Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity by Samuel Tadros
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Mother Land lost gives the reader a broad yet very through history of both Egypt
and that of the Coptic Christians who dwell there . The histories appear to be
seperate yet intertwine at certain points.
Coptic history has been filled with sacrifice and martyrdom . Owing to
oppression from first the Catholic Church and then later Islamic fundamentalism
, the Copts have faced a long upward struggle for equality .
Christianity was brought to the city of Alexandria by the apostle Mark. he
stayed with a craftman named Athanius. Athanius and his family would later
become devoted Christian and set up an institution of higher learning. All this
happened during a period of intense turmoil between the Persians and the Romans.
Even when things were settled the Copts did not have an easy time of it. The
Arian schism and the Nestorian schism placed the Coptic church at odds with the
Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantines. This would lead to discrimination and
persecution by the Catholics when they had control over Egypt.
The advent of Islam saw the Arab conquest of Egypt. Some would say that the
Copts welcomed the Arab and others would say that at best they were ambivalent .
Under Islamic rule the Copts were granted a second class status if the Dhimmi.
This arrangement forced them to pay a special tax and limited the jobs
available. They also required permission to build a new Church or renovate and
Under Arab rule the Coptic church fossilized . They held administrative and
bureaghcratic positions as they were needed to run things . But as time
progressed there were more Muslims to take those positions. The Copts began
losing jobs .
As their material position began to decline so to did their culture . Many
forget Coptic and the church began having their services in Arabic.
The Copts were taxed excessively. The taxes were used to pay for military
adventures and enrich someone else's coffers. This would impoverish the Coptic
community and many would convert to Islam to escape the heavy taxes.
This would continue under Maneluke rule and Ottoman rule. The practice of Simony
developed where in the pope would take money or bribes for promoting bishops and
Under Muhammad Ali, a Turkish governor , Egypt would taste military defeat by
the French who would occupy the country for a certain length of time.
some Copts were favored by the French but to embrace the French to openly was to
court disaster. After the defeat Muhammad Ali began building factories in order
to make modern weapons . His drive for modernization would continue under Abbas
his Grandson and successors. They would also send Egyptian students to Europe to
study Euripean war technology . Copts were almost never selected.
As history progressed Egypt would have to deal with it's Coptic issue . The
Islamist wound say that the Copts were treated well and were part and parcel if
the Egyptian people. The Copts would have a different view of events.
With British intervention and the insertion of missionaries the Copts would face
even further challenges. The British did not favor the Copts in fact foreign
powers over looked then sometimes in favor of Armenians and Syrian Christians.
Protestant missionaries would pose another challenge of pulling people away from
the church through their modern education . Pope Kyrillos the fourth, Demetruous
and Kyrillos the fifth would deal with the Protestants . They would upgrade
Coptic infrastructure and education .
Along the way the clergy and the secular organization. Called the Milli would
vie for control over Church assets. It was a battle that involved not only lay
people but sometimes Egyptian authorities .
Another movement that would revitalize the Coptic Church was the Sunday school
movement. This was a movement sort of started by Bishop Samuel. This brought
about a renewal and return to the roots and an accompanying explosion of Coptic
scholarship. It also brought in new resources to help infrastructure.
king Farouk tried to use an Islamic approach to unify Egypt. Upon his overthrow
Nasser would engage in Sicialism and pan Arab unity. This helped the clergy and
the pope . With Sadat who courted the Muslim Britherhood things would get worse
for the Copts. Pope Shenouda and the Copts were more assertive against this.
Sadat would banish Shenouda to a monastery. After Sadat's assassination by the
Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak would ascend and he tried to work with the Copts.
Following his ouster the Copts found themselves at the mercy of the mob . The
Copts are leaving Egypt and only the impoverished remain . The Muslim
brotherhood does not want to kill them they just want them to know their place.
Or so they say.
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