COPTS IN THE SUDAN

The presence of Copts in the Sudan goes back to the early nineteenth century, when Muhammad ‘Ali pasha sent out an expedition to annex the Sudan to Egypt. Copts were sent along as superintendents of accounting and finance and were given the task of mapping the land and assessing taxation.

These Copts remained in the service of the Egyptian administration in the Sudan until 1881, when a wave of against the Copts forced them to leave the country.

They were recalled in 1898 to occupy posts as assistants in the supreme command of the army as interpreters, accountants, and clerks. Soon they spread into other administrations after the dual agreement of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. The British employed Copts on a provisional basis, that is, until a generation of educated Sudanese loyal to Britain could assume the responsibilities of management within the limits laid down by the British. After that, Egyptians were to be gradually eliminated; this eventually took place in the 1920s. The Copts, however, were the last to be dismissed from the Egyptian administration in the Sudan, in view of their higher level of education and their particular expertise in the use of foreign languages.

After the Egyptian rule was established in 1899, the Sudan was administratively divided into provinces and districts. The number of Copts working in the provinces, particularly the distant ones, kept growing. They constituted more than half of the total number of employees in the country. Their integration into their new environment was consolidated through intermarriage with Sudanese families. They gradually came to be employed in senior positions in the departments of administration of finance and legal affairs, as well as in the office of the governor general.

According to an approximate statistic, there were 600 Coptic families in Kartoum in 1960 and another 500 in other parts of the Sudan.

YUWAKIM RIZQ MURQUS

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