On April 9, at least 49 people were killed after IS attacked two Coptic Christian Churches in Egypt. Who are the Copts?
Egypt’s Copts are the Middle East’s largest Christian minority and one of the oldest. They make up about 10 per cent of the country’s population of 90 million and the Coptic Orthodox form the largest Christian denomination in the Muslim-majority country, according to AFP
Tracing their roots
The Copts trace their history to the dawn of Christianity, when Egypt was integrated into the Roman and later the Byzantine empire. The Bible says Joseph, Mary and Jesus sought refuge in Egypt after Christ’s birth to escape a massacre of newborns ordered by King Harod. The word “Copt” comes from the same root as the word for “Egyptian” in ancient Greek, AFP added
In the 7th century, when the Arabs invaded the country, the Copt community started to decline. After the progressive Islamisation of the country, Egypt today is largely Sunni Muslim. Most Copts adhere to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, headed since 2012 by Pope Tawadros II
Attacked since 2011
Today, Copts say that officials often refuse to issue building permits for churches. Egypt’s Copts have been the target of several deadly attacks since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak. Pro-Morsi Islamists accused the Christian community of supporting his overthrow