The Coptic Diaspora (Diaspora Series, Part III)

Yesterday I said that Jennifer Brinkerhoff has listed “several features common to diasporas” based upon the work of international relations scholar Robin Cohen.[1]

I included those so we can take a look at the Coptic diaspora in light of them to find out what exactly makes the Coptic diaspora what it is.

Here’s the answer I found:

The Coptic Orthodox Church makes the Coptic Diaspora what it is as a Diaspora.

This is a huge strength for the Copts. Applying the four features above to the Coptic Diaspora shows just how strong it is even compared to other Diasporas:

  • The Coptic Diaspora has a strong collective memory and a story about the homeland that unites the Copts.  As Egyptians, the Copts boast an ancestry from the ancient Pharaonic civilization in Egypt. Founded by the apostle St. Mark, the origin of the Coptic community extends back to the origins of Christianity itself.  As His Holiness Pope Shenouda III has said, “Egypt is not a place in which we live. Egypt is a place that lives in us.”
  • It has a commitment to the preservation of the Christian faith in the homeland, and the honor of its saints martyred for the faith, almost implying a blood covenant with those who sanctified the land by their lives there.
  • The Coptic tradition is one of a kind. Second or third generation Muslim Egyptians might at times lose their cohesiveness as a group, being absorbed into a broader Muslim or Arab-American identity; however, second or third generation Copts continue to maintain their Coptic identity because their identity is based around the practice of their distinctive faith. This is a faith that never changes, and gives its members a common history and a common destiny.
  • Wherever the Copts go in the world, they are bound by their distinctive way of life and faith with other Copts in many different nations. No matter what language a Copt might pray in, he or she prays the same liturgy and shares the same regular communion with every other Copt.

So is there an Egyptian Diaspora?

According to Al-Ahram, the total number of Egyptian nationals in diaspora is around 3.9 million.[2] The Coptic Diaspora makes up nearly half, about 1.5 million of that number.[3]

The January 25 Egyptian Revolution brought Egyptians together from abroad regardless of religion. Egyptians showed that they do, in fact, have a diaspora that can have an impact on Egypt.

But the Coptic Church gives the Coptic Diaspora a distinct unity and strength.

Remember the example of the Armenian diaspora? The Armenian Orthodox Church gave the Armenian diaspora the enduring strength of identity to persevere in its cause for nearly a century until it had moved the most powerful nations of the world. The Coptic Diaspora can also move the greatest mountains with the strength of its Orthodox Christian faith.

 


[1] “Digital Diasporas and International Development: Afghan-Americans and the Reconstruction of Afghanistan,” Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff, Associate Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs, School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University; p. 2

[2] “Egyptians Count,” Al-Ahram Weekly, April 15, 2007; http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/839/eg1.htm Last accessed on May 1st, 2008

[3] “The Home Front,” Egypt Toda, November 2005;http://www.egypttoday.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=6070 Last accessed on June 23rd, 2008


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