Increasingly under pressure in Egypt, the Copts, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, are starting to migrate to Georgia, a bastion of Orthodox Christianity in the South Caucasus. But the transition is not entirely a smooth one.
In Egypt, violent clashes between Copts and Muslims have been on the rise since the 2011 ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak, with many Christians reportedly preferring to leave than experience continuing harassment and discrimination. Earlier this month, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom announced that Egypt “is failing to meet international religious-freedom standards.”
Copts, who classify themselves as an Orthodox Christian denomination, say that Georgia’s strong Orthodox Christian heritage – Eastern Christianity took root here in the 4th century – motivated them to make the move. The country’s relative proximity (Tbilisi is roughly a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Cairo) and reputation for relatively lax business and visa regulations also played a role.
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Régis Genté is a freelance journalist covering the Caucasus and Central Asia.