“The book is a good and critical review for the cotemporary history and status of the Copts in the late 20th century. It reviews how an ancient Christian community is facing a rising tide of intolerance and violence by Islamic militancy and terrorism, and its attempts to cope with the daily pressures of discrimination and persecution.”
CH (May 2012): The author spends a considerable amount of space in his bookreview on the number of Copts, more so than Watson does in his book. This shows how important this subject is to this author, a Coptic activist (living in the US or Canada?) and frequent contributor to the Copts Daily Digest.
Usamah Salamah, “Twenty-three Egyptian bishops shepherd Coptic churches in the world,” Rose al-Yūsuf in Arab West Report, Week 26, Art 13, June 29-July 5, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-26/13-twenty-three-egyptian-bishops-shepherd-coptic-churches-world.
“Pope Shenouda consecrated Egyptian archpriest Miti’awes Al-Antoni as bishop for Sidney, Australia to shepherd Copts there. According to the traditions of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the name of archpriest Miti’awes Al-Antoni was changed to Bishop Daniel Al-Antoni, in relation to St. Antonious monastery where he lived as a monk.
Bishop Daniel became a monk 18 years ago. He graduated from the Faculty of Engineering. He was deputy of the Bishopric of Sudan and served in Egyptian churches in Ireland and Scotland.
The consecration of Bishop Daniel raised the number of Egyptian bishops serving Coptic churches abroad to 23. They cover the 100 Coptic churches in America, Canada, Australia, Africa and the Gulf Sates. In addition to these 23 bishops, there are 200 priests and archpriests.
There are 60 Coptic churches in the USA, 22 in Australia, 12 in Canada, four in England, and other churches in most European and African countries, the Gulf States and the Lebanon. Pope Shenouda was able to make the Orthodox the eighteenth acknowledged religious denomination in the Lebanon.”
Nabil Luqa Bibawi, “Copts abroad and a new vision,” Al-Ahrām in Arab West Report, Week 27, Art 11, July 4, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-27/11-copts-abroad-and-new-vision.
The author claims: “The number of Copts abroad has reached two million, the majority living in America and Canada.” And continues: “No-one can doubt the loyalty of these Copts to Egypt, nevertheless, a very small number of them perform suspicious acts such as publishing paid anti-Egypt advertisements in newspapers with Jewish tendencies.
Each of these advertisements costs about $100,000, which is equal to half a million Egyptian pounds. These advertisements are full of false news about Coptic women being raped and Copts being tortured.
Such paid advertisements taint Egypt’s reputation and depict Copts living in a jungle where they are oppressed by the government.”
Andrew Hammond, “Christians evoke Pharaohs in holy family parade,” Reuters in Arab West Report, Week 32, Art 12, July 28, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-32/12-christians-evoke-pharaohs-holy-family-parade.
“(We received this article from the author who participated in our Holy Family tour in June this year.)
In recent years, Christian celebrations of their stay in now mainly Muslim Egypt have played a key role in a Coptic revival, seen as a reaction to rising Islamic consciousness in the region since the 1970s.
Today, Egypt is an Arabic-speaking country where Muslims form at least 90 percent of a population of some 70 million.
Many people were killed but now the situation is calm," said Demetrius, who estimated that 25 percent of the local population is Christian. (Editor: not only the bishop stated this but also many local Christians we met.)
"Now it is much better," he added. "It is beginning to turn back to normal."
Muhammad al-Tahlawi, “Egyptian Christians didn´t fall in the trap of Zionist temptation,” October (Magazine) in Arab West Report, Week 31, Art 9, August 4, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-31/9-egyptian-christians-didn180t-fall-trap-zionist-temptation.
“Islamic thinker Muhammad Emara praised the national stance of the Coptic minority in Egypt, and their wise behavior against imperialistic attempts to use minorities to fracture societies. He explains the difference between the usage of the word “minorities” in the West and in Islamic societies. He stresses that non-Muslims living in Islamic societies have the same rights and duties as Muslims.
A: The word minority in western societies refers to people who are different in their culture, identity, and ethnic roots than the majority who live in the same country. But in Egypt it is different. I cite here Bishop Mousa’s words: "In Egypt we don’t feel that we are a minority as we are not different from our Muslim brothers, we are all Egyptians, the same blood runs in our veins since the time of the Pharaos." Thus minority here refers to numbers only. The Islamic stance towards minorities is a noble reverse of the previous example of the Byzantines [Rum] who believed that all others were barbarians and persecuted them, including the Christians.”
Nirmin Fawzi, “Pope Shenouda: Do Christians not have the right to be represented fairly in parliament?” Arab West Report, Week 44, Art 7, November 16, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-44/7-pope-shenouda-do-christians-not-have-right-be-represented-fairly-parliament.
