Persecution Politics: Coptic Diaspora Advocacy and American Evangelical Kinship, 1990–2003

Saturday, January 7, 2023: 2:10 PM
Washington Room C (Loews Philadelphia Hotel)
Candace Lukasik, Mississippi State University
Beginning in the early 1970s and flourishing in the 1990s, American evangelicals developed a set of foreign policy objectives that focused on human rights advocacy, which blended their spiritual and political beliefs, skillful lobbyists to promote their interests in Congress, and a strong network linking them with their coreligionists throughout the world. In the early 1990s, former Cold War think tanks partnered with evangelicals and consulted a few Coptic (Egyptian) Christian diaspora activists (among others) in shifting from the fight against godless communism towards the fight against fundamentalist Islam. To this conservative coalition, Copts, as both symbols and actors in their own right, offered a striking portfolio of bloody, convicting narratives and imagery of martyrdom in Egypt, which reinforced and strengthened global Christian persecution discourse.

While Coptic political activism previously directed its efforts at forging a barrier between state and religion in Egypt, and putting pressure on the Egyptian government outside of Egypt to do so, throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, the rise of a new generation of Coptic diaspora activists began to take part in the broadening persecuted Christians movement. This paper will focus on the intersection of contemporary American persecution politics and narratives of Coptic martyrdom between 1990-2003, with particular attention to how Coptic migrants shaped and reconfigured their political orientations and religious alliances within the context of the Christian Right and its global evangelical reach.