Egypt speak of 8 to 10 million, or roughly 20 per cent of the total population, a figure that has gained wide currency, although it remains untested. According to the central bureau of statistics in 1990, Egypt had a population of 56 million, of which 94.12 per cent were Muslims and only 5.87 per cent were Christians, amounting to some 3,287,200.23
A recent phenomenon in the Coptic Orthodox Church is the establishment of new Coptic communities outside Egypt. Emigration of the Copts in sizeable numbers started some three decades ago. Emigration from Egypt by Coptic Christians needs to be seen in the context of general Egyptian patterns. Broadly two periods of emigration can be discerned. The first belongs to the era of Nasser (1952-70), during which a limited number of young Egyptians were encouraged to study abroad and schoolteachers were sent out to work in neighbouring states. Migration was politically controlled principally through visa requirements. Nasser's nationalisation policies in the economy also led to a number of well-to-do families leaving Egypt to settle in the west. Amongst these were Coptic families. The presence abroad of economically resourceful individuals from this early phase of emigration has been important in the establishment of Coptic churches in the west that followed at a later stage. The majority of the emigrants were professionals and intellectuals, thus forming part of the Egyptian 'brain-drain'. Today, the Coptic Church has numerous churches and a growing monastic presence in western Europe, the USA, Canada and Australia, with approximately some 450,000 (10 per cent of the Coptic Church members) abroad today. In response to this situation the Coptic Church has sent many of its best priests, monks and scholars to serve the communities in the diaspora.24 Since the Second World War, and particularly since 1960, the Coptic Church has established itself in other parts of Africa, partially as a reaction to the independence movements which according to Coptic ecclesiology favoured the implantation of the Coptic Church, seen as the most ancient African Christian church.25
23 al-Ahram, 8 November 1990. M. Martin, 'The renewal in context: 1960-1990', in Between the desert and the city: the Coptic Orthodox Church today, ed. N. van Doorn-Harder and K. Vogt (Oslo: Novus Forlag, 1997), 15-21, where he suggests that the size of the Coptic community has declined from about 7 per cent in the 1960s, when the renewerKyrillos VI became pope, to about 6 per cent today. The most recent censuses suggest the absolute number of Copts to be about 3,600,000. Y. Courage and P. Fargues, Chrétiens et Juifs dans l'Islam arabe et turc (Paris: Fayard, 1992), 283-6, observe that the decrease in the proportion ofCopts to Muslims over the space oftwenty years is in part connected to a lower birth-rate, owing to a higher social status and to recent emigration.
24 N. Stene, 'Into the lands of immigration', in Between the desert and the city, 254-64.
25 C. Chaillot, Activités missionnaires de l'Eglise copte en Afrique', Le Monde Copte 20 (1992), 99-103.
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