Abstract and Keywords
The Copts, the indigenous Christians of Egypt, are early examples of the global spread of Christianity. Their name comes from qibt, which Arabic-speaking Muslims used to designate first the native population of Egypt, and subsequently Egyptian Christians. Though Copts claim descent from the ancient Egyptians, most belong to the monophysite Coptic Orthodox Church, which attributes its origins to the missionary activities of Mark the Evangelist in the first century CE. As a result of the Islamic conquest in the seventh century and gradual conversion to Islam thereafter, they now constitute a small Arabized Christian community in an Arabic-speaking Muslim majority milieu. However, Copts remain the largest Christian population in the entire North African-Middle Eastern region. The key issues they face involve how to maintain communal viability and identity in the face of the powerful forces of nationalism, secularism, emigration, and post-colonial Islamic radicalism. This article traces the history of the Coptic tradition, demographics of Egypt's Coptic population, their rituals, relations with Muslims, and the Coptic diaspora.
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