Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt make up roughly 10% of the Egyptian population. This brief essay concerns the ways in which they publicly confess their Christianity, the potential hazards of such confessions, and what I think such confessions communicate, and to whom. I focus on the Maspero Massacre, of October 9, 2011, when mostly Coptic protestors in front of the Maspero state television building in Cairo were mowed down by army Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) and bullets. Twenty-eight civilians were killed that day.
First Paragraph: “I’ve been thinking lately about the circumstances under which Coptic Christians emerge on the Egyptian socio-political landscape. Those circumstances tend to be, in a word, ugly. Copts become a visible religious community when they are attacked. And then Westerners in particular wonder: “Who are the Copts?” (I should also point out, however, that although well aware of the existence of Copts, or al-aqbat in Arabic, most Egyptian Muslims are equally unfamiliar with Coptic religiosity.) This strange play between visibility and invisibility is the problematic that I take up here, arguing that what is desirable for Copts in a new Egypt is a visibility that takes seriously their religiosity. I do so by drawing on ethnographic fieldwork I have been doing among Copts and reflecting on recent events in Egypt.”