Title: Controversial Statistics: Articles from Egyptian Media Dealing with Coptic Representation in Egypt and Coptic Migration Statistic, 1997-2012

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And because Christians and better educated Muslims leave the south, extremism there can especially grow in those areas among Muslims. It is often easy to communicate with Muslims who are well educated. But especially among Muslims with a low standard of living and little education extremist feelings grow.” Bishop Qultah adds: “our most important problem is not religion. Our most important and mutual problem is: poverty.”
Only around six to eight percent of the Egyptian population is Christian. At least 90 percent of them are Coptic Orthodox. The Coptic-Catholic and Protestants together make up a maximum of 0,6 to 0,8 percent of the population. The Protestants belong to different denominations.
There are official government figures about the number of Christians but many Christians do not take those numbers seriously. Christians who oppose those government statistics provide themselves with very different estimates, says the Dutchman Kees Hulsman who lives in Cairo. He is connected to the Arab-West Foundation, an organization that tries to work toward a better understanding between Muslim and Christian cultures.

  1. Maḥmūd Khalīl, “The Brotherhood are a group opposed to the Constitution and the law,” Al-Aḥrār in Arab West Report, Week 39, Art 10, September 29, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-39/10-brotherhood-are-group-opposed-constitution-and-law.

“Mufīd Shihāb, the state minister for legal and parliamentary affairs, stressed that the number of churches that were built over the last 25 years amounted to 500 churches, which exceeds the number of churches built over the last century. Shihāb added in an interview with Jābir al-Qarmūtī on On TV that 180 churches were built in the last two years alone, denying any claims that the state fights building churches or that it discriminates between Muslims and Copts in building houses of worship. He clarified that it is very normal that the number of mosques is larger than the number of churches in Egypt because the number of Muslims is greater than the number of Copts.

Shihāb did not confirm whether or not the unified law for houses of worship is going to be discussed in the next parliamentary session.”

  1. Marqus ‘Azīz Khalīl, “A useful speech in response to Dr. Mufīd,” Al-Wafd in Arab West Report, Week 39, Art 11, September 27, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-39/11-useful-speech-response-dr-mufid (Information and Decision Support Center of the Egyptian Cabinet in 2003 and 2006).

“The author, Father Marqus ‘Azīz, states that the number of churches in Egypt is enough for only 5% of the total number of Copts. He also refers to a statement by Dr. Mufīd Shihāb, minister of state for legal affairs, in which he declares that in the last 25 years 500 churches were built, with 180 of them being built in only the last two years. Father ‘Azīz points out that these figures are not true. Depending on a comparison between the official statistics from the Information and Decision Support Center of the Egyptian Cabinet in 2003 and 2006, the author proves that there is a big difference between the number and the increased number of both mosques and churches and, moreover, shows that the rate of church building is decreasing.”

  1. Hazim al-Biblawi, “A Christian quota in the parliament … when the cure is worse than the disease,” Al-Ahrām in Arab West Report, Week 40, Art 45, October 4, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-40/45-christian-quota-parliament-when-cure-worse-disease.

“Dr. Hāzim al-Biblāwī writes about having a special quota for Christians in the Egyptian parliament.

Newspapers have covered the news of recent calls for specifying a quota for Christians in the Egyptian parliament especially in light of the fact that the percentage of Christian representation has decreased since the 1952 Revolution. These statistics imply that one part of the state is retreating from political participation. In addition there has been a spread of religious prejudice among a certain majority. Dr. Hāzim al-Biblāwī then discusses this call being an opportunity to make all citizens equal in terms of their constitutional right to participate in political life and in their feeling of loyalty and belonging to their country.”

  1. Katia Saqqa, “In the conflict between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Church, who is the loser?” Media Review in Arab West Report, Week 42, Art 26, October 18, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-42/26-conflict-between-coptic-orthodox-church-and-evangelical-church-who-loser.

“The press sheds light on the ongoing debates between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Evangelical Church in Egypt. The following reports on the different press reports and comments about the issue.

The authors spoke about the growth of the Evangelical Church at the detriment of the Coptic Orthodox Church, especially in Upper Egyptian governorates, where, according to the authors, the Protestant Church has converted about 1000 Coptic Orthodox to Protestantism, as a well informed Coptic source had declared. The sources are supposed to be assigned by the church to develop a strategy to face the alleged Evangelical plan.”

  1. Andrea Zaki, “Do Christians need a quota in the next elections?” Al-Ahrām in Arab West Report, Week 43, Art 38, October 24, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-43/38-do-christians-need-quota-next-elections.

“Rev. Dr. Andrea Zakī wonders whether Christians need a quota in the Egyptian parliament.

