Religious Minorities in Diaspora: A Study of the Political Mobilization of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Community in Canada and the United States

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Estafanous, Lilian E.
Minority Diasporas , Copts , Transnational Mobilization , Diaspora Activism , Advocacy , Social Movement Theory
As a diasporic community, Copts in North America have seized political opportunities and engaged in vigorous activism, resulting in the establishment of a plethora of organizations. However, despite their best efforts, most Coptic organizations have experienced limited influence. This study, focusing on Copts as a previously overlooked immigrant minority, aims to explain the disparity in their transnational mobilization efforts through two questions. The first question addresses how Copts, as a diaspora of a religious minority, form their organizations and advocacy groups in Canada and the US. The second question explores the factors influencing the type of activism they engage in and the level of solidarity and sustainability of their organizations. The study addresses the lack of research in these areas by utilizing various approaches within the scope of social movement theory. The study starts by exploring the historical background of Copts in Egypt and their interactions with the Muslim majority. This historical context is essential for grasping their position as an indigenous religious diaspora. It then examines how the Coptic diasporic community was formed through various waves of migration, resulting in the globalization of socio-political grievances from Egypt. A critical aspect of the research is its differentiation between the various types of Coptic organizations in North America, including human rights advocacy associations, charitable and philanthropic organizations, and educational foundations. Lastly, by drawing upon various approaches in social movement theory, the dissertation examines the primary advocacy challenges encountered by the Coptic diaspora. The intricacies of Copts’ mobilization dynamics, the nature of diaspora activism, and the sustainability of Copts’ advocacy efforts are shaped by an interplay of factors that emphasize the complex triadic relations among the church, the regime, and the Copts. These factors are closely intertwined with 1) the framework of opportunities and constraints in both the country of origin and the country of residence, 2) the diaspora’s organizational capacity, and 3) the framing of Copts’ traumatic memories and the grievances linked to their cultural and ideological roots in their place of origin. The findings further elucidate the varying significance of these three dimensions in shaping the trajectory of Copt activism.
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