The Coptic Church

Daniel Carvalheiro-Santos, Staff Writer

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The Coptic Church, an organization that has recently been in the headlines for the persecution against this sect of the Christian Church, is a much more complex and significant representation of Christianity than many of us may understand. Like many other readers, I was never aware of the existence of the Coptic Church until the horrifying attacks on the Coptic community in Egypt on April 9th, 2017, a day of utmost reverence in the Christian Church known as Palm Sunday. These devastating assaults (one at St. George’s Church in Tanta, Egypt and the second attack at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, Egypt) left 45 Coptic Christians dead and another 100 wounded. However, these attacks were not the first to plague this humble sect of Christianity. On December 11, 2016, a Coptic Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt was targeted by ISIL, leaving 25 dead. In another incident in southern Egypt, Muslim radicals raided homes belonging to Coptic Christians and killed them for no other reason than their religious differences. These various attacks have culminated in a statewide Egyptian state of emergency, leaving the estimated 9 million Coptic Christian terrified to leave their homes for the celebration of the holiest week in Christianity.

After seeing the various associations with Christianity, you may be asking yourself why this church decided to separate from the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church? The Coptic Church claims it originated from the teachings of St. Mark, who evangelized the area. The Church evolved from its original form as one of the oldest Christian-based churches by adapting a Pope and making its headquarters in the portuary Egyptian city of Alexandria. The Coptic Church focuses on a Coptic liturgy and service, remaining true to its traditions while modernizing some services in the midst of the spreading of Islam and Arabization throughout Egypt. In addition, Copts consider themselves the creators of monasticism because of their long refuges in the Saharan Desert starting in the 3rd century. The Coptic Church is today very similar to the Eastern Orthodox Church, taking part in some similar traditions, such as the use of the iconostasis (wall of icons that separates the church from the nave). The current Pope of the Coptic Church is Tawadros II, the successor of Pope Shenouda III who passed away in 2012. In Egypt, the Coptic community is often discriminated against due to their small representation in Parliament. Out of roughly 600 hundred members of Parliament, only 40 are Coptic Christians many of these put in power because of obligatory religious diversity ratios in Parliament. This persecution and misrepresentation of the Coptic Christian community cannot continue to occur. Unfortunately, this scene is not only found in Egypt but also in other Christian minority nations where Christians are persecuted and forced to flee as numbers of Christians diminish. Something must be done to reinforce the Christian communities in areas where they are in decline and persecuted for their religious beliefs.

Photo Credits to Daily News Egypt