Rev. Dr. Andrea Zakī then comments that one should admit that there is a deficit in Christian participation in political life. “When looking at the history of Christian political participation, the role of the state in the Egyptian parliament, and how far Christians participated according to the 1923 Constitution,” Father Zakī writes, “it is noted that the lowest percentage of Christian participation in the parliament was 3% in 1950. The highest percentage, however, was 10.2% in 1942.
It was a big shock to Christians, as well as some Muslims, that the National Democratic Party did not include one Christian member on the 1995 election list. This was probably due to the impact of political Islam. At the time, Christians felt that they had been marginalized by the ruling party. Father Zakī ends his article by pointing out certain ideas: The idea of a constitutional amendment to ensure Christian representation in the parliament is totally rejected by Christians for they see themselves as part of the Egyptian fabric and not a minority. Specifying certain geographic regions where both Muslims and Christians are responsible for electing a Christian representative is an idea that has been suggested but it did not work during the times of ‘Abd al-Nāsir.”

  1. Clare Turner, “Editorial,” Arab-West Report, Week 40, Art 1, October 25, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-40/1-editorial.

“The news of an alleged Evangelical plan to convert Egyptian Orthodox Copts to Protestantism has alarmed Coptic Church leaders. Bishop Bīshūy has announced that he has a CD with details of the plan but the Evangelical church has refuted the allegations and denied that such a plan exists.

According to the U.S Department of State’s Freedom of Religion report there are 16 Protestant churches in Egypt. Of those, the Evangelical church in Egypt has approximately 250,000 members, a tiny number when compared with the number of Orthodox Copts, which is stated to be somewhere between 5 and 10 million.”

  1. Sharif al-Dawakhili, “Ali al-Din Hilal: The number of Copts in parliament is less than required… and we should endeavor to realize citizenship,” Al-Dustūr in Arab West Report, Week 44, Art 36, October 31, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-44/36-cal299-al-d299n-hil257l-number-copts-parliament-less-required-and-we-should.

“Najīb Jibrā’īl, the head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization and a delegation of the organization accompanied by Nabīl ‘Abd al-Malik, head of the Canadian-Egyptian Organization for Human Rights [www.ceohr.org] met with ‘Alī al-Dīn Hilāl, secretary of the Media Committee of the National Democratic Party, and proposed to him what they called a "citizenship document" which calls for the unified law for houses of worship, the proper representation of Copts in parliament and the enforcement of religious freedom”

  1. Clare Turner, “Editorial,” Arab-West Report, Week 41, Art 1, October 31, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-41/1-editorial.

The author comments on a number of interesting articles published in the recent number of AWR, especially the one below deals with an interesting subject:

“[…] article 3 which is an article in al-Misrī al-Yawm which is taken from a report in America in Arabic which reported on a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life report about the global Muslim population! Needless to say, the al-Misrī al-Yawm article is rather removed from the original report. The original report is a survey of the distribution of the Muslim population and states that 95.6 % of the Egyptian population is Muslim. It does not focus on the rest of the population or on religious minorities. On the other hand, the al-Misrī al-Yawm article appears to put the emphasis on the fact that the Coptic Orthodox Church does not accept the report or the suggestion that Christians make up 5.4% of the population. It is difficult to tell where along the reporting line the focus shifted, whether it was the America in Arabic report or just in Bayyūmī’s article that appears in AWR, but it clearly demonstrates how media reports can inadvertently shift focus and add a new angle to a report that was not originally intended.”

  1. Katia Saqqa, “Pope Shenouda, 38 years on the See of Saint Mark,” Media Review in Arab West Report, Week 45, Art 36, November 6, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-45/36-pope-shenouda-38-years-see-saint-mark.

“Muhammad Nūr of Ākhir Sā‘ah of November 11, 2009 prepared a file on the topic, entitling it “on the 38th anniversary of Pope Shenouda’s ascension.” The articles covered a broad range of topics e.g. there are 27 Coptic denominations and beliefs in Egypt”

  1. Ikram Lama‘i, “The national church,”Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 45, Art 29, November 9, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-45/29-national-church.

The author, Ikrām Lam‘ī, refutes any sort of expressions which allude to the marginalization of others and denying other groups’ identity. Moreover, he seeks to shed light on the vital national role played by the Evangelical Church in serving Egypt and its people regardless of their religious identity as either Muslims or Christians.

In 1934 the church became an independent entity. Moreover, the author highlights that the Evangelical Church has no less than 100 schools all over the country as well as hospitals and many other institutions that offer different social services for both Muslims and Copts along with serving Egypt in the fields of Muslim-Christian dialogue and development issues.
Finally, Lam‘ī emphasizes that no one can deny the vital national role played by the Evangelical Church.

