The Copts (Coptic: ⲛⲓⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ, romanized: niremənkhēmi; Arabic: الْقِبْط, al-Qibṭ) are an 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. Coptic Orthodox Christians are the largest Christian denomination in Egypt and in the Middle East. Coptic Orthodox Christians are also the largest Christian denomination in Sudan and Libya. Historically, ethnic Copts spoke 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 being a Christian, as a result of Egypt's Arabization and Islamization. Copts in Egypt constitute the largest Christian population in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the largest religious minority in the region, accounting for roughly 5–20% of the Egyptian population, although the exact percentage is unknown. Copts in Sudan constitute the largest Christian community in Sudan, and Copts in Libya constitute the largest Christian community in Libya, accounting for an estimated 1% of their respective populations.
After the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 639 and 646 AD, the treatment of the Coptic Christians ranged from relative tolerance to open persecution. And 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 Copts' sense of 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 See of Rome; others belong to the Evangelical Church of Egypt. The Copts played a central role in the Arab Renaissance and the modernization of Egypt and the Arab world as a whole, and they contributed to the "social and political life and key debates such as Arabisim, good governance, educational reform, and democracy", and they flourished in business affairs.
Copts of Coptic ancestry maintain a distinct ethnic identity, and generally reject an Arab identity. In Egypt, Copts have relatively higher educational attainment, relatively higher wealth index, and a stronger representation in white collar job types, but limited representation in security agencies. The majority of demographic, socioeconomic and health indicators are similar among Copts and Muslims.