Minority groups are considered to be poorer and with less power. Some live together separately from the dominant group in well-defined areas. The minority can be grouped according to ethnicity, gender, religion, age, and gender. Minority groups also have to practice their human rights and the government should support them in each and every way. They are not to be discriminated against and denied any of their rights. However, this proves challenging in various situations, whereby promises made by governments to provide protection to minority groups and to ensure they enjoy their basic human rights consistently fail to materialize. An example of such a situation involves the Egyptian Copts, who have been the victims of religious persecution over years. Despite promises made by aspiring governments to protect them, the Egyptian Copts continue to experience various discrimination-based challenges including being denied opportunities to worship, as well as frequent attacks in their worshipping areas (Viney par. 8). This paper presents a description of a few of the critical human rights issues that are experienced by the copts.
History of the Egyptian Copts
The Coptic Christians in Egypt constitute one of the largest ethnoreligious communities across the country. The population of Copts in Egypt alone is up to 10 percent of the current total population of the nation. The costs were among the first group of Christians to be formed in the early days of Christianity. This group was formed in the period of 284 AD, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, and has been experiencing severe persecution since then (Pennington 158). The history of the Egyptian Copts has somewhat been complex, resulting in population changes through periods of persecution and those of relative calmness. More recently, however, the costs have been finding it difficult to survive in Egypt and have had to seek refuge in other countries. In this way, more than one million copies are reported to currently exist across the world.
Human rights Issues with the Copts
The Egyptian Copts, just like other minority groups, are considered indigenous and have always been denied some of their rights. Respect for human rights is a task for the international community and it leads to elimination of all sorts of discrimination and related intolerance. Equal opportunities and participation of all people promotes social integration. This implies that each and every member of such minority groups has the right to fit in the society and to participate fully in political, economic and social developments, a factor that has been failing continuously among the Egyptian copts.
One of the commonly experienced issues among the copts is the denial of their homes. Through persecution and eviction, the copts are often force to leave their homes and seek refuge in other places (Viney par. 4). This movement results in the violation of other rights including the right to education among children, freedom of worship and the right to protection by the government. Education helps in the realization of a wide range of other human rights. It also helps individuals to lift themselves out of poverty and widens their knowledge on social injustices and discrimination practices against them. The right to education is not equally enjoyed by everyone, and the minority groups such as the Egyptian Copts have limited access to education due to the political instabilities in which they are victims, hence affecting their understanding of various ethical issues related to social, political and economic rights (Viney par. 9). According to Pennington, the Egyptian governments have been making efforts at ensuring there is a reduction in the number of Coptic Christians in Egypt, with an objective of justifying discriminations in areas such as issuance of academic scholarships (158). This thus means that the copts have limited access to education either as a result of insecurity or as a result of scholarship denial.
In an Islamic community where gender equity in access to education is limited, it can be deduced that the copts face further discrimination relative to other Christians across the world. Women and girls from the minority groups suffer lack of progress and empowerment due to high illiteracy levels. They may not be able to show case their interest due to lack of knowledge on the particular interests. In the contemporary society, access to education across the world has been mainly constrained by financial resources, and most governments are coming up with ways such as scholarships to help bright students, particularly girls, to attain a brighter future (Macklem 541). This is not the case for the women and girls from the Coptic Egyptians due to their denial of opportunities and gender discrimination. They can therefore be described as victims of educational deprivation.
The government’s responsibility should be to give equal opportunities to all citizens in all sectors of the economy and social life. Economic and social benefits are some of the areas in which discrimination commonly occurs for the minority groups such as the Egyptian copts. In particular, the existence of Muslim majority populations in Egypt has resulted in unfair participation in legal rights. The copts are not given equal opportunities for effective participation in the national programmes like campaigns and the census, although their minority status is often used as a campaign strategy through promises to deliver equal treatments to them (Viney par. 5). International human rights requirements are that persons belonging to minority groups must be included in the decision-making process and their views put into considerations so as to break the cycle of discrimination (Macklem 535). The minority has the right to participate in all aspects of the life in order to promote their interests and values, yet this has never been made possible for the Egyptian copts. Contrariwise, the government of Egypt has been using their minority status and low population as a scapegoat for discrimination.
Besides, this population has experienced significant discrimination in terms of access to social amenities. Consistent discrimination due to the ethno-religious practices of the group has resulted in the loss of cultural values among some of the group members. Pennington reports that while the copts have their own language derived from the Greek language, this language has since died as a result of assimilation in a bid to conceal identities due to oppression (159). With the death of this language, the implication is that in any given political process, the copts would be forced to use either the common language or to miss opportunities for engaging in electoral processes. Additionally, this limited participation in electoral processes has resulted in non-impactful discourses on the improvement of their social lives.
Currently, the Egyptian government violates the rights of the copts in various other social contexts. For instance, conventional human rights stipulate that job opportunities should not base only on the majority, the minority should be given equal opportunities to help eradicate poverty and to help maintain and provide development in the society (Macklem 532). Unemployment amongst the minority leads to poor living standards and erosion of moral values. This can be done away with by provision of equal opportunities to the minority as well as the victimized groups. The government of Egypt has nonetheless consistently practiced discrimination in the distribution of employment opportunities, using approaches such as invariably recording Christian names as Muslims during census activities, and then using the low numbers of the remaining copts as an excuse to deny the minorities employment opportunities (Pennington 158).
Moreover, the Egyptian copts have been making efforts to push for religious freedom. This has also flopped severally due to the hostility experienced by the copts through open persecution and lynching in their churches (Viney par. 8). The copts are required to adhere to a different dress code that clearly discriminates them from the general population. They are also frequently denied the opportunity to construct churches and to worship.
The Egyptian copts are one minority group that has been under constant persecution both by the Egyptian government and by other members of the population. Throughout history, they have faced inhibitions in access to social and economic facilities. The most common form of human rights violation among this minority group is through persecution, which has resulted in some of them leaving their homes for other places. The persecution has denied them opportunities to live in decent homes, to access quality education and to access job opportunities. The government also consistently fails to deliver its mandate of providing security to all its citizens.
Macklem, Patrick. “Minority Rights in International Law.” International Journal of Constitutional Law, vol. 6, no. 3-4, (2008), pp. 531-552, academic.oup.com/icon/article/6/3-4/531/654430. Accessed 14 May 2019.
Pennington, J.D. “The Copts in Modern Egypt.” Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 18, no. 2, (2006), pp. 158-179, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00263208208700503. Accessed 14 May 2019.
Viney, Steven. ‘Who are Egypt’s Coptic Christians and why are they Persecuted?’ ABC News, April 10 2017, www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-10/who-are-egypts-copts/8429634. Accessed 14 May 2019.