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A Lonely Minority: The Modern Story of Egypt's Copts
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2001
Edward Wakin writes A Lonely Minority in an attempt to portray the struggle for survival by millions of Christians who take pride in being known as the "original Egyptians." Minorities in today's world have always been fighting for civil liberties and rights, yet in this case, these Egyptian Christians are still being denied of their privileges. The author travels throughout Egypt with a Jesuit priest, Henry Habib Ayrout, and describes his findings. With this book, which had to be smuggled in to Egypt, the author unveils some of the secretive facts that he discovers throughout his journey.
The author achieves his objective by breaking down the book into three distinctive parts. The first part is called "The Coptic Presence." In this part, he explains who the Copts are and how they were a dominant part of Egyptian life, yet there power ultimately declined. The second part is called "Cross and Crescent." In this section he depicts the persecution the Copts have faced thus far and how Gamal Nasser, Egypt's President, is preventing them from climbing the ladder for better social status. The last part of the novel is "The Pursuit of Survival," where Wakin shows signs of Coptic life and presence that is striving to further accelerate Coptic equality in Egypt.
The lonely minority of Copts numbers at least six million. Their weak Diaspora is the reason for their minute presence and power in Egyptian society. This includes the following, which the Egyptian government tries to hide from the rest of the world: not a single Christian has been appointed to the judicial system for ten years; presidential decrees are required before Christians can build or repair their churches; Egypt's governing party did not nominate any Christians for the parliamentary elections; Christians are excluded from the police academy and any military school; and Christians must list their religion on ID cards and job applications (ix). In the Middle East, the Copts constitute the largest body of Christians. It is likely that 80 percent of present day Moslems stem from Coptic family ties. They are Monophysites, where they believe that Jesus Christ was one person from two persons, God and man, and had one nature without "commingling" his human and divine natures" (7).
Copts, in fact, used to rule Egypt, because at the time of the Arab invasion, 90 percent of Egypt was Christian. With the Roman Empire, the Mameluke Dynasty and the Turkish conquest, the Christians have faced bloody persecutions, mirroring the Holocaust. Also, the Copts helped the Moslems end the British conquest in 1922. They finally got "stabbed in the back" because as the Moslems took power, they prevented
Copts from being able to find suitable jobs. In this way, the Copts have lost so much power that it has taken small steps to prevent the extinction of their race. Even though there are signs of equality listed in their Constitution, they are denied their rights due to discrimination. Wakin claims that their qualifications and skills are overlooked for the last name, because a Moslem or Christian distinction can be made. There is a rough estimate that 5,000 Copts become Moslems each year to provide better opportunities for themselves.
To many Copts, President Nasser always seems to hide from the issues concerning Coptic discrimination and does not address the problems with serious attention. The Copts see their community being pushed downhill into oblivion, yet they are not allowing their voices to be heard. This is the problem in which Wakin seems to highlight. The Copts, with great skills, job qualifications, strong families, and a fairly large number for a minority should be taking a more active role in establishing their equality.
Their failure in achieving equal status can be related to their crisis in leadership. The crisis is in reference to the banishment of their Patriarch, Anba Yusab II. It further embarrassed their church and community relationship when they elected Patriarchs by chance from drawing names out of hat. Because the clergy has little esteem, it has attracted recruits of low quality, which perpetuates this church led by second-rate people. The Community Councils, established in 1873, have brought about new policies increasing opportunities for Copts, and are assigned the administrative, educational, financial and judicial functions. Wakin, in the final chapter, sums up the Copt's struggle to survive with the following quote: "A minority can be sentenced to death by the majority or it can commit suicide as an identifiable group by assimilating" (167).