  1. Ranya Badawi, “An interview with Bishop Besenti of Hilwan and al-Ma‘sarah,” Al-Miṣrī al-Yawm in Arab West Report, Week 45, Art 28, November 11, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-45/28-interview-bishop-besenti-hilw257n-and-al-macsarah.

“Badawī conducted an interview with Bishop Besenti of Hilwān and al-Ma‘sarah. The following lines are an explicit review of the interview.

A: The number of Christians is not small I have two references in this response; the first is Egyptian and the other is foreign. Sayyid Mar‘ī, the People’s Assembly speaker in the 1970s said that there were six million Christians. In the same year, Pope Shenouda was on a visit to the United States when Jimmy Carter told him: “you are a religious leader of seven million Copts who live in Egypt.” Logically, the 6.5 million Christians was out of 40 million, the Egyptian population at that time, 1977, which cannot be the same as nowadays. We should comprise 13 million now, and maybe no less than 15 million, but definitely not less that ten million as some people claim. However, even if Egyptians comprise, as Dr. Mustafá al-Fiqī stated, ten percent of the Egyptian population, then we can say that there should be 10 churches for every 100 mosques. However, there should be rules to regulate construction.
A: We have never sought to build the same number of mosques as churches. Similarly we cannot talk about a Christian president in Egypt. If we reach a percentage of one church to every 10 mosques we will be satisfied. Believe me all conditions and restrictions are made on one part. A Christian physician obtained an authorization to build a clinic; but in reality he was building a church. When the security found out they demolished the building, even though they could have just ignored it.
A: An influential official (Mufīd Shihāb) told me that “the quota is not in your favor, you are not incapable of succeeding and are not strangers in the country.” He however promised an alternative electoral system that is proportional. He also promised that Coptic representation will not be less than 15-20 percent.”

  1. Jalal ‘Arif, “The Coptic quota … is not the solution,” Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 20, November 19, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-47/20-coptic-quota-not-solution.

“Jalāl ‘Ārif seeks to shed light on one of the most crucial and controversial issues raised in Egyptian society from time to time; citizenship and national unity among Muslims and Copts. He warns against following any step like, for example, the Coptic quota, which would negatively affect citizenship by discriminating between Egyptians on a religious basis, dividing them as minorities and majorities.

The Copts are not a minority in this society but rather represent a vital part of Egyptian society. ‘Ārif stresses that by thinking this way Egypt would be capable of defending itself against foreign efforts to implant fitnah among citizens and the people would be able to face any external aggression or internal crises. From this perspective, the Copts in Egypt rejected proposals for them to receive a quota of seats in the Parliament while formulating the 1923 Constitution; they believed that was a way to ruin national unity and deal with them as a minority. They believed that nationalism guarantees equal rights and freedom for all the people. Throughout the ages, national unity has faced and overcome many problems and crises, thanks to its refusal to divide the Egyptian people into minority and majority groups on a religious basis.”
MN (May 2012): The original publisher of this article has for inexplicable reasons not been noted when translated, but due to lack of consistency in formalities and change of staff over years, unfortunately it is not possible to add this by now.

  1. Samih Mahrus and Muhammad‘Ali Ibrahim, “Interview with Pope Shenouda [2],” al-Jumhūrīyah in Arab West Report, Week 47, Art 33, November 22, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-47/33-interview-pope-shenouda-2

“[…] second part of al-Jumhūrīyah’s interview with Pope Shenouda.

Q: Do you have statistics on the number of churches built in the past 20 years?
A: Not precisely. However, recently quite a large number of churches have been built, especially over the past five years. The president of the republic is moderate and does not object to such issues, but troubles come locally (Reviewer: from local authorities).”

  1. Samir Khalil Samir, “Disappearance of Churches of the Middle East, a Tragedy for Christians and Muslims,” Asia News in Arab-West Report, Week 51, Art 21, December 20, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-51/21-disappearance-churches-middle-east-tragedy-christians-and-muslims.

Pope Benedict XVI has called synod of the churches in the Middle East for an October 2010. Difficulties churches suffer include widespread conflict, confrontational approaches following political changes, terrorism, the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist movement which reflects in media, schools and elsewhere which makes Christians “forced to behave in a ‘more Islamic’ way, often suffering social exclusion as a result.”