“Pope Shenouda issued a statement to the members of Cairo Lions Club that what the constitution says about the equality between Muslims and Christians is one thing and the actual fact of the matter is another. He added that Copts have the right to be represented fairly in the Parliament.
In answering a question about citizenship rights in Egypt, he said: "There is a difference between general rules and the practical application of these rules. The constitution and the law state that Muslims and Christians in Egypt are equal in rights and duties. However, the living reality is different. For example, from among 444 candidates for parliament, only three Christians succeeded. One of them has been deposed because he holds two nationalities (he refers to businessman Rami Lakh who holds both the Egyptian and the French nationalities)." He wondered: "Do Christians have not the right to be fairly represented in parliament?
In an article titled "Pope Shenouda brings to the surface the problem of Copts and the occupation of prominent official positions," Yasser al-Zayyat of Ṣawt al-Ummah comments on Coptic participation in the political life in Egypt. He writes that in 1923 Copts refused the idea of relative representation in parliament (fixed number of seats for Copts). They chose to exercise full citizenship. At that time they were very active on the political level. Between the years 1938 and 1942, there were about 27 Christian representatives in parliament.
However, the number of Copts in parliament decreased bit by bit after the revolution of July 1952. Coptic political isolation reached its peak at the time of President Sadat, whose relationship with Pope Shenouda was not good. During Sadat’s time, when the Islamic groups were very active, Christians retreated from the political life and resorted to the church.
Dr. Muhammad Emara responded to the pope’s statement concerning Coptic rights to have a fair representation in the parliament in an interview that the Jezira Channel ran with him. He said: "Copts possess about 40% of Egypt’s fortune while they only account for 6% of the population in Egypt." This fact has been pointed out before by the Christian researcher Nabil Luqa Bebawi in his book "The Problems of Copts in Egypt and their Solutions."
Yusuf Sidhum, “A steady haemorrhage,” Watani International in Arab-West Report, Week 44, Art 10, October 27, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-44/10-steady-haemorrhage.
Last March we eagerly printed an article written by the Saudi Prince Talal Bin Abdel - Aziz on the The Survival of Arab Christians, in which he discussed the positive role of Arab Christians and their civilisational and cultural contribution to their mother Arab societies and cultures. The Prince criticized the treatment they were accorded - definitely unequal to that accorded to the majority Muslim population - leading to a steady flow of migration of Arab Christians from their native lands. He called for a reconsideration of the present state of affairs, with the objective of preserving the richness and variety of Arab society, and in the process, extending bridges of understanding and acceptance to the international community, especially concerning Muslims and non-Muslims.
The Prince’s thought appeared as a lonely ray of light amid a wasteland of hate and non-acceptance of "the other." Sidhum then refers to a letter he received in response to the article of the Prince, someone who had returned from Saudi Arabia. The letter writer writes of a “climate of inequality and continuous harassment that plaques their (=Christians) everyday lives is a well-known reality that can no longer be denied or cloaked in flowery rhetoric.”
Nirmin Fawzi, “Does Pope Shenouda ask for fixed percentage of Coptic representatives in the Parliament?” Media Review in Arab West Report, Week 45, Art 7, November 16, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-45/7-does-pope-shenouda-ask-fixed-percentage-coptic-representatives-parliament.
“The statement which Pope Shenouda has given to the members of the Cairo Lions Club concerning the conditions of Copts is still causing controversy (See RNSAW, Week44A, Art.6).
Does the Pope support the representation of a fixed percentage of Copts in the Parliament? Usama Salama of Rose al-Youssef writes that the statement of the pope is ambiguous. Some Arab and Western media outlets have exploited the statement and reported that the pope asks for a certain number of chairs for Copts in the Parliament. The statement, however, can be understood as to mean that he asks for an electoral system that can guarantee the success of Copts.
Salama believes: “It will be useful if the pope explains his stand in an unambiguous way. If he does not mean the sense that the different media outlets have reported, which is “representation through a fixed percentage”, he should explain that to disclose their intentions of setting fire in Egypt. If he really means “representation through a fixed percentage”, he should declare that he has changed his mind, especially because he rejected representation through a fixed percentage many times before.”
Salama points out that Copts themselves rejected a representation through a fixed percentage in 1923. They believed that it is in its nature to divide the nation and make of Copts a minority which is refused by both Muslims and Copts.”
Jamal As‘ad ‘Abd al-Malik, “Using Copts to divide the national unity,” Al-Akhbār in Arab West Report, Week 46, Art 4, November 11, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-46/4-using-copts-divide-national-unity.
“As usual, the report of the US Secretary of States for religious freedom in Egypt this year accuses Egypt of exercising religious persecution against the Christian minority. The US Secretary of State depends on emigrant Copts in writing its reports.
