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“The struggle for national unity in Egypt goes far beyond religion, far beyond the Christian’s concerns and far beyond minority rights claims. Despite repeated arguments presenting the country as one majority group, the revolution and the democratic discussions that have followed have highlighted the diverse voices of Egypt. Indeed, within the Egyptian population there are many ethnic minorities: Berber; Bedouin; Beja; Nubian and Dom. There are also many other smaller religious groups, including: Baha’i; Shia Muslims; Jews and various branches of Christianity. In some cases certain groups suffer political exclusion without being numerically minorities, such as young people and women. A monotone picture of national unity, language and culture fails to portray the diverse voices within Egyptian society.

The Copts have the particular challenge of preserving their faith while simultaneously integrating into a new nation whose president encourages the agenda of another faith. In such circumstances, agreement is by no means simple. Yet a vision of Egypt as a multi-layered country, with many groups and many perspectives may help to ease the tension. Indeed, in a post-revolutionary Egypt with a bubbling civil society and youth movements, the Copts have many allies in challenging the new political power. Current anti-Morsi protests attest to this fact.”

Read the full-article at: The Arab Review.

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A break from Egyptian elections to visit the Monastery of St Bishoy (Pishoy), where the late Coptic Pope Shenouda was buried in March 2012. Egyptian Christians were arriving in coach loads to see the body.

This place has not escaped attack in the past. Following the revolution last year, the army attacked this monastery, causing injuries to some and arresting others. Post-revolution Egypt is an uncertain place for Copts, who make up around 5 to 10% of the population. Their religious freedoms and rights are being side-lined, by an Islamic majority in Parliament and the possibility of an incoming Muslim Brotherhood President.

Yet, this reminder of discrimination is not present during out visit. The atmosphere is one of a family day out with children running everywhere and queues forming to see where the coffin lies. These photos show something of the monastery where visitors were relaxed, friendly and welcoming.

A full article and photo essay was developed from this post for The Arab Review.

Resting place of Pope Shenouda

Ceiling decorations

A father carries his child from the dark burial room out to the main church.

A man pauses beside signs directing visitors around the Monastery.

A friendly family approach us to speak and take photos.

Two beautiful little girls ask to be friends.

A boy watches us from afar.

Crosses on towers and gates.

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