THE NEGLECT OF COPTIC LANGUAGE AS DISPLAYED IN THE PLAQUES OF OUR SACRED SPACE
All Coptic sacred space, whether churches, monasteries, schools or social services organisations, should have their names displayed in Coptic
The Copts’ neglect of their language is a sad story. At no place do we find that tragically demonstrated as in our churches. No one seems to have given heed to Samuel of Kalamoun in his Apocalypse: Arabic has replaced Coptic even in the sacred Coptic Church prayers, and we now see the beautiful liturgies of St. Basil, St. Cyril and St. Gregory being sung by priests, bishops and popes in Arabic. What a sad situation!
The neglect we see in our churches cannot be attributed to the clergy alone – the lay people take a large blame for it too. This shared neglect is best seen in the church plaques that display the names we give to our churches. Churches nowadays seem to be displaying their names in Arabic and rarely in Coptic; and even in the Coptic Diaspora, in Europe, Australia, Canada and the US, Coptic churches’ plaques often carry their names in the national language of the country, such as English, German or French, and in Arabic, as if Arabic is our national language.
Just one Example I use here: The Coptic Orthodox Church of the Virgin Mary in Meyrin, Geneva, Switzerland (Eglise Copte Orthodoxe de la Vierge Marie de la Suisse Romande – Genève Rue Virginio-Malnati 35, 1217 Meyrin, Switzerland). When you visit that church you will find that its name has been displayed on its plaque in French and Arabic with no use of Coptic. How can our children in the Diaspora know their national language or manage to keep their Coptic identity if their sacred places do not show pride in their language?
The Coptic church at Meyrin, Geneva, is not the only Coptic church that shows its neglect of our sacred language so shamelessly. Look at your local church, whether in Egypt or outside it, and see if your sacred place displays its name in Coptic first, if at all, or in Arabic, and then go and ask your local priest and the church’s lay committee why that is the case.
We recommend this: all Coptic sacred places, whether churches or monasteries or schools or social services organisations, have their names displayed in plaques first in Coptic, which is our national language, and then in the official language used in the country they exist in. So, in Egypt let us use Coptic and Arabic (plus English where tourists visit); in English-speaking countries, Coptic and English; in Germany, Coptic and Deutsch; in France, Coptic and French; in Holland, Coptic and Dutch; in Italy, Coptic and Italian; etc. There is no convincing argument for using Arabic in displaying the name of our sacred spaces in any country that does not have Arabic as official language – and even where Arabic is the official language of the country, such as in Egypt, Sudan, Syria, etc., the name in Arabic should come second to the name in Coptic.
But, for that to happen, both Coptic clergy and laity should understand the national and ecclesiastical significance of our sacred language and be cooperative and willing to rectify matters.
 Photos credited to Miss N. I. B.