Copt-Muslim clash in Cairo renews question: Who are the Copts?

A fatal clash Tuesday between Muslims and Copts in Cairo has turned attention once again to religious tensions, which gained the spotlight after the bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve. In an overwhelmingly Muslim country, where does this religious minority fit in. And who are the Copts?

Part of the Oriental Orthodox tradition

The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of several churches in Oriental Orthodoxy, which is not to be confused with Eastern Orthodoxy. It shares many of the same beliefs of those churches, which also include the Syriac and Armenian church.

Oriental Orthodox churches split from the Western and Eastern Orthodox churches at the Council of Chalcedon in the 5th century over theological differences. The Coptic Church is led by its own pope, who is based in Cairo. Coptic services are conducted in the Coptic language, a derivative of ancient Egyptian language, and local languages.

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