Anba Damian may be the head of the Coptic Church in Germany — but the bishop is remarkably down-to-earth. Despite the many challenges of his job, he still finds time for a game of football. His seat is in a former Cistercian monastery in western Germany.
The building was little more than a ruin when the Coptic Church in Germany bought it back in the early 1990s for the token sum of one Deutschmark. Since then, it has undergone a major revamp. The Copts share the monastery complex in Brenkhausen with a Catholic congregation. The Coptic bishop and the Catholic priest hold joint services, drink coffee and even play football together. They're like family, they say.
Some 6,000 to 10,000 Coptic Christians currently live in Germany. In eastern Berlin, the Copt community is growing steadily. The reason is the sharp rise in the persecution of Christians in North Africa and the Middle East. The Gerges family fled southern Egypt for Berlin three years ago. The Coptic congregation there is the centerpoint of their life in the city. Once Bishop Damian used to visit the desert to find peace and quiet. Now the church leader goes, instead, to the woods close to his new home when his soul is in need of some deep cleaning. Open, colorful and, sometimes, loud, the Copts are bringing a breath of fresh air to Germany's church landscape.