Copts (Coptic: ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ niremənkhēmi; Arabic: الْقِبْط al-qibṭ) are a Christian ethnoreligious group indigenous to North Africa who have primarily inhabited the area of modern Egypt and Sudan since antiquity. Most ethnic Copts are Coptic Orthodox Christians. They are the largest Christian denomination in Egypt and the Middle East, as well as in Sudan and Libya. Copts have historically spoken the Coptic language, a direct descendant of the Demotic Egyptian that was spoken in late antiquity.
|5–20 million (estimates vary)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Traditional areas of Coptic settlement:||5–20 million|
|Egypt||5–20 million (estimates vary)|
|Diaspora:||1–2 million (estimates vary)|
|United States||c. 200,000 – 1 million|
|Australia||c. 75,000 (2003)|
|France||c. 45,000 (2017)|
|United Kingdom||25,000 – 30,000 (2006)|
|United Arab Emirates||c. 10,000|
|Coptic (liturgical and ancestral)|
(Predominantly: Coptic Orthodoxy,
also Coptic Catholicism and Protestantism)
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Originally referring to all Egyptians at first, the term Copt became synonymous with native Christians in light of Egypt's Islamization and Arabization after the Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 7th century. Copts in Egypt account for roughly 5–20 percent of the Egyptian population, although the exact percentage is unknown; Copts in Sudan account for 1 percent of the Sudanese population while Copts in Libya similarly account for 1 percent of the Libyan population.
Following the Arab conquest of Egypt in 639–646 CE, the treatment of the Copts ranged from relative tolerance to open persecution. Historically, the Copts suffered from "waves of persecution giving way to relative tolerance in cycles that varied according to the local ruler and other political and economic circumstances". Persecution is pivotal to the Copts' ethnic identity. Most Copts adhere to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, an Oriental Orthodox Church. The smaller Coptic Catholic Church is an Eastern Catholic Church, in communion with the Holy See of Rome; others belong to the Evangelical Church of Egypt. The Copts played a central role in the Arab Renaissance as well as the modernization of Egypt and the Arab world as a whole; they also contributed to the "social and political life and key debates such as Arabism, good governance, educational reform, and democracy", and they have historically flourished in business affairs.
Copts maintain a distinct ethnic identity and generally reject an Arab identity. In Egypt, Copts have a relatively higher educational attainment, a relatively higher wealth index, and a stronger representation in white-collar job types, but limited representation in military and security agencies. The majority of demographic, socio-economic, and health indicators are similar among Copts and Muslims.