'Slowly the Egyptian Copts rise up'

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After three years of hard times consequence of political turmoil born at Tahrir Square in Cairo, the Coptic community seems to raise its head. Following an uneasy coexistence with the Muslim Brotherhood, the handing of power to General Al Sissi brings about hope. It seems that many have converted to Christianity, the figures however remaining unknown.Among the Iraqis compelled to quit Mosul under pressure by blood-thirsty jihadists of Islamic Caliphates, it is likely that some of them may dream of the Coptic Church, still on its feet despite all the dark years. They hope may be, deep in their hearts, to reconstruct their churches and come back to one of the oldest Christian havens in the world.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Copts live better times. Assaulted, robbed, known sometime as scapegoats, they try to gather their forces after the coming to power of Mohammed Morsi and the Moslem Brothers, removed from power by a coup launched by General Sissi. On May 29, 2014 the latter was elected President of Egypt, getting 96 per cent of the votes. This election was greeted by the Church leaders, namely Mgr Adel Zeky, Apostolic Vicar of Alexandria, who declared that “Sissi is the right person at the right time. His victory offers to us Christians both security and future perspectives. We are proceeding towards better times”

This optimism is shared by Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church which counts between 8 to 10 million faithful, representing 10 % of the Egyptian total population. Concerned to protect his Church, he got very quickly closer to the current President at the time of the coup which broke out in July 2013. Since then Christians feel more secure. They are keen to reconstuct their churches, their meeting rooms, their homes, and can therefore join the Church without any fear of being assaulted.

Organisations close to Christians of the East, and to Copts themselves, speak about a rise in the number of conversions to Christianity. The figure is hard to determine as those who convert may face judiciary follow-ups or deaths if their conversion is revealed in broad day.

An underground church is being shaped, not in collision with the government as the case might be in China or in other Asian countries, but to protect themselves from retaliatory acts by the new Christians’ original community. “It is not the political power which oppresses us, according to an Egyptian neophyte, but directly the kins. If a Moslem is converted, his family and neighbours may beat him, or even kill him, for this amounts to treason””

However, these hardships do not reveal the beauty of the reality : in times of persecutions, that means when a conversion seems very unlikely, the most dangerous, the message of Christ is heard. This is what Christians hold to, for they remain concerned and encouraged to raise their Church, which is about to crumble, to raise it for ever.

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By Pierre Loup de Raucourt/LPJ