The politics of Christian love: Shaping everyday social interaction and political sensibilities among Coptic Egyptians

An Van Raemdonck*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Christian love has historically been subject of extensive theological study but has rarely been studied within anthropology. Contemporary Coptic society receives growing attention over the last two decades as a minority in Egyptian Muslim majority society. An important bulk of this scholarship involves a discussion of the community’s sometimes self-defined and sometimes ascribed characterization as a persecuted minority. Particular attention has gone to how social and political dimensions of minority life lead tochanges in Christian theological understandings This paper builds on these insights and examines how Christian love is experienced, and shapes feelings of belonging, everyday morality and political sensibilities vis-à-vis Muslim majority society. It draws from ethnographic observations and meetings with Copts living in Egypt between 2014–2017. It focuses on three personal narratives that reveal the complex ways in which a theology of love affects social and political stances. An anthropological focus reveals the fluid boundaries between secular and religious expressions of Christian love. Love for God and for humans are seen as partaking in one divine love. Practicing this love, however, shapes very different responses and can lead to what has been described as Coptic ‘passive victim behaviour’, but also to political activity against the status-quo.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Special Issue Religion and Refugee: Interdisciplinary Discussions on Transformative Humane-Divine Interactions


  • Anthropology of religion
  • Christian theology
  • Coptic Christians
  • Discrimination
  • Egypt
  • Minorities


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