The suggestions also call for the urgent intervention of the United States to force the Egyptian government to respond to the Coptic demands. The cornerstone of these demands is dedicating part of Egypt’s land for the Copts to establish an independent entity. Such an entity would operate under the leadership of the church and have its own parliament and government.
Does that mean that Egypt should allocate shares or portions of Egyptian land to the Copts?
If we speak about shares or portions, presuming that the Copts count for 6% or 10% of the Egyptian population, we find that the portions or shares of the Copts in different fields of life are more than the aforementioned percentage.
The Copts account for 60% of all pharmacists, 65% of all jewelers and 70% of the tradesmen in Wakalet Al-Balah (a famous textile market in Egypt). So, is allocating shares or portions to the Copts going to solve all their problems?”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Interview with Metropolitan Bishoi, Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church,” Arab-West Report, November 14, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-47/16-interview-metropolitan-bishoi-secretary-holy-synod-coptic-orthodox-church.
Metropolitan Bishoi said that Bishops had been asked to keep records. Some did but others didn’t. President Mubarak spoke some time ago about 10 percent of the population so let’s keep that number as a guideline. Episcopal Bishop Munir Hanna Anis Armanius, however, accepts the figures the CAPMAS provided.
Paul Schemm, “The hero and the mystic…The Coptic Church´s two towering figures do not get along and the flock is torn,” Cairo Times in Arab West Report, Week 50, Art 26, December 12-18, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-50/26-hero-and-mysticthe-coptic-church180s-two-towering-figures-do-not-get-along-and.
“An article published in the Sunday School Magazine and written by Father Basilios of the Monastery of Makarios was said not to be in accordance with the Orthodox belief. Father Basilios will be investigated by the pope himself. The problem, according to churchleaders, is not Basilios or other monks in Makarios Monastery. It is in their mentor, Father Matta Al Meskeen.
It is hard to argue with the renaissance experienced by the church in the last four decades. The number of seminaries has jumped from one to 10 since the pope’s accession. Around 500 students went through the seminaries between 1900 and 1961, there were five times that number between 1961 and 1994-and the number of students is still increasing. Monasteries have jumped from nine to 16 with a five-fold increase of monks to 1,500.
The pope has also dramatically increased the centralization of the church by breaking up the large dioceses into smaller units and appointing new bishops. The number of bishops under Pope Shenouda’s reign has increased from 25 to 85, bolstered by numerous "general" bishops without flocks.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “Persecuted Christians? Case Study of Egypt,” in “Persecuted Christians? Documentation of an International Conference,” Missio, Autumn 2002 in Arab-West Report, Week 50, Art 30, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-50/30-persecuted-christians-documentation-international-conference.
It is estimated that 70% of the Egyptians who emigrated to the West are Christians. But it became harder to enter the West. Push factors such as poor living conditions and pull factors such as prospects for better living conditions and family and friends in the West made them still eager to go. A number of them have faked asylum stories in order to get to the West. Some Christian groups in the West started campaigning for their fellow brothers and sisters in faith in Egypt and other countries. In the US they lobbied for an act that would make it possible for the US to interfere in other countries on the basis of a perceived lack of religious freedom. Their lobbying resulted in the Freedom from Religious Persecution Act in 1999 and the formation of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom advising the US government and Congress on possible punitive actions against countries for their way of dealing with Christians and other minorities. This was perceived as American bullying. The Egyptian press strongly criticized the law and the commission, which were both perceived as an unjust interference in Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt.
Cornelis Hulsman, “Religious Freedom and Civil Society in Egypt,” Religious News Service from the Arab World (Arab West Report), Week 50, Art 31, December 23, 2002. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2002/week-50/31-religious-freedom-and-civil-society-egypt.
“The text of a lecture on human rights and civil society in Egypt, including a discussion on numbers of exaggerated stories in the West, rumors and civil society.
[…] numbers are a problem. Some Coptic activists, but also some clergy, claim with the greatest of ease that 20% of the Egyptian population is Christian. The most recent US Freedom of Religion report puts the number at 8-10% (that’s a change from last year when they wrote 10%). A Jesuit priest in Minia has been systematically asking young Christian army conscripts how many Christians there were in their unit. On the basis of this he calculated that the number of Christians is probably no more than 5% of the total population. That’s a shock isn’t it? Numbers, unfortunately, are inflated for political reasons. Egyptian Christians are arguing for more church permits, more Christians in higher positions, etc. And higher numbers help.
Dr. Abdel Monem Sa’id told me about research, carried out by the National Institute of Planning, on the quality of life in each governorate. Of the 26 governorates Minia ranks 26 [last], Assiut ranks 25 and Beni Suef ranks 24. Minia alone has been good for 77% of all terrorist activities in Egypt in past years. The three governorates are together good for 95% of all acts of terror. These three governorates have also traditionally had a large percentage of Christians. It is not strange that these Christians are also affected by the tremendous social pressures in these governorates.”
