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By Mounir Bishay

5/6/2009 (5 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Hundreds of Coptic young girls, including many under aged, are being kidnapped, raped, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men.

We are confident that the Lord has established His altar in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof. (Isaiah 19:19)  God will continue to have His presence in Egypt.  The Copts of Egypt will continue to be God’s people, and they will continue to be blessed. (Isaiah 19:25)

We are confident that the Lord has established His altar in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof. (Isaiah 19:19) God will continue to have His presence in Egypt. The Copts of Egypt will continue to be God’s people, and they will continue to be blessed. (Isaiah 19:25)

Highlights

By Mounir Bishay

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/6/2009 (5 years ago)

Published in Middle East


LOS ANGELES (Catholic Online) - The word Copt is derived from the Greek word, Ai-gypt-os meaning Egypt. The middle part of the word gypt was later pronounced as Copt and used to mean Egyptian. From the time Egypt embraced Christianity in 54AD to the time Islam invaded Egypt in 642 AD, all people of Egypt were called Copts, After the Islamic invasion, some Copts embraced Islam and excluded themselves from the name. Those who remained faithful to their Christian faith clung to their Coptic identity, and still do.

There is no official count for the Copts of Egypt today. The Egyptian census bureau keeps this as a secret. This is also seen as a reason to avoid any demands by Copts for equitable treatment. However, reliable statistical sources put the number at more than 12 millions, about 15% of Egypts population of 80 millions.

Christianity was introduced to Egypt in 54 AD by St. Mark, a North African Jew and one of the 70 apostles of the early church. St. Mark is the writer of the Gospel of Mark, one of the four gospels of the New Testament. He was the first Patriarch of an unbroken 117 patriarchy of the Coptic Orthodox church. St Mark was the first martyr of many Coptic martyrs who gave their life for the faith. In 68 AD, St Mark was killed when he was seized and dragged with a rope through the main streets of the city of Alexandria.

St. Mark put the foundation of the Church of Alexandria, one of the ancient pillar churches at the time. The other churches were the mother Church in Jerusalem, the Church of Antioch, the Church of Rome, the Church of Ephesus, and the Church of Constantinople. St Mark also founded the school of Alexandria which produced great theologians in the history of Christianity such as Clement of Alexandria and Origen.

In the year 642 AD the Arabs led by Amre Ibn El As invaded Egypt under the banner of Islam thus ending the Coptic era. Islam soon spread in Egypt as a result of imposing a high tax on Copts (People of the Book) called Jizya. Those among the Copts, who were able to pay the tax, did so and remained as Christians. The poor Copts were offered two choices, either to convert to Islam or be killed. Many Copts were martyred. Those Copts who remained Christians were reduced to the Dhemmi status, a third class citizenship, after the Arab Muslims and the Egyptian Muslims. It is a class of people who are allowed just to exist with little or no rights. Soon the Arabic language was forced onto all Egyptians and the Coptic language was restricted until it completely disappeared except in church liturgy.

Copts in modern times

The Copts in modern Egypt are suffering from discrimination and persecution. They are frequently subject to terrorist attacks on their persons, homes, businesses and churches. Not a month passes by without a major assault taking place. According to a study made by Ibn Khaldoun Research Center, more than 240 major attacks took place just between the years 1972- 2003.

Hundreds of Coptic young girls, including many under aged, are being kidnapped, raped, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men.

The Egyptian Constitution stipulates that all Egyptians are equal under the law. But the discrimination is widely practiced with sanction from the government. Areas of discrimination include but not limited to education, employment, freedom of religion, building churches, and parliamentary representation.
Many colleges limit the enrollment of Copts by imposing a quota of 1 or 2 % while the Copts are about 15% of the populations. A total educational system, from elementary to college, called Al Azhar which is fully funded by all tax payers does not accept Copts as students or as teachers or administrators
Many high ranking jobs are out of reach of Copts. Examples are key police and security positions, mayors, police chiefs, deans of colleges, presidents of universities and most diplomatic positions.
Christians who want to convert to Islam are welcomed with open arms, while Muslims who would like to convert to Christianity are usually imprisoned and tortured, some die from torture.
Building churches still require a permit from regional governess for repairs. Building new churches still require approval of the President. Even when the president approves, the security apparatus must also investigate to see if the Muslim community would not object. If they object, the church may not be built. Many new communities dont have churches. A permit to build a church could take as long as 20 years and may never be secured.
Egypts Parliament has just two Coptic elected representatives; one of them was disqualified for holding dual citizenship. This is out of 444 total representatives, which amounts to less than % of the total representatives. The president appoints few more Copts who owe their loyalty to the government rather than to the Coptic people.

As a result of this harsh treatment, many Copts are leaving the country of their forefathers to become immigrants in countries all over the world. In addition, some of those who are weak in the faith among the Copts are abandoning their Christian faith and converting to Islam. A Muslim writer predicted that Christianity will disappear from Egypt within 100 years. Humanly speaking, some may look at that with concern. However, Christianity in Egypt went through much harsher periods than that, under Islam in the last 1400 hundred years, and still stands strong as the great Pyramids.

It is the other way around, with the help of modern technology, we are seeing many Muslims inside Egypt and all over the Islamic world are hearing the message of Jesus and embracing the Christian faith. We are confident that the Lord has established His altar in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof. (Isaiah 19:19) God will continue to have His presence in Egypt. The Copts of Egypt will continue to be Gods people, and they will continue to be blessed. (Isaiah 19:25)

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Mounir Bishay is president of the Los Angeles based Christian Copts of California
E-mail: Mounir.Bishay@sbcglobal.net

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