The easiest response for Christians to this situation tends to be one that is both equal and opposite: affirming the Christian identity with more stringency; a hardening of relations among themselves. This is evident in Egypt, but also in other situations.
Another way to react is to emigrate. Everyone, Christians and Muslims emigrate for socio-economic reasons, rarely for religious reasons. But the number of Christians who emigrate is far higher than that of Muslims and among the reasons why Christians leave those of cultural, and moral freedom are mounting. Emigration is facilitated by the fact that many Christians have relatives and friends abroad, the result of past migrations.
In the case of Egypt it is clear: Muslim migration has always been temporary, to the Gulf countries, people leave for a few years and then return. Instead Christians emigrate to North America or Europe or Australia, transplanting themselves in a comprehensive manner.
Emigration is not an entirely negative factor: it can also be opportunity for renewal. The Coptic community in the United States, for example, counts at least 700 thousand faithful. These were compared with American or Australian culture and sought to maintain the Coptic tradition - such as fasting, which is very intense and long - and respect for the clergy and for their Church. At the same time they have found other ways to celebrate, a greater closeness to the Holy Scriptures, Western theology. This has allowed for a true ecumenism and openness to other religious communities. And this is a positive contribution to their church.
Emigration has positive aspects also from an economic standpoint because it supports families and churches back home.
The presence of Islamic fundamentalism has positive aspects: it encourages Christians to live their faith in a more radical and intimate way, because there is an attack on their faith. Religious feeling is strengthened; at times, this religious sentiment in Christians and Muslims tends to fanaticism, but more often it arouses the desire for greater reflection, freedom and discovery.
The mission of the Christian minority
What makes matters worse is the fact numeric: Christians are a minority, they have neither numbers nor militias to claim a space. Their presence is neither supported in the region - because it is overwhelmingly Muslim - nor abroad because Europe and America are uninterested in the fate of Christians. When interest is aroused it is because the plight of Christians is linked to the economic and political situation.
We must take stock of these reasons in order to understand what future Christians have in the Middle East. And this is the purpose of the Synod: first comprehend the situation and then look for possible paths of action.
Many Christians are tempted to emigrate. This choice weakens those who remain: those leaving are generally the most capable in cultural and economic terms, and those who stay the weakest and the poorest. This is likely to provoke a vicious circle: the more people leave the more those who remain are oppressed. A similar thing happened in Turkey. Today there are more Syriac faithful in Saudi Arabia (migrants from India) than in Turkey and Syria combined. On a personal level, Christians a re highly adaptable to all situations. This means that in a one to two generations, Christians abroad become permanent residents and part of another Christian community.
But the question is: have Christians a specific mission in the Middle East?
If one thinks about the consequences for communities worldwide, it must be said that there is a risk of a great loss for world culture and the Universal Church: the end of the Churches of the East. Within a few decades a large part of the theological and intellectual heritage of the Churches of the East would be cancelled. And no book can replace it.
Severe loss
But it would be a great loss for the countries of the East. Christians are a different voice, a challenging one, diverse from Israel and the Muslims, with a specific culture that enriches this cultural area. It would also be a loss for society because Christians represent a tradition of freedom, of openness that is partly missing in the Islamic tradition, which is more closed in on itself.
This phenomenon has occurred many times in history: the Assyrian Christians who between the eighth century and the twelfth introduced Hellenistic thought in philosophy, medicine, science. And in 800 and 900, they also introduced European thought through their translations. They are a cultural bridge. And for the same Islamic world their disappearance would be a loss. In short, the emigration of Christians abroad and their disappearance from the East be a loss for everyone, first and foremost for Muslims themselves.

  1. Sharif al-Dawakhili, “The Patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt: We count 300,000 and Coptic Orthodox count eight million,” Arab West Report, Week 52, Art 41, December 26, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-52/41-patriarch-coptic-catholic-church-egypt-we-count-300000-and-coptic-orthodox.

“In his sermon on Christmas, his Eminence Antonius Najīb, patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church in Egypt stated that there were no official statistics about the Coptic Orthodox population in Egypt. However; unofficial sources have revealed that Catholics count about 300.000 people while Orthodox Copts count eight million.”

MN (May 2012): The original publisher of this article has for inexplicable reasons not been noted when translated, but due to lack of consistency in formalities and change of staff over years, unfortuneately it is not possible to add this by now.

  1. Maryam Tawfiq, “Dr. Safwat al-Bayyadi: I am against a quota for women and for Copts,” Arab West Report, Week 52, Art 36, December 27, 2009. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2009/week-52/36-dr-safwat-al-bayy257d299-i-am-against-quota-women-and-copts.

In this interview, Rev. Dr. Safwat al-Bayyādī, head of the Evangelical denomination, states that Christians and Muslims believe in the Virgin Mary’s purity and venerate her. He, as secretary-general for Evangelical schools, confirms that their schools serve all Egyptians regardless of their religion and that 90% of the schools’ students are Muslims. He rejects a parliamentary quota for women and Copts and prefers the proportional electoral list system.

MN (May 2012): The original publisher of this article has for inexplicable reasons not been noted when translated, but due to lack of consistency in formalities and change of staff over years, unfortuneately it is not possible to add this by now.

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