The following lines review an interview with Egyptian novelist Edward Girgis. He speaks about Coptic expatriates, sectarianism, and social issues in Egypt.
Edward Girgis is an Egyptian novelist originally from Sohag. He left Egypt 35 years ago and now works as an information consultant for four regional American newspapers in addition to having published several novels.
He stated that nowadays there are about 1.5 million Egyptians in the United States; more than 80 percent of them are Copts and the vast majority of them live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and California.
Girgis stated that he did not like the term Coptic expatriates; for it was very journalistic and does not express the reality of the community of Egyptian expatriates. He added that 90 percent of expatriate Copts in the United States do not have any relation with the Coptic expatriates’ organizations and are against attacking Egypt or any heavenly religion.
Girgis further stated that the information that is sent from Egypt to Coptic expatriates’ organizations there anger them, adding that it could be said that the Coptic expatriates’ organizations in the United States are directed from inside Egypt by people who exaggerate in reporting the news.
Q: What is the thing that angers them most?
A: The government’s insistence that the security services handle the Coptic file. News about attacking churches and lands that belong to the church also anger them. Government obstacles toward building churches in Egypt also anger them. The problem is that the news sent to Coptic expatriates’ organizations in the United States is exaggerated to some extant, which increases the anger.
Q: What do Copts of the United States do when they are angry?
A: They organize a demonstration before the United Nations and carry signs that denounce aggression against Copts in Egypt.
Q: They offend Egyptian officials and call for Americans to intervene in Egypt to solve Copts’ problems? Don’t they?
A: No, they do not offend anybody and they do not call for anybody’s interventione. I assert that expatriate Copts are not directed by any foreign agenda, and that what they do is their own [….]
Q: But sometimes they call for a cessation of American aid to Egypt?
A: The only one who called for stopping the aid was Dr. Sa‘d al-Dīn Ibrāhīm. Coptic expatriates’ organizations have never made such a demand.
Q: What is the reality of the relationship between those organizations and the Coptic Orthodox Church?
A: There is no relation. Sometimes, the church in Egypt sends oral messages to those organizations calling on them to stop attacking Egypt. In its messages the church explains that escalation is against Copts’ interest and that of Egypt. It is by chance that I live close to Pope Shenouda’s residence in the United States, and I assert that Pope Shendouda has never met members of those organizations during his visits to the United States. In Egypt there are Islamists who are provoked by foreign organizations into being more rigid [….]
Girgis refused to name the "foreign organizations" he referred to and only stated, "Obama was supposed to visit Egypt first but he changed his track and visited Saudi Arabia first; who did that?"
Girgis expressed his love for Egypt and said that he spends four months every year there. However, he stated that things have been changing for the worse for the past 15 years.