Copts are by far the largest Christian community in the Middle East. Ninety-five percent of Copts in Egypt are Orthodox and the remaining population is divided between Catholic and Protestant denominations. Copts living in Egypt represent between 15-20% of the total population of Egypt today.
In the time of Jesus, the whole world, including Egyptians, were pagan (Jews excluded). Egypt was occupied by Romans when in 60 A.D. Apostle Mark reached Alexandria preaching the Gospel. Over the next two hundred years, Egypt became a Christian country. The Church of Alexandria was one of the first five original churches of Christianity planted by the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
After the invasion of Egypt by Arab-Muslims in 641 A.D. native Egyptian Copts were forced to Islamicize by adopting the Arabic tongue along with Arab-Muslim culture and customs. It is wrong and unfair to apply Arab ethnicity to Copts. It is appropriate to recognize Copts for who they are – non-Arab descendents of the ancient civilization of Egypt and followers of Christ.
The Greek word “Egyptos” came from the ancient Egyptian word, “Hikaptah” (Ha-Ka-Ptah). After their conquest of Egypt, Arabs referred to the population of Egypt with the term “Gypt” from the Greek word “Egyptos.” Over time “Gypt” anglicized into the word “Copt.” Copt means Egyptian.
The history of Egypt begins with King Mina or Menas who united the northern and southern kingdoms of Egypt circa 3050 B.C. The ancient Egyptian civilization under the rule of the Pharaohs lasted for approximately 3000 years. Many Copts accepted the teachings of Christianity possibly because the ancient Egyptian religions believed in life after death. This is evidenced by their elaborate efforts to preserve the bodies of the dead by embalming or mummification.
Like other early Christians throughout the Roman Empire, the Copts suffered from persecution due to the new religion. Many Copts shed their blood in testimony for Jesus Christ. Saint Mina or Menas is one of the major Coptic saints. He was martyred 309 A.D.