CAIRO // As the largest religious minority in a nation of Muslims, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians have long felt a sense of battered yet unimpeachable pride: their faith is strong, their institutions sound and, perhaps most importantly, their presence on the banks of the Nile predates Islam’s by several centuries.Read the rest here.
But over the past few months, the Orthodox church’s traditionally defensive stance has turned to face a new opponent. Prominent Orthodox leaders have publicly accused Protestant Evangelicals – a Christian sect with strong roots in the United States – of recruiting Orthodox youth as part of a broader plot to evangelise Egypt’s estimated eight million Christians.
The growing row among Christian denominations has challenged old assumptions about the pre-eminence of the Orthodox faith in Egypt’s vibrant Christian life.
“There are many rules among [Christians]. One of the most important of these rules is not to recruit people from one church to another,” said Father Abdel Masiih Basiit, the pastor of St Mary’s Orthodox Church of Mostarid in Qalubiya, about an hour north of Cairo. “[The Evangelicals] did not respect this rule.”
While Evangelical leaders acknowledge that they receive financial backing from the United States – just as the Coptic church takes support from the Orthodox diaspora – they have fervently denied that there is any such recruitment scheme. Like any religious institution, community leaders say, Evangelicals welcome all those who want to learn more about their faith. To the extent that Evangelicals do proselytise, it is to those Christians whose faith has lapsed and who may lack allegiance to a specific Christian sect, say Protestant leaders.