Amid the recent protests over growing authoritarian and Islamic rule of the Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s small but resilient Coptic Christian minority feels increasingly under threat, Fox News reported.
According to U.S. Homeland Security figures, since the Arab Spring began in early 2011, the number of Egyptians seeking asylum in the U.S. has doubled. Unofficial estimates are that 100,000 Egyptians have sought refuge, many of them believed to be Coptic Christians.
“At the beginning, people thought that this revolution was very good, Muslims [and] Christians coming together,” said Coptic Christian Bishop Serapion. “But it turned in to be[ing] dominated by the systemic Salafis.”
The Salafis are an ultraconservative branch of Islam that is related to Wahhabism from Saudi Arabia. Many Salafis call for the replacement of secular or moderate forms of Islamic government with their hardline fundamentalist interpretations. The Salafi Al-Nour Party placed second behind the Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary elections last year.
“After that it was very clear,” said Bishop Serapion. “We are moving toward an Islamic government.”
Today, many of Egypt’s liberals and Christians have taken to the streets to protest Morsi. Many are concerned that Morsi will enact a constitution that will roll back democracy and protections for minorities.
Still, Coptics remain resilient; Coptic Christianity is one of the oldest forms of Christianity and has survived numerous persecutions in the past. According to tradition, their church was established by one of Jesus’s apostles, Saint Mark, in 42 CE. It constituted a majority of Egypt’s population until the Middle Ages. Today, it comprises nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 83 million people, making it the largest single Christian community remaining in the Middle East.
“How long will the Egyptian Orthodoxy continue?” asked Professor Dyron Daughrity, of Pepperdine University. “We don’t know. A lot of it has to do with politics,” Daughrity said.