured for 2,000 years actually become extinct? Throughout the Middle East, the answer seems to be yes. Geography, long the ally of ethnic and religious minorities in the region, offers little protection in the face of modern weapons and totalitarian organizations. The Islamic State’s reign of horrors has not only sought to annihilate these communities, but the very physical evidence of their historical presence.
But if modernity has been unkind to these minorities, it has also offered them an alternative: emigration. More than a million Copts now live in the West, where their ancient church is flourishing. Today, there are over 600 Coptic churches around the world. In 1971, there were two Coptic churches in the United States; today, there are 235...
Decline and survival, decay and endurance, have been the twin faces of Coptic Christianity under the rule of Islam. Today these two go hand in hand, separated only by geography. Despite the persecution millions of Copts face, there is no place in the West for eight million more. But the better educated, the ones who speak English and possess the skills to succeed beyond Egypt, will leave. Their poorer brethren left behind will stay. Egypt’s Copts will continue to decline. But in the lands of emigration they are writing a new chapter of revival.
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