NEWS ANALYSIS/OMNIS TERRA - The Christians of Egypt, between discrimination and transformation

Saturday, 27 April 2019 faith   discrimination   society   evangelization  

The history of the Christians of Egypt is very ancient. The Copts are in fact the heirs of the ancient Egyptians who converted to Christianity, starting from the first century, thanks to the preaching of St. Mark. Until the seventh century, the community was a majority in Egypt. With the arrival of the Arabs and of Islam, a difficult coexistence began for the Copts, made up of periods of relative freedom, alternated with years of harsh repression. The situation did not improve with the independence of Egypt. Under the governments of Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, the Church experienced a particularly difficult period. It was Anwar Sadat who included the Sharia (Islamic law) in the Constitution as a source of Egyptian law. A move made to curry favor with the most extreme fringes of political Islam (which, however, did not spare him, killing him in an attack in 1981) and which penalized the Copts. With the arrival of Hosni Mubarak their situation did not improve. Mubarak closed all the doors to the fundamentalists by using the first years of the presidency until the nineties to persecute them. The open door was instead maintained towards the common Islamic faith and for the Copts life was not simple. It was difficult, if not impossible, to build or even renovate a church because police permission was needed, which was not easily released. The same police arrested Muslims who converted. Many policemen were involved in the kidnapping of Coptic girls, organized to convert them. The Muslims who attacked the churches remained unpunished. "The president - observes Girgis, an exponent of the Coptic Church who asks to maintain anonymity - therefore let the Copts suffer the most obvious oppression and discrimination, especially on a social level. They were very hard years"(...)