COPTS IN THE DIASPORA
The largest communities of Coptic emigrants are in the United Stated, Canada, and Australia. Statistics concerning their population are unavailable. However, according to unofficial sources, they number between 400,000 and 1,000,000. A considerable number of the Copts left Egypt for the West because of discrimination; others left because of the nationalization policies of President Gamal Abd al-Nasser (1952-1971) and the subsequent economic deterioration that was combined with overpopulation.
The majority of the Coptic emigrants took advantage of President Anwar al-Sadat’s “open door” and wanted to avoid the Islamization of Egypt’s national life and the increasing influence of the Muslim fundamentalists under Sadat (1971-1981) and President Hosny Mubarak (1981-).
According to the statistics of the Center for Egyptian Human Rights, such groups committed 561 violent incidents against Copts between 1994 and 2004. A large number of the Coptic emigrants are university graduates and thus are engaged in professional jobs such as medicine, commerce, and engineering.
When the Copts settle abroad, they prepare a place to pray, as without a Coptic priest Eucharist cannot be received and children cannot be baptized. As in Egypt, the Coptic churches in the Diaspora are decorated with the contemporary Coptic art, especially the icons. Today, there are 125 churches in the United States, 27 churches in Canada, and 37 churches in Australia, in addition to many churches in Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia.
These churches are served by Coptic priests with a number of local bishops. The latter are ordained by Pope Shenouda III, whose many pastoral visits reinforce the ties between the “churches in the lands of emigration” and the “Mother Church” in Egypt. Within less than three decades, a considerable part of the texts of the liturgical books of the Coptic Church have been translated into English, French, and German, especially those texts that are frequently used in the liturgy.
Some theological seminaries, monasteries, and Coptic schools have been established. The liturgy is often performed in Arabic, Coptic, and one of three European languages. However, it is very probable that Coptic, unlike Arabic, will continue in the churches of the emigrants as English already became the mother tongue of the third generation; Coptic is considered by the Copts as the language of the Church and the ancestors.
The emigrants are aware of their Coptic heritage. The Coptic Encyclopedia was initiated by a Coptic scholar in the United States. The St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society and the St. Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies support and promote Coptic studies worldwide. A number of periodicals and magazines are published by Copts in North America such as Coptologia and the Coptic Church Review.
The weekly newspaper Watani includes some pages in English written and edited by Copts in Egypt and in the Diaspora. Cooperation between the Coptic Church in Australia and Macquarie University led to the establishment of the first online master of arts degree program in Coptic studies. The Coptic community of the region of Los Angeles is strongly supporting Coptic studies in Southern California, especially at Claremont Graduate University and the University of California at Los Angeles.