One of the distinguishing sub-themes of the Egyptian revolution which began on January 25, 2011, has been the proliferation of Coptic movements. Largely, though not entirely, contained in the church during the Mubarak era, Christian Egyptians joined their Muslim counterparts as ‘one hand’ to challenge the authority for the sake of ‘freedom, bread, and social justice’.
After successfully deposing the President, many of these Christian Egyptians continued their revolutionary posture. For years Copts presented their demands to the state primarily through the person of Pope Shenouda. When pressed to demonstrate for their demands, either by events or by clergy, they did so mostly within the confines of church walls.
The revolution changed this equation, however, and the unity expressed in overthrowing Mubarak gave Copts a new sense of participation in rebuilding Egypt. Some Christian participation remained along the lines of revolutionary values, enveloped fully in the youth movements that populated Tahrir Square. Others began sensing a threat to their full participation from the emergence and ascendency of Islamists groups, and rallied behind a liberal and civil cause.
Still others took the opportunities of the revolution to organize and demonstrate for particular Coptic issues. Though there is significant overlap between Coptic demands and those for a civil state, these movements are characterized by Coptic peculiarity, even though many boast the participation of Muslims, who tend to be liberal in outlook. This category is shaped by a desire for Copts to assert their rights as Copts, leaving the church to take to the street and integrate with society.