According to our guide, who is a Coptic Christian, there is no attempt to prevent Christians from practicing their faith in Egypt nor does he feel there is any outright discrimination against them. They make up 10-15% of Egyptians. Of course, Christianity preceded Islam in Egypt because it is a religion at least 600 years older than Islam (Mohammed was born in 570 or 571 AD). When the Rome fell in 410 AD and the Byzantine Church remained in control of Christianity in Egypt, the ascendance of Christianity held for another 300+ years until the Arabs poured into Egypt and captured it, bringing Islam as their religion. This history of Christianity in Egypt is a sad one because of persecutions by the Romans, after they themselves had introduced the religion to the region in 37 AD with the mission of St. Mark to the Egyptians. However, Emperor Diocletian (ruling from 284-305 AD) ruthlessly persecuted them, killing many thousands, because he perceived their religion to be a grave threat to the state religion of Rome. In 312 AD the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity himself and made it the official religion of Rome. Between the Byzantine Christians and the Coptic Christians grew an insurmountable difference of opinion regarding the true nature of Christ. The “great schism” at the Council of Chalcedon occurred in 451 AD when the Byzantine Patriarchate demanded that the Copts accept the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ (both human and divine) and the Copts absolutely refused it. From then on, there was conflict and persecution of the Coptic Christians who were completely decimated and demoralized. When the Arabs conquered the territory of Egypt, there was little to no resistance by the Coptic Christians against the imposition of Islam. They continued to practice their own religion through discretion and restraint. Since Mohammed considered both Jews and Christians “people of the book,” there was little outright conflict between the two faiths. Occasionally, the Muslim leaders would need more tax monies for their own purposes and would exact patently unfair fees against both Jews & Christians living amongst the Muslims. But unlike the Jewish population, the Coptic Christians have been allowed to remain devoted to their own sect of Christianity and have continued live relatively peacefully in Egypt.
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