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Learning about our neighbors

Why THE COPTIC LEADERSHIP INITIATIVE?

The Coptic Leadership Initiative is an education-based advocacy campaign that celebrates the Coptic community's most prominent contributions to Christianity and Egyptian culture. The campaign will launch the St. Mark's Eastern Christian Leadership Program, which will equip 20-30 outstanding young Eastern Christians from different national and denominational backgrounds with the leadership skills they need to advocate for pluralism and religious freedom in their home countries. 
 
Explore the page and make sure to check back regularly for further updates and resources!
WHO ARE COPTS?

Copts are a distinct ethnoreligious group, indigenous to Egypt, that constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East. The Coptic Church is one of the oldest Christian denominations in history, with roots tracing back to just ten years after the death of Christ. Before the Muslim conquest, Coptic Christians were the majority in Egypt for hundreds of years. 

Mark the Apostle brought Christianity to Alexandria, Egypt sometime between 42 and 62 AD. Alexandria soon became a vibrant hub for religion and theology. Many of the great early Christian philosophers—Clement, Pantaenus, Origen-- were trained at the Catechetical School of Alexandria, where the first system of Christian theology and Biblical exegesis was formed. Some of the most significant official doctrinal proclamations within Christianity, such as the belief that Jesus is One and equal with the Father, were promulgated by councils led by Coptic patriarchs in the fourth and fifth centuries. 

WHAT DO COPTS BELIEVE?

The largest church within the Coptic community in Egypt is the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The Coptic Orthodox Church considers itself a living extension of the apostolic church in life, spirituality, liturgies and dogmas. Unlike other denominations of Christianity, the Coptic Church never underwent any major reformations and thus has preserved many original traditions of the early Christians.  

Early Coptic leaders such as St. Athanasius (296-373) ardently defended what many Christians accept today as the concept of the Trinity. At the first ecumenical council in Nicaea in 325 AD, St. Athanasius debated against Arianism, which denies the divinity of Christ and considers Him a created being. Athanasius successfully defended the Trinitarian belief that Jesus is coeternal and consubstantial with the Father. Athanasius is also believed to be the author of the Nicene Creed, which is recited throughout many churches today.  

Coptic Christians practice the sacraments of baptism, chrismation, repentance and confession, the eucharist, unction of the sick, matrimony, and priesthood/holy orders. They have their own liturgy, ceremonial calendar, clerical hierarchy and pope. The Pope of the Coptic Church, currently; Pope Tawadros II, oversees matters of faith and pastoral care. He is highly regarded by all Copts but does not occupy any state of supremacy or infallibility. Unlike many Christians who operate on the Gregorian calendar, Copts follow the Julian calendar. This means that common holidays such as Christmas and Easter fall on different days for Copts than many other Christian denominations.  

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

As Christians, we care about the entire body of Christ; our brothers and sisters from every corner of the world.  

The Coptic Church received the nickname ‘Church of the Martyrs,’ because of the significant number of Copts historically who died for their faith. Today, Copts continue to face serious threats in Egypt. Because negative stereotypes of Copts are pervasive throughout Egyptian society, Copts lack necessary protections and rights to function as fully equal citizens. Persistent and deadly attacks on Coptic churches, homes and communities has killed hundreds of Copts in recent years. Currently, Egypt is #16 on the World Watch List for Islamic oppression against Christians.  

Perhaps more striking than the plight of the Coptic people, is their response to it. Countless Coptic testimonies of faith and endurance in the face of unspeakable evil serve as a reminder to Christians everywhere that there is something so uniquely powerful in the message of the Gospel; that Christ is utterly and completely worth living and dying for.  

In many ways, the Western Church is currently undergoing a crisis; an absence of awareness and respect for the origins of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Now is the time where the Western Church must look to the East, to the examples demonstrated by Copts, to rediscover our Christian roots. Our Coptic brothers and sisters represent a return to the heart of Christianity: loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind. 

Fundraising

Support The Philos Project to help us provide educational content on Copts and the other Christian communities of the Middle East.

Community Building

We want you to get involved with your local Coptic community. Learn more about their culture, faith and traditions, and share your own!

Awareness

Copts are the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. They also face a shocking amount of violence and persecution solely for their Christian faith. 

St. Mark's Project

Philos Fellow Mina Adelmalak is launching a project to equip young Coptic leaders to advocate for and  champion their rich history and culture. 

BEHIND THE PROJECT

MINA ABDELMALAK

Mina was born and raised in Egypt and received a law degree from Ain Shams University in Egypt. He worked as a legal researcher for the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth (EULY), a Cairo-based, non-profit organization, which promotes classical liberalism among Egyptian youth. He supervised a program within EULY on the status of Coptic Christians in Egypt.

As a fellow for The Philos Project, Mina spearheads all activities focused on the Coptic people. He has a special initiative, St. Mark's Project, which is a leadership-building program for young Coptic adults.

LEARN

 FAQ's on Coptic Christians

Since the majority of Christians in the United States and other western countries belong to western churches, knowledge and understanding of churches of Eastern traditions is often limited.

Curious how the Coptic Church differs not just from the Western Church, but from other Eastern traditions as well? Wondering how long the church and the people have been around for? Toggle the chart to find out! 

After you have finished reading through the FAQs, go deeper by exploring the interactive timeline, found below.   

How are Copts different from other Egyptians?

Coptic Christians have a distinct ethnoreligious identity. Copts are also indigenous to Egypt and inhabited the land, with their own language and culture, as a majority for hundreds of years until the Arab conquest in the seventh century. After the Arab conquest, many Copts were either killed or forced to convert to Islam. There has not been a Christian majority in Egypt since. Although it is an ongoing debate within the Coptic community itself, many Copts do not identify as Arab. Historically, they existed as a separate people and were only assimilated into Arab culture in Egypt after the seventh century conquest.  

How are Copts different from other Christians?

All Copts are Christians, but they vary in which denomination they belong to. Copts are most commonly members of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, but many others are Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical.  

How large is the Coptic Church?

Estimates of the Coptic population in Egypt vary from around 10-20 million. According to World Atlas, there are 18 million Copts in Egypt and 1,243,000 in the diaspora. The largest number of Copts in the diaspora reside in the US, Kuwait, and Canada. 

How old is the Coptic Church?

Tradition holds that Mark the Apostle brought Christianity to Alexandria, Egypt sometime between 42 and 62 AD. 

Who is in charge of the Coptic Church?

The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is the Pope of Alexandria. Currently, Pope Tawadros II holds this position. He was selected as the 118th pope on November 18, 2012.  

How can I learn more about the teachings and theology of the Coptic Church?

Explore our resources including the Coptic one pager, timeline, heroes profiles and other content related to the Coptic Leadership Initiative! Check out our map of Coptic churches in the US and stop by the nearest one near you to engage with the local Coptic community in your own neighborhood! 

COPTIC CHURCHES IN THE U.S.

RESOURCES

Ready to learn more? Explore the resources provided below to dive even deeper.

eBook

Coming soon!

Events

Head over to our Events page to view upcoming events centered on Coptic Christians. 

Mideast Briefing Newsletter

Sign up for our weekly newsletter that delivers the top stories on the Middle East, Middle Eastern Christians, and more.

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COPTIC HEROES

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