Coptic Christians in Egypt

Coptic Christians in Egypt are very familiar with discrimination. But now, many wonder if they're even safe. We speak with one of the organizers of this month's protests in Cairo for his thoughts on what may be next for one of the largest religious minorities in the Middle East.

Part Three of The Current

Coptic Christians in Egypt - Dr. Maged Kodsi / Michael Meunier

Tens of thousands of Egyptians were still on the streets of Cairo this morning, part of a massive funeral procession for Christian protesters killed a few days ago. The protests began several days ago and they weren't sparked by demands for justice or political power or hatred for a tyrant. It was all over the construction -- of a church.

An estimated 25 people were killed Sunday night and hundreds were wounded after violence erupted between the Egyptian military and protesters from the country's Coptic Christian community. The protesters had taken to the streets, angry that Muslim extremists had partly destroyed a new church near the city of Aswan. And eyewitnesses described a horrifying scene as the military moved in. By nightfall Sunday, the largely Coptic Christian crowd was chanting for the downfall of the ruling military council.

Egypt's Coptic Christians belong to one of the oldest of the Christian churches. Today's Copts are the spiritual descendants of the Christians who made up the majority religion in Egypt until the Muslim conquest of the 7th century. They remain the largest Christian community in the Middle East. They now represent just a sliver of Egypt's population .... an estimated 10 percent.

Many Egyptian-Canadians are watching the developments in Cairo closely. Dr. Maged Kodsi is one of them. He is an Egyptian-born Coptic Christian and Toronto psychiatrist who is an assistant professor of Child & Family Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He was in our Toronto studio this morning. And Michael Meunier is a Coptic Christian leader and one of the organizers of this past weekend's protests. He is the President of the U.S. Copts Association and the Chair of Hand in Hand for Egypt, an NGO that works to promote grass-roots political participation in Egypt. Michael Meunier was in Cairo this morning.

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Last Word - Coptic Hymn

We've been talking today about Coptic Christians, a branch of Christianity unfamiliar to many Canadians. To an outsider, its practices might recall the Greek Orthodox church. But the Coptic liturgy is strikingly different. It's recited in the language of Ancient Egypt. If you've ever wondered what the Pharaohs sounded like, this may be a faint echo of those voices. On today's Last Word, we wanted to play a little of the Coptic liturgy followed by the Coptic hymn, Lord Jesus Help Me.

Other segments from today's show:

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