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ICC Note: In an attempt to escape the political unrest and violence that is affecting many Christians throughout Syria and Egypt, thousands have fled to the Caucasus region. The Christians fleeing are coming from some of the most ancient Christian communities in the world but they have found some refugee in the traditionally Christian communities in Georgia and Armenia.
By Nicholas Clayton
7/27/2013 Egypt (Christian Post) – Ever since ouster of Egyptian strongman President Hosni Mubarak two years ago, Adel has faced a difficult dilemma: Leave behind a relatively cushy life in Egypt or stay and risk discrimination and violence as religious and sectarian tensions rise.
Visa restrictions are narrowing his options, so the successful, middle-class Coptic Christian and the father of two says he’s considering uprooting his family to start anew in an unlikely place: A small ex-Soviet country with a different language, culture and climate from his own.
“In Egypt, it’s difficult to get visas to the U.S. or Europe,” 50-year-old Adel says. “We didn’t chose Georgia, Georgia is choosing us.”
He’s not alone. Christian minorities from both Egypt and Syria are starting to look to the South Caucasus countries of Georgia and Armenia as a refuge from violence and uncertainly.
The choice isn’t as random as it may seem. Sandwiched between Turkey, Iran and Russia’s predominately Muslim North Caucasus regions, both Georgia and Armenia have ancient Christian traditions dating back to the 4th century. Their churches are closely related to the Copts and other Eastern Christian confessions.
Georgia has issued nearly 2,000 visas to Egyptians this year — almost all to Coptic Christians — after giving out just 222 last year, according to government figures cited by Eurasianet. The country of 4.5 million now estimates about 2,500 Egyptians live there.
Armenia has gone as far as announcing the creation of “New Aleppo” — a housing development outside the capital Yerevan that has reportedly drawn interest from 600 Syrian Armenian families.
More than 7,000 Syrian Armenians have already expressed the desire to relocate to Armenia, according to the Armenian government, which sees the possible immigrants as a potential boost to a stagnant economy and population fall.
Adel, who asked that his last name not be used for fear of reprisals against his family, said that although Christians faced discrimination under Mubarak’s long rule, the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power in 2012 has increased pressure on religious minorities and led many of Egypt’s estimated 5 million to 15 million Copts to look for the exits.
Sipping tea in the offices of a legal consultancy in the Georgian capital Tbilisi tailored to arriving Arabs — and set up by an Egyptian Copt eight months ago — Adel is still weighing his options.
Although he supports the Egyptian military’s ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government earlier this month, he says he fears the Islamist organization will be “just as dangerous out of power.”

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