Skip to content


March 5, 2011

The Great Martyr, St. George – a Coptic icon in the Convent of St. George, Old Cairo

I ONCE READ THIS STORY in one of the hagiographies of St. George (Mari Guirgis), which, like all Coptic hagiographies, often end with anecdotes of miracles attributed to the saint, and hymns. The Copt, who tells us the story, says that once upon a time, in one of the villages of Upper Egypt, where a sizable Coptic community lived, a group of Muslim men passed by a church called after St. George. One of the men said to his colleagues, “Wait here for me until I go and p*** on ‘the Sheikh of al-Nasara’ (the Chief of the Nazarenes, i.e., the Christians).” As his friends waited, and the Copt watched, the man went to the church’s corner and empted himself there against the walls. Furious with indignation, the Copt, who could not protest for fear of being attacked and killed by the Muslim men, raised his hands in supplication, and a request to St. George, to make his glory visible to all, right there and then.

The Copt tells us that, as the men walked away, a horseman riding on a white horse suddenly appeared, and, descending on the man who desecrated the church, speared him a few times, while the man cried in agony for mercy. The Copt, who watched all that, was pleased that St. George took his revenge on the Arab who did not respect the Christians’ house of worship, nor their revered saint.

Copts love such stories. It gives them much satisfaction and relief. This is not surprising from a devout people, perhaps the most devout in history, which is under constant attacks by its Muslim neighbours.

The story is interesting for many reasons. But what I am concerned about here is this: the story shows us the utter helplessness of the Copt who, paralysed with fear, could not defend his sacred space, and appealed to his spiritual world to intervene and defend the Copt’s pride. This is typical of so many Copts. As they lose confidence in their ability to resist the religious oppression they are exposed to, and have been suffering from for over 1400 years, they resort to prayer as the only arsenal they possess to turn the situation over, and in their passive position they often quote, and read, Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be silent.”[1]

While Coptic Christianity, here represented by the much-loved martyr, St. George, constitutes a resistance power that must not be underestimated, the resort to prayer as the only tool to fight off injustice should be seen by all Copts as an inadequate instrument for national liberation.

Coptic nationalists, are, and must be, Christian if they are true to their identity, and if they would like to avoid the excesses of aggressive nationalism; however, they understand that nations do not, and cannot, successfully resist, and overturn, oppression without active participation of men, in human flesh, in a collective effort to liberate themselves. In such a struggle sacrifices are unavoidable. Moreover, if St. George’s holy spear must be used, Coptic nationalists must be prepared to use human power to coerce our opponents to let God’s people go.

As Coptic nationalists up their game everywhere now, in response to the repeated disappointments they experience at the hands of the various rulers and regimes of Egypt, the words of Moses to the people of Gad and Reuben should be remembered by all Copts: “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here?” (Numbers 32:6)[2]

[1] English Standard Version (©2001).

[2] Ibid.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Mohamed permalink
    March 13, 2011 1:59 pm

    Interesting that “nationalist” Coptic website is published in English 🙂 The most basics of nationalism is language. Why do not you publish your articles in Coptic language? Coptic nationalism existsas much as Coptic language does!

    • LEO (Lay Egyptian Observer) permalink
      March 29, 2011 11:22 pm

      Think about it:(!
      Had the website been published in Coptic, most probably you would not have the opportunity to read it.
      History tells us the story of how the Arabs were responsible for severely punishing our ancestors if they spoke the language. If you are Egyptian, or understand it, there are more than 1000 words of Coptic origin in the colloquial Arabic in Egypt.

  2. Dioscorus Boles permalink
    March 13, 2011 2:28 pm

    Thanks for your comment.

    If you go to
    you will get to know more about nationalism and its various subjective and objective factors. You will immediately realise that language is not an essential ingredient as a factor in nationalism, as the example of Switzerland is often used to prove it.

    It is the Arab nationalists, like Sati’a al-Husri, who base their nationality only on language, because they could not find any other objective factor of nationalism to use in their nationalist propaganda.

    But the Copts have so many objective factors to base their nationalism on – their language being one of them. The fact that they don’t speak Coptic now in their daily life, and that this Blog, in consequence, is not using it, is a testimony to the oppressive rule of the Arabs, and those who followed them.

  3. LEO (Lay Egyptian Observer) permalink
    March 29, 2011 11:34 pm

    I enjoyed very much reading your posts. Keep the good work.
    I hope that those of us who strongly believe in their Coptic Identity, and care about what happens at home in Egypt, should get organized through existing or new political parties that seek a “Civil State,” and not fall in the “Coptic Party” trap. There are no Coptic politics, but hope there will be Egyptian politician that have a strong Coptic identity within the greater Egyptian identity.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink
      March 30, 2011 4:34 am

      Thanks, Leo. As you know, we have been hoping for a “civil state” since 1801 AD, but it has evidently not happened yet, apart from short periods following 1855/6 and 1919. Apart from that we have only a harvest of disappointments, strewn with much blood and suffering. How our response in the next period, after the 2011 Revolution, which has promised so much, will totally depend on how the moderate Muslims of Egypt will manage to control the Islamists element in the midst of their community, who are threatening not only the prospects of a civil state but also the unity of Egypt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: