Translating Words, Interpreting Events

Twenty-Three Million Coptic Christians in Egypt, Says Authority

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Dr. Essam Abdullah, a professor of philosophy at Egypt’s Ain Shams University and a regular political commentator on Arabic media, including Al Jazeera, recently made some startling remarks on a televised program: that there are “more than 23 million Copts in Egypt,” out of a total population of nearly 90 million, with an additional 7 million Copts outside Egypt.

The Copts are the Christian, indigenous inhabitants of Egypt, which was a major Christian center—Alexandria one of the three oldest and most revered episcopates, along with Rome and Antioch—before the 7th century Islamic conquest which slowly saw the numbers of Christians dwindle as growing numbers, desiring to slough off the bondage of dhimmitude, converted to the “winning team” of Islam.

Abdullah explained the background of his assertion, while repeatedly insisting that “I know what I am saying and am responsible for my words.”

According to the professor, back in 1991, then-president Hosni Mubarak asked then-Pope Shenouda for the exact number of Copts, which was not being provided by any governmental agency.

So the Coptic Church formed a census committee to provide Mubarak with an accurate number. Dr. Abdullah himself was a member of this committee.  The total census was based on four sources:

1) The number of parishes under each archdiocese in each city/region.
2) The birth certificates recorded in each parish.
3) The marriage certificates recorded in each parish.
4) The death certificates recorded in each parish.

According to Abdullah, Mubarak intentionally concealed this information after it was revealed to him, “so as not to cause himself problems.”

Abdullah’s main point was that, because the Copts are 23 million in Egypt, obviously their votes can be very decisive in establishing a more democratic and inclusive government—hence precisely why the Islamists, whether the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis, terrorize them.

Whatever the merits of Dr. Abdullah’s claims, that Islamists habitually threaten and sometimes prevent Copts from going out to vote at gunpoint is a phenomenon with a long paper trail.

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  • José Silva

    Does it mean that the Coptic population in Egypt is growing relative to the other population group?

  • sybarite123

    If there are 23 million Copts out of a population of 90 million, it would appear that about 25% of Egypt is Christian. And I figured this % without a calculator. The Copts have called for religious freedom even for atheists in the new Constitution. What a stride forward for Egypt even to consider this new openness to Freedom of religion. However the Muslim population in no way is prepared internally to accept this freedom. The Islamic mindset is too entrenched. But, ‘Where there is life; there is hope.’ From Canada.

  • Warren Raymond

    Hard to believe after all the pogroms against them. Lets look at it another way: 95% of women in Egypt underwent FGM, that leaves 5% that doesn’t engage in FGM, which means that would be the number of the Christians. 5% out of 90 million is 4.5 million, which seems a lot more plausible, if not accurate.

    • Feefee

      Are you really using female circumcision as evidence to support the Coptic population in Egypt? As a Coptic woman, I know several of the older generation (70′s & 80′s) who were circumcised. It was something that happened a long time ago, mostly in rural areas, performed on girls of both religions and is very rarely done in the last 50 years. My mother is in her 70′s, grew up in the city and was not circumcised. My 73 year old aunt from a rural area was circumcised. So there goes your theory.