Egypt’s revolution may have brought about a significant change in Christian-Muslim relations in that country where of the 80 million population some 10 percent are Christians. The overwhelming numbers are Coptics who date their founding to St. Mark in the first century. The Copts split from the Catholic Church after the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. They are among the Oriental Orthodox churches. A smaller number of Copts were reunited with the Pope. They comprise the Catholic Coptic Church.
Egypt was a Coptic Christian country until 642 A.D. when it fell to the armies of Islam. Over the centuries the number of Copts decreased dramatically and underwent oppression and persecution.
They flourished briefly in the early 19th century, but with the coup of Abdal Nassar in 1952 they again were suppressed and discriminated against. Under Hosni Mubarak they suffered harassment and sectarian attacks that culminated in the 2011 New Year’s car bomb attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria that killed more than 20 worshipers. Many Coptics blamed the Mubarak government and not Muslims who offered aid to the survivors and the church.
Coptic youth were protesting the government before the January 25 revolution. And, although Church authorities were hesitant, the Coptic youth protesters joined the Muslims in Tahrir Square in the history-making revolution.
The Al-Arab newspaper reports that Christian protesters conducted funeral prayers for the martyrs who had been killed during the demonstrations. Christian youth then stood guard as Muslims prayed to protect them from the secret police. Al-Arab reported that crowds of youth participated, under the leadership of prominent Coptic figures.
Cardinal Antonios Naguib, patriarch of the Coptic Catholic Church, issued a statement welcoming the fall of the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
“The Egyptian Catholic Church joins all Egypt’s loyal citizens to thank God Almighty for the wonderful success he granted to the courageous youth of the January 25 movement,” he continued “This experience has produced a reality that was absent for so long, which is the unity of the citizens, the youth and the old, Christians and Muslims, without any distinction or discrimination, in purpose and action for the good of Egypt, and for the security and safety in the country,” he added. “We are certain that these feelings that reigned in the hearts will last for the near and distant future.”
God works in strange and wonderful ways. Let us pray that these events mark a new era for our Christian brothers and sisters in Egypt.