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But the recent attacks also belie pockets of tolerance and integration, and the fact that the Christian community is diverse and evolving: They are activists, priests, farmers, garbage collectors, and more.

How Egypt’s largest minority will fare in the years ahead hinges on important questions about democracy, tolerance, and respect, as well as the pivotal role that religion plays more broadly in Egyptian politics and daily life. Mariam Musaad stands in front of a picture arrangement showing her father’s body as it was brought to the Coptic Hospital morgue following clashes between civilians and the army near the Maspero TV building on October 9, 2011.

With Egypt aspiring to democracy but still in political tumult, much is at stake for its minority populations, including Coptic Christians.

They are estimated to number more than 8 million, making them the country’s largest religious minority group.

This theory, of the ankh's origin stemming from a fertility symbol, is in keeping with its meaning throughout ancient Egyptian history and beyond to the present day. 1924 CE) supports Wallis Budge's claim noting the similarity of the ankh to the and the use of both symbols from an early date in Egypt's history.He became the first of the "desert fathers," a succession of hermits who practiced manual labor, fasting, and constant prayer.Abba Pacomius (292-346) is credited with founding the first cenobitic, or community monastery at Tabennesi in Egypt. By his death, there were nine monasteries for men and two for women.Copts say their founder was John Mark, one of the 72 apostles sent forth by Jesus Christ and author of the Gospel of Mark.Mark accompanied Paul and Mark's cousin Barnabas on their first missionary journey but left them and returned to Jerusalem. Mark ordained one bishop (Anianus) in Egypt and seven deacons founded the school of Alexandria and was martyred in Egypt in 68 A. According to Coptic tradition, Mark was tied to a horse with a rope and dragged to death by a mob of pagans on Easter, 68 A. Copts count him as the first of their chain of 118 patriarchs (popes).

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