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?

Originators of monasticism

The Coptic Church follows its own calendar, based on the ancient Egyptian calendar. The calendar has 13 months and three seasons, based on the agricultural cycle, and places Christmas on Jan. 7. Many Coptic churches around the world are on alert for additional attacks on Coptic Christmas this year following the Alexandria bombing.

It is believed that monasticism began with the Coptic Church in Egypt, where there were as many as 50,000 monks when Muslim Arabs invaded in the 7th century, according to Time magazine. Many of the original monasteries are still in existence today.

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