Cornelis Hulsman, “An article in Christianity Today criticized,” Arab-West Report, Week 5, Art 34, 5 February 2003. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2003/week-5/34-article-christianity-today-criticized.
Hulsman comments on an article by Jeff M. Sellers published by the U.S. newpaper Christianity Today:
“The article in question was posted by Jeff M. Sellers on December 31, 2002 on the website of Christianity Today, a major Christian publication in the US. The article was entitled "Heightened Hostilities; What you can do to help persecuted Christians in Egypt."
Seller writes: "Since the late 1990s, Islamists in Egypt have killed more than 1,300 Christians, according to Operation World." This is simply not true. Since the late 1990s no one has been killed! This sentence should say "since the early 1990s" but even then the information is not correct. No 1,300 Christians have been killed since the early 1990’s. That is in fact the figure Egyptian human rights organizations cite for the total number of people killed in the violent struggle between militant Islamists and the government during which tens of Christians lost their lives. Most of the 1,300 victims are either extremists or policemen. I have not seen a breakdown of the victims according to religion.
Sellers continued stating state that "Christians make up almost 13 percent of the population, or nearly 9 million believers. About half of those belong to Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church."
That is utter nonsense. Metropolitan Bishoi, secretary of the Holy Synod, estimated the number of Christians in Egypt at 10% of the Egyptian population and was even then very careful in formulating this (RNSAW, 2002, week 47A, art. 16). A US government report released by the US Embassy in Cairo gives an estimate of 8% to 10%. But these figures are all too high. A French report argues persuasively for a percentage of only 5.7% (Eric Denis, "CENT ANS DE LOCALISATION DE LA POPULATION CHRETIENNE EGYPTIENNE, Les élements d’une distanciation entre citadins et villageois," CNRS-CEDEJ, Cairo, 1997.) Other work based on research independent of Egyptian government information or sources resulted in estimates between 6% and 8%. Higher percentages are politically motivated and aimed at trying to obtain more permits for church buildings or higher government positions for Christians. But the proponents for higher figures have never been able to produce detailed research and arguments comparable to those of Eric Denis.
Bishop Marcos informed us that the number of church buildings has doubled between 1971 and today to approximately 1500. In Cairo alone 100 church buildings were added, a further 20 in Alexandria. This does not mean there have been no problems, but the background for problems with individual churches is not mentioned (probably because articles such as this one are based on the press releases and newspaper clippings of activists and are subsequently published without the benefit of checking the information with local sources), nor are the large numbers of new churches that have been built mentioned.”
Johanna Pink, “Nationalism, Religion and the Muslim-Christian Relationship: Teaching Ethics and Values in Egyptian Schools,” Arab-West Report, Week 15, Art 21, April 16, 2003. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2003/week-15/21-nationalism-religion-and-muslim-christian-relationship-teaching-ethics-and.
Like in most Muslim countries, in Egypt, religious education is mandatory. Religious education is provided for Muslims and Christians separately. Christians account for probably around 10% of the population; the majority of them are Orthodox Copts, but there are twelve other officially recognized denominations. Following Islamic law, Egyptian law recognizes Islam, Christianity and Judaism as revealed religions whose religious laws are applied in matters of personal status and who enjoy the protection of the state. As there are only a few hundred Jews left, most of them old, the question of Jewish religious education is obsolete. Other religious minorities, like Baha’is or Jehovah’s Witnesses, enjoy no protection and have no legal status. According to government statistics, there simply are no adherents of these faiths in Egypt, so the question of religious education is naturally not discussed with regard to them - in spite of the fact that there are probably several thousand Baha’is and at least as many Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country, which are not small numbers for a country like Egypt where new religious communities enjoy no protection and are supposedly non-existent.
CH (May 2012): It has to be realized - as underlined in the introduction - that many authors in Arab media make claims that they cannot substantiate. Johanna Pink, however, did her PhD research on this subject in Egypt and her information is the most accurate. If other media articles contradict information provided by her they are most likely incorrect. The twelve denominations mentioned here are probably in reference to the protestant denominations that are member of the Evangelical Community Council. Any church that is a member of one of the regonized community councils (Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant) is regonized by the government.
Shaqiq al-Tahir, “Emigrant Copts ask for putting Christians under protection,” Ṣawt al-Ummah in Arab West Report, Week 20, Art 28, May 12, 2003. URL: http://www.arabwestreport.info/year-2003/week-20/28-emigrant-copts-ask-putting-christians-under-protection.
“Every now and then some extremist emigrant Copts show up and repeat recurrent claims about the persecution of Copts in Egypt and the discrimination practiced against them by the government and Islamists. They aim at inciting the US against Egypt through promoting such disclosed lies about the conditions Egyptian Copts.