I believe that this novel proficiently depicted a struggle to survive for this Egyptian Christian minority. I felt the study was worthwhile with the many interesting figures at numbers the author discovered in Egypt. I am always the one feeling sorry for minorities and underdogs, and in this case, my heart goes out to the author. He presents his objective, in the three different parts; he seems to tie in the history, discrimination and last struggle for survival in an effective way. He describes the struggle through personal accounts and encounters. His documentation primarily consists of first-person interviews with stories as well. It is adequate enough for the author to make the Moslem Egyptians look as the bad guys but then again; there is not one source that he spoke of in his novel. He always mentioned "one Coptic priest" or "one Coptic family," but never mentions an exact name. Therefore, I believe some of the information he reveals might be rumors with no definite proof. He is convincing with his argument because of the stories he hears, but can this be considered as the truth? Also, in consideration, this novel was copywritten in 1963, so I believe we need to see how the present standards are in Egypt. If they are the same, I believe this novel is compelling enough to further some type equality movement in Egypt. Just like the Jews fought to create the state of Israel for themselves, the Copts are not just trying to find a homeland, but just have fair and equivalent rights to the Moslems. Edward Wakin does an excellent job in presenting the struggles faced by the Copts, yet he needs to tie his novel with some definite facts to sway the public in believing his argument, because even though I do, there are many who are not convinced.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2001
Edward Wakin writes A Lonely Minority in an attempt to portray the struggle for survival by millions of Christians who take pride in being known as the "original Egyptians." Minorities in today's world have always been fighting for civil liberties and rights, yet in this case, these Egyptian Christians are still being denied of their privileges. The author travels throughout Egypt with a Jesuit priest, Henry Habib Ayrout, and describes his findings. With this book, which had to be smuggled in to Egypt, the author unveils some of the secretive facts that he discovers throughout his journey.
The author achieves his objective by breaking down the book into three distinctive parts. The first part is called "The Coptic Presence." In this part, he explains who the Copts are and how they were a dominant part of Egyptian life, yet there power ultimately declined. The second part is called "Cross and Crescent." In this section he depicts the persecution the Copts have faced thus far and how Gamal Nasser, Egypt's President, is preventing them from climbing the ladder for better social status. The last part of the novel is "The Pursuit of Survival," where Wakin shows signs of Coptic life and presence that is striving to further accelerate Coptic equality in Egypt.
The lonely minority of Copts numbers at least six million. Their weak Diaspora is the reason for their minute presence and power in Egyptian society. This includes the following, which the Egyptian government tries to hide from the rest of the world: not a single Christian has been appointed to the judicial system for ten years; presidential decrees are required before Christians can build or repair their churches; Egypt's governing party did not nominate any Christians for the parliamentary elections; Christians are excluded from the police academy and any military school; and Christians must list their religion on ID cards and job applications (ix). In the Middle East, the Copts constitute the largest body of Christians. It is likely that 80 percent of present day Moslems stem from Coptic family ties. They are Monophysites, where they believe that Jesus Christ was one person from two persons, God and man, and had one nature without "commingling" his human and divine natures" (7).
Copts, in fact, used to rule Egypt, because at the time of the Arab invasion, 90 percent of Egypt was Christian. With the Roman Empire, the Mameluke Dynasty and the Turkish conquest, the Christians have faced bloody persecutions, mirroring the Holocaust. Also, the Copts helped the Moslems end the British conquest in 1922. They finally got "stabbed in the back" because as the Moslems took power, they prevented
Copts from being able to find suitable jobs. In this way, the Copts have lost so much power that it has taken small steps to prevent the extinction of their race. Even though there are signs of equality listed in their Constitution, they are denied their rights due to discrimination. Wakin claims that their qualifications and skills are overlooked for the last name, because a Moslem or Christian distinction can be made. There is a rough estimate that 5,000 Copts become Moslems each year to provide better opportunities for themselves.
To many Copts, President Nasser always seems to hide from the issues concerning Coptic discrimination and does not address the problems with serious attention. The Copts see their community being pushed downhill into oblivion, yet they are not allowing their voices to be heard. This is the problem in which Wakin seems to highlight. The Copts, with great skills, job qualifications, strong families, and a fairly large number for a minority should be taking a more active role in establishing their equality.
Their failure in achieving equal status can be related to their crisis in leadership. The crisis is in reference to the banishment of their Patriarch, Anba Yusab II. It further embarrassed their church and community relationship when they elected Patriarchs by chance from drawing names out of hat. Because the clergy has little esteem, it has attracted recruits of low quality, which perpetuates this church led by second-rate people. The Community Councils, established in 1873, have brought about new policies increasing opportunities for Copts, and are assigned the administrative, educational, financial and judicial functions. Wakin, in the final chapter, sums up the Copt's struggle to survive with the following quote: "A minority can be sentenced to death by the majority or it can commit suicide as an identifiable group by assimilating" (167).
