The Coptic group is an ethnic group that lives in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Their dominant religion is Christianity. Therefore, the members of this minority group are united by a common origin and religion. Copts do not follow Arab nationalism as they think that they are different from Arabs because they have the Egyptian heritage and culture genetic makeup and own ethnicity. Consequently, the Coptic group is the minority group that has its unique history, identity, and culture, and, at the same time, it is related to the cultural, social, and religious environment of the Middle East.
The history of the Coptic group is related to the origin of Christianity in Egypt in around 42 AD. Thus, Copts are one of the most ancient Christian communities in the Middle East. For example, Copts comprise approximately 10-20% of Egypt’s population (Ayad 191). Copts try to preserve their identity and maintain their distinctions from Arabs. The question regarding the national identity of the Coptic group was provoked by the rise of pan-Arabism, and Nasser’s regime did not manage to impose Arabian or Egyptian roots on the Coptic group. The Coptic culture is rich in various traditions and customs that distinguish them from Arabs and Egyptians (see fig. 1). First, Copts respect baptism and adhere to its rituals. Second, their marriage ceremonies take place in churches (Morgan 70). It means that the Coptic group is quite religious.
Further, the Coptic group is unique because it does not merge with the Arabic and Egyptian cultures. The members of this group try to preserve their ethnic identity in spite of any obstacles. Other nations in the Middle East and Northern Africa regard Copts as minorities. However, Copts continue to pass their traditions and customs from generation to generation. Their religion is Christianity, which is not typical of Arabs and Egyptians. Another unique feature of the Coptic group is that its members have their own language that is currently in the process of revival. This means that Copts as a particular ethnic and cultural group are developing. Besides, the Coptic group is the largest religious minority in Egypt. Nevertheless, it faces the discrimination and marginalization. However, the Coptic group tries to avoid the negative impact of the dominant cultures, reinforcing the idea that they are an ancient and unique community of the Arab world.
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The members of the Coptic group are traditionally related to the wider social, cultural, religious, and political environment of Egypt. Moreover, they occupy the active position in the Egyptian community. Regarding the political aspect, Copts have the corresponding political rights and representation in the government. Some of them work as judges in Egyptian courts. Thus, Copts can participate in the Egyptian political affairs. Regarding the cultural aspect, Copts have founded the Higher Institute of Coptic Studies and the Coptic Museum (Farag 46) (see fig. 2). These cultural achievements prove that the Coptic group contributes to the culture of the Egyptian community.
Copts have been related to the social aspect of the Egyptian environment as well. They occupied many influential positions and took part in the Egyptian national movements for independence. Copts try to promote democracy in the regions where they live. Regarding the religious aspect, the group is not related to the Egyptian community because Copts follow Christianity, while Islam is the most widespread religion of Egypt (Gabra 22). Consequently, Copts have less influence and authority than Egyptians. They suffer from discrimination and unequal treatment when it comes to the appointment to leadership positions. Moreover, they deal with the problem of restriction to build churches. It means that Christian faith and church are not supported by Egyptians (Tadros 32). Thus, the Copt group faces various challenges in Egypt.
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It is obvious that the Coptic culture has its distinctive facets of experiences and identity. However, there are other ways the Coptic group participates in the Middle Eastern culture and community. First, Copts have strong roots in the Middle East. However, their position and authority change and depends on the rulers. Second, they erect Christian charity buildings, schools, and churches (Gabra 22). Besides, the Copt group as a minority suffers from hostility, discrimination, and restrictions. As a result, the status of Copts in the Middle Eastern community is not quite positive as they can experience abuse and violence.
It is evident that Copts want to be the active participants in the Middle Eastern society, but they are limited by their intentions to preserve the national identity. Moreover, Copts often become the victims of Islamic extremists. It is obvious that Christianity is not accepted by this community. Regarding Coptic women, they are the victims of forced marriages, sexual exploitation, and violence. Thus, the position of Copts in the Middle East remains risky and dangerous. Since the Coptic group is a minority group, it requires the protection from the government and the widening of the scope of rights for them to feel safe among Muslims.
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In conclusion, the Coptic group is the minority group that has its unique history that is related to the struggle for independence, the promotion of democracy, and the saving of its national identity. The Coptic identity is reinforced by the Christian moral principles and their desire for growth. Copts are related to the social and political aspects of the environment where they live. However, they are unable to change various religious and social factors that can lead to the negative consequences of their living in the environment where they represent the minority.