by Candace Lukasik
On July 29, 2018, one of the most beloved bishops and scholars in the Coptic world, Bishop Epiphanius, was found murdered outside of his cell at the St. Macarius monastery. He was on his way to Midnight Prayer when he was assaulted and struck in the back of the head. While the Egyptian state has now officially charged an ex-monk and an accomplice at the monastery with the murder, Coptic social media prior to this was abuzz with speculation, not only for the murder’s brutality but also because of the way it brought to a head a century-long internal debate about Coptic identity.
For most Western Christians, Coptic Christianity offers a powerful testimony to modern martyrdom. Several American Christian leaders point to violence against the Copts in order to garner attention for the persecution of Christians in the modern world and to shape US policy. In this regard, US activists and scholars tend to portray Coptic Christians as passive, premodern victims of modern religious violence. Such characterizations fail to recognize the extent to which the community has undergone a series of transformations and divisions of late. Continue Reading…
by Massimo Faggioli
Photo: L’Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis’ trip to Egypt (April 28-29, 2017) has been one of the most important and difficult for this pontificate, given the international political situation and the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt and of all Christians between Africa and the Middle East. It is not easy to look at this trip through one single interpretive lens, and therefore it requires the attempt to read it in the context of the pontificate.
A first level was the trip of Francis as expression of the modern magisterium of the pope of the Catholic Church on the relationship between religion as defensor of human rights and political rights in an age of evident crisis of faith not only in God, but also in our fellow human beings – the crisis of democracy. Interestingly, in his speech to the strongman of Egypt, general Al Sisi, and to the political authorities, Francis quoted from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 but also from the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, delivering a blunt reminder to Egyptian political authorities: “It is our duty to proclaim together that history does not forgive those who preach justice, but then practice injustice.” Francis walked a very fine line between the need to avoid the impression of a papal blessing of the post-Islamist regime of Al Sisi in Egypt, more friendly to Christians than the brief period of Morsi on one side, and on the other side the need not to be silent before the disturbing record of the present regime in terms of the respect of democratic rights and of freedom. Continue Reading…
by Sarah E. Yerkes
Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of the October 9, 2011 Maspero massacre in which Egyptian army forces killed two dozen Egyptians, mostly Coptic Christians, and injured hundreds more who were engaged in a sit-in in front of the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (Maspero) building. The protests against the destruction of a church, and the subsequent violent response, represent one of the lowest points in Christian-Muslim relations in modern Egyptian history. Five years later, despite attempts by both the current Egyptian government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the leadership of the Coptic church to improve sectarian issues, the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Egypt remains volatile. While President Sisi and Coptic Pope Tawadros II have developed a strong, symbiotic relationship, there are growing fissures between the Coptic leadership and the Coptic community both in Egypt and abroad. Continue Reading…