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Accepted Paper:

The politics of Christian love among Coptic Christians in Egypt and Belgium: shaping feelings of belonging and everyday morality in minority-majority interactions  
An Van Raemdonck (Ghent University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses experiences of how Christian love for Egyptian Coptic Christians in Egypt and Belgium translates into concrete moral behaviour, daily life choices and (de)political sensibilities, in the context of life as a minority group

Paper long abstract:

This paper concentrates on how Egyptian Coptic Christians experience Christian love in their daily lives as well as in their major life choices, especially migration and life in the new host society. Although Christian love has historically been subject of extensive literary and theological study, it has rarely been studied within anthropology. Copts have received much attention in the last decade as a contemporary religious, cultural minority in Egyptian Muslim majority society. Its (sometimes self-defined and sometimes given) characterization as a persecuted group has been an important part of this recent scholarship. Particular attention went to how a historical sense of persecution affects and transforms theological understandings and social life (Shenoda, 2010). Against this background, this paper examines how Christian love is experienced, how it shapes feelings of belonging and everyday morality and how it helps to cope with major life choices, in both the Egyptian and Belgian context.

Based on ethnographic observations, in-depth interviews and biographical research interviews conducted in 2016-2017 with Copts living in Egypt and in Belgium, this paper discusses how Christian love translated in concrete ways that mediated interactions with majority groups and helped to cope with hardships. It particularly engages with the fluid boundaries between secular and religious expressions of love. Love for God and for other humans are both seen as partaking in one divine love. At the same time, practicing this love offers concrete responses in moments of despair, hardship and doubt that arise in everyday life and social interaction.

Panel P103
Religion and refugee: interdisciplinary discussion on humane-divine interactions
  Session 1 Tuesday 14 August, 2018, -