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COPTIA – COINING A NEW WORD: THE COPTS’ PHYSICAL SPACE, COMMUNITY AND NATION كوبتيا، كلمة جديدة تعني المكان القبطي، المجتمع القبطي والأمة القبطية

April 2, 2011

Monastery of St. Anthony- is part of Coptia.

I would like to introduce a new word to the Coptic nationalists – COPTIA.

Coptia can mean any of the following:

  1. The Coptic physical space: any living or working space of the Copts; any Coptic heritage space; any Coptic historical space. It thus means from the cultural point of view the homes, properties, institutions, workshops, churches, monasteries, museums, etc., of the Copts. In a political sense, it can mean the fatherland, the patrie, if our nation becomes political. i.e., if our nation becomes independent and forms its own State. It is evident that such a political entity does not exist at the moment; it is clear, also, that the Coptic nationalists do not have in their programme, at least at the present, the objective of establishing a national home, as our hopes in the promises by the moderate Muslims of the 25 January 2011 Revolution of establishing a civil, liberal and democratic system in Egypt have not been completely dashed. While we are still in hope of Egyptian unity based on equality and freedom, Coptic nationalists will not be intimidated into abandoning their right of free thinking and entertaining the possibility of having our own homeland established if the situation deteriorates in Egypt beyond any repair, or if we are pushed by our enemies into ultimate despair.
  2. The Coptic community/communities: the community of Copts in the villages of Sol, Meir and Zabbaleen, etc.; in the towns and cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Asyut, Minya, Suhaj, Qina, Khartoum, Omdurman, El-Obeid, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Nairobi, London, Paris, Athens, Sydney, Perth, Buenos Aires, California, New York, etc.; in the churches and monasteries in Egypt, Sudan, and the rest of the Diaspora – or, in essence, the entire community of Copts extending across the globe that may be separated by distances, natural barriers, or borders, but which still forms a continuum of one people that is culturally homogeneous.[i] In the latter sense it approaches the next definition.
  3. The Coptic nation: a nationality like any other cultural nation such as the Kurdish nation, the Scottish nation, the Welsh nation, the Roma nation, etc. The Coptic nation includes every single Copt, old or young, man or woman, rich or poor – and every one of them is important in the thinking of the Coptic nationalists. The members of this nation are not confined to Egypt, but are spread over so many countries, not only in the traditional lands of St. Mark’s Seat, in Sudan, Ethiopia and Libya, but also in the wider world, in those communities which are sometimes collectively called the Coptic Diaspora.[ii] It is a nation whose members are connected to each other, notwithstanding long distances between them, by a basic communality of thought, social habits, religious practices, nationally identified language, history, etc. It is a nation, again, with a unique history that stands as the litmus test to its distinct identity and to the strength of its subjective and objective criteria of nationhood; a nation that has the will to live together, to aggregate in certain areas, to worship at the same places, to find its spiritual and cultural satisfaction in the same sources; a nation that ‘shares in collective pride and humiliation, pleasures and regret, connected to the same incidents in the past’;[iii] a nation that base its ‘social capital’ on its heroic past, great men, and genuine glory’;[iv] a nation that is united by a common sympathy, and which feels , and cries, for its suffering brothers and sisters in Egypt, wherever its members live.

The word ‘Coptia’ thus means the Copts’ physical space, their community and their nation. It is possible then to say, instead of saying the history of the Copts or the Coptic history to rather say the history of Coptia; instead of the Coptic Church, the Church of Coptia; instead of Coptic art, literature and architecture, the art, literature and architecture of Coptia; instead of Coptic Cairo, Coptia’s Cairo or Cairo of Coptia; instead of Coptic churches and monasteries, Coptia’s churches and monasteries or the churches and monasteries of Coptia; instead of the Coptic community of Sudan, Coptia of Sudan; etc. The Copt will come to see his spiritual and temporal space as part of Coptia – his local church, school, the Monastery of St. Bishoy or St. Anthony, the Coptic Museum, club, clinic, social services office, community workshop, etc. Any part of Coptia, wherever it is, will become a national property of all the Copts; and their collective space, here, there and everywhere, will assume a patrie-like quality. This is the real revolutionary novelty about the word.

This word will serve two important purposes:

  1. It will make the concepts that it embodies and captures distinctly clear; and, consequently, can facilitate a useful discussion about these concepts.
  2. It will serve the cause of Coptic nationalism by strengthening the belief of the Copts in the concepts that it embraces.

Coptia is a word that is pregnant with so many important concepts that had previously been shyly and hesitantly contemplated in the minds of the Copts, and fearfully whispered in their private gatherings – it is about time now for Copts to talk about them openly as mature and brave men and women. It is the kind of word that can potentially alter the thinking of communities and nations, and change the course of their history. I simply herewith introduce it to my fellow Copts; and would urge Coptic nationalists to add it to their vocabulary, appreciate its importance, and use it in their discussions, national narrative and dialogue.

A word of such a nature may engender fears and can cause furor – we cannot prevent that. But both fears and furor will come from the same people who have always wanted us to ‘keep to our own place’, and not to aspire to, let alone be, full citizens in Egypt, where our human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected.

The motto of the Coptic nationalists is ”Those Who Dare Win” – and on this daring introduction of the new word ‘Coptia’ there is much to be won.

As with all new words it will take time for it to be familiar to tongue and ear, and for its users to come to capture in their minds the full concepts that it embodies once the word is uttered. Only with regular use will its full significance be appreciated.


[i] Though its individuals may possess various local subcultures, as is the case with all communities and nations.

[ii] Diaspora means dispersion from the Greek diaspeirein to scatter, from dia– + speirein to sow (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

[iii] John Stuart Mill. For more, read https://copticliterature.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/what-is-a-nation

[iv] Renan. Read above article.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. mindthehat permalink
    January 4, 2012 10:40 am

    From Maat to Coptia, the Copts’ ability to operate at the abstract level never ceases to surprise me. I admire your patience and your optimism of the will. As for me, the pessimism of the intellect seems to have taken over and as a result I no longer see full equality as an option.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink
      January 4, 2012 11:26 am

      Your pessimism, my friend, is just an honest reflection on the sad Egyptian reality. I agree with you that the chances full equality for the Copts will be offered by Egypt’s Muslim majority are slim. But we have given them the opportunity and we have been noble in our approach. The onus is on them. The alternative option is as clear as the Aten disk in Egypt’s sky – if they push us to go for that option, as our only option, then they will have only themselves to blame.

Trackbacks

  1. FROM SCETIS TO SOHAG – CONTEMPLATION IN ANTHROPOLOGICAL IMAGERY BY THE COPTIC BROTHERS, MATTHEW AND ANTHONY SHENODA « ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية
  2. ON 25 JANUARY 2012 THERE IS NOTHING FOR THE COPTS TO CELEBRATE « ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية
  3. CIRCUMCISION AND THE COPTS – A HISTORY: PART 1 « ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية
  4. COPTIA AGAIN – AND MORE SPECIFICALLY – IS THE COPTIC NATION AND THE POTENTIAL COPTIC PATRIE « ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية
  5. COPTIA IN TEXAS – THE WORLD OF THE COPTS IN AMERICA « ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية

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