Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Modern Conflict, Ancient Egypt

"When Israel was a child then I loved him, and I called him out of Egypt." --Hosiah 11:1

While there are two thousand years of Coptic history, today history positions Copts at a critical juncture. The United States government is making movement to attempt restraint to the conflict now boiling in Egypt. There are at this moment, thousands of Coptic Christians being slaughtered for no other reason than they are Christians, not Muslims.
Many outside of the middle east are wholly unaware that the intensification of what some call a 'holy war' between Christians and Muslims is again on the front burner. Today it is more often Christian communities who are suffering. Egypt and Iraq are two such examples.

Otto Meinardus writes about this history, which replays itself again today in his book of the same title, Two Thousand Years of Coptic Christianity. "The history begins with the traditions of the visit of the holy family to Egypt... to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy" regarding the coming of the One, The Christ. "Undoubtedly Egyptians filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit... returned to their homes along the Nile Valley, and established there the first Christian communities," so records the Bible verse, Acts 2:10. Regarding Saint Mark the Evangelist as the founder of their church, Coptics, as did Saint Mark, suffered much persecution for their faith.

Yet today few realize "that Egypt once was a great Christian nation." Following its initial establishment in Egypt in the earliest of the common years, the Coptics became a firm part of Egyptian life from the second century onward. In Alexandria, with Constantine's rule in 313C.E. the Church emerged to face numerous conflicts with their neighbors. By the sixth century there is recorded to have been 600 hundred monasteries in and around Alexandria. Saint Cyril is by tradition said to have constructed the first Egyptian cathedral. However the Copts split from the Byzantine church in 451 C.E. The most famous Coptic Theologian of the early period is Origen, who settled in Alexandria and founded a school there which had great influence over the Coptics.

Also in the early church there arose a disagreement regarding the understanding of the "body of Christ." Further developments led to schisms and emerged with four groups, including the Nestorians claiming ascendancy. With these divisions in place, the Coptic Church was further weakened by the arrival of the Muslim invaders, under which many more adopted the beliefs of Mohammad, the Prophet.

Currently, writes Meinardus, the Coptics have been revitalized and are increasing. The "Africa Project," whereby the Church of Alexandria joins forces with the ancient churches of Africa has yielded a harvest for both groups, strengthening them and enriching their ancient traditions. Today the style of worship remains in the ancient Coptic language and her song remains equally vibrant, fueled with ancient rhythms. Yet the unfolding conflict in Egypt threatens, the innocent, the minorities, the Copts directly.

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