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"It is not a religious choice but an Egyptian identity choice," he said. "The Egyptian identity was fading away into a perverted version of Islam promoted by terrorists."

Sectarian tension has been high in Egypt since Morsi was toppled. Last August, dozens of Egyptian churches were torched. Since then, terrorist activity has increased. The government and most Christians believe the Muslim Brotherhood is to blame.

Only a few Christians, though, have called for fair treatment of the Brotherhood, whose members have been sentenced to death by the hundreds in recent mass trials. Ibrahim has chastised Copts for not defending Brotherhood members' rights to fair trials. Many Christians, he said, are still reeling from unfair treatment under Morsi, but fail to extend the provisions of justice toward their political enemies.

"Regardless of what the Bible says about justice and mercy, many Christians are affected by the overall climate," he said. "When a political order comes and says it will return the glories of the Islamic state, it scares them."

Shukrallah believes such fear threatens to undo the gains of the revolution toward greater Coptic participation in society. She is sympathetic but critical of the Christian community, which she says has retreated from political engagement since its experience under Islamist government.

"There has been a withdrawal, once more, of Copts into the church," she said. "And the church is again speaking on their behalf."

As political regimes shift in Egypt, it is time for Coptic Christians to speak for themselves, Shukrallah believes.

"Egyptian Christians are an integral part of this nation. This message has been given by the priests—it should be given by the people," said Shukrallah. "It happened for a very short time [after the revolution], and it made a huge impact. I hope we can see it over a much longer period."

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