Dr. Dyron Daughrity, Pepperdine University - Egypt's Coptic Christian Minority
Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Dyron Daughrity of Pepperdine University reveals the deep historical roots of Egypt's Christian minority and explains their role in recent political events.
Dr. Dyron Daughrity is an assistant professor of religion at Pepperdine University where he teaches courses on the history of Christianity and the history of theology. In 2010 he published The Changing World of Christianity: The Global History of a Borderless Religion.
Dr. Dyron Daughrity - Egypt's Coptic Christian Minority
The Egyptian Revolution captured the world's attention recently. What began as a small-scale protest mushroomed into all-out cry for reform. Egypt's defiance against its 30-year president surprised many. The long-term effects of the revolution remain to be seen, but one of the elements of the story that was not widely reported was the interfaith solidarity of the events. And the Christian minority in Egypt played a critical role.
Egypt is a strongly Muslim nation, around 90%. However, there resides a 10% religious minority, known as the "Coptic Church." Considered today the native ethnicity, with roots going back to the pharaohs, they have an illustrious Christian heritage.
Jesus Christ lived in Egypt as a refugee for a time. Many early Christian leaders were Egyptian including Athanasius the 4th century theologian who defined the Trinity and consolidated the New Testament canon. Alexandria was early Christianity's academic nerve center. Christian monasticism began in Egypt with St. Anthony, the Father of All Monks.
Religious tensions in Egypt are occasionally ignited such as in 2009 with the swine culling that decimated the livelihood of many Christian pig farmers. The New Year's Day church bombing this year killed 21 people and sent large numbers of Coptic Christians to the streets in protest.
The Egyptian Revolution was a perfect storm: Tunisia's government had collapsed, Mubarak's health and influence were waning, and WikiLeaks exposed widespread corruption. The result was popular discontent fuelled by Twitter and Facebook.
And the Coptic cry for justice was part of the storm. While scantly reported, it was one of the catalysts bringing Egyptians together for a common purpose: change.