I believe that this novel proficiently depicted a struggle to survive for this Egyptian Christian minority. I felt the study was worthwhile with the many interesting figures at numbers the author discovered in Egypt. I am always the one feeling sorry for minorities and underdogs, and in this case, my heart goes out to the author. He presents his objective, in the three different parts; he seems to tie in the history, discrimination and last struggle for survival in an effective way. He describes the struggle through personal accounts and encounters. His documentation primarily consists of first-person interviews with stories as well. It is adequate enough for the author to make the Moslem Egyptians look as the bad guys but then again; there is not one source that he spoke of in his novel. He always mentioned "one Coptic priest" or "one Coptic family," but never mentions an exact name. Therefore, I believe some of the information he reveals might be rumors with no definite proof. He is convincing with his argument because of the stories he hears, but can this be considered as the truth? Also, in consideration, this novel was copywritten in 1963, so I believe we need to see how the present standards are in Egypt. If they are the same, I believe this novel is compelling enough to further some type equality movement in Egypt. Just like the Jews fought to create the state of Israel for themselves, the Copts are not just trying to find a homeland, but just have fair and equivalent rights to the Moslems. Edward Wakin does an excellent job in presenting the struggles faced by the Copts, yet he needs to tie his novel with some definite facts to sway the public in believing his argument, because even though I do, there are many who are not convinced.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Three Books About the Copts:
Dr. Wakin, a prize winning journalist who travelled the world with a sociologist observing eyes, wrote this valuable book while he was a resident reporter in Cairo. He searshed the facts and traveled with Fr. Ayrout, the late Libanese director of the Jesuit schools in Egypt. Although the book was published fourty years ago, yet its impact remained and was recently translated into Arabic and distributed to the Copts in the USA & elsewhere.
In 1918 the British orientalist Leeder wrote his famous book: Modern Sons of The Pharoes, still in print. Recently, the English Coptologist Dr. john Watson wrote a compelling study of the Copts and their curia.
8 Millions of Egyptian Christians:
In three coordinated parts, edward Wakin servays Egypt and it political milieu of the sixties, in part 2, he explains the sociopolitical conditions, and the history of the Moslem Brotherhood, which was nurtured 10 years lkater by the believing (Moslem) president:Anwar El-sadat, which promoted Islamic terrorism, and got assasinated by the gamaa Islamia in 1981.
The Copts,their Church, and Leadership:
In the third part , which is the most interesting of the three Dr. Wakin discusses the crisis of Coptic leadership, and recounted some stories of a recent desert Father, Abba Kyrillos, the solitary patriarch whose spiritual authority touched the lay copt as much as Patriarch athenagorus, and Pope Paul sixth. He delves to the desert and its monasteries where the revival of Coptic monastic life was just starting. He explains how the Coptic Church is the Church of the people, and how did it always influence the Coptic community.
The Rise and Siege of the Coptic Church:
For those who enjoy the survival of ancient community, when two millenia ago, in the city of Alexandria st. Mark first convert was the cobbler Anianos, the first bishop alexandria, while the therapeutae (Alexandrian essene Jews)accepted the Gospel, followed by the rest of the Egyptians. This Church became that of the Martyrs suffered from Pagan,Arian, Bezantine, moslem, Memluks, and Turks, but servived. Is it going to survive the Islamic Fundamentalism, of which they sometimes suffered collective masacres?
Companion Readership:
Among the Copts, Rev. Dr.John Watson,
Sussex Academic Press, 2000
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2014
A thoroughly interesting history and social study of the Coptic Religion of Egypt. I have the impression now that I missed something relevant by knowing they existed, but not knowing who they were. They were practicing their religion in Egypt well before the advent of Islam and provided Islam with executives and workers both that kept Egypt a great nation. Only the come-lately Islamists created the unacceptable scenarios that make it necessary for the Copts to leave their homeland or to convert.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2007
This book was basically about the religion of the Copts. It was not informative about any other aspects of the culture.
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