Religions (Feb 2022)

Who Speaks for Coptic Rights in Egypt Today? (2013–2021)

  • Mariz Tadros,
  • Akram Habib

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 2
p. 183


Read online

This paper explores the nature of Coptic struggles for religious equality in Egypt in the period between 2013 and 2021. The key research question informing this paper is: in a context where the space for civic action to demand rights for equality and religious freedom is deeply circumscribed, who fills the vacuum of mediating Coptic grievances and what are the implications for institutionalizing religious freedom and promoting the greater public good? The methodology informing this paper is a multi-scalar linking national level political analysis of the relationship between the President and the Patriarch with the relationship between the church leadership and authorities in the governorate of Minya and its implications for local level governance of sectarian violence against Copts. The paper makes three key propositions. First, the relationship between the President and the Pope cannot be assumed to be a proxy for state-church relations more widely because the positively demonstrated political will of the President has not led to the institutionalization of religious equality at different levels of governance. Second, the assumption of Bishop Makarious of a representational role in defending and promoting the rights of Copts has led to a trade off in institutional rights encroaching on the principle of ecclesiastical affairs being free from governmental meddling. The third proposition is that the political vacuum created by the elimination of mediation of rights via civil society actors has not only negatively affected opportunities for championing the institutionalization of rights at different levels but has also wielded a loss for the promotion of public good more broadly.