I think first we need to acknowledge despite what history shows that there exists TODAY moderate and liberal Muslims, “religious” in their own ways and yet able to stand up with us by our side for Coptic human rights. It is important to fuel this idea of being Egyptian brothers, whether Christian or Muslim, in order to foster better relations for the future of creating a better state of affairs based on the idea of equality regardless of religion or gender. Understandably, the country is not ready. Nevertheless, we need not lose hope. We latch on to what is available for us for our benefit, and if it takes us 100 years to establish this spirit of equality while we remain strong and fearless and in nonviolent resistance, then so be it. Until then, we live on as if we have hope, and not look for ways to “create” a Coptic state. As Christians, we believe we are sojourners in this world, not citizens of the world, but citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, our place in this world is not for the purpose of political establishment or leadership, but of peace, justice, righteousness, as well as assimilation for which does not contradict our own Orthodox faith.
While sadly we hear of bishops praising Islamic leaders of the past in imprudent ways (such as your recent post on HG Bishop Moussa), we need not find in this hopelessness of true Church ideal teachings. Neither is Coptic language and culture a priority to try to single us away from the Arabic culture around us. In fact, before Islam came, there were Arabic Christian kingdoms, virtually destroyed by the Persian/Byzantine wars that ensued, and never supported by the Byzantine Chalcedonian empire because of their strong affirmation of non-Chalcedonian positions! Thus, the Arabic language seems to have as much ancient Christian precious value and holiness as Coptic does. Imagine what would happen if we were able to excavate in the Arabian peninsula some of the rich pre-Islamic Arabic Christian heritage that we as Copts, Syriacs, and Armenians were able to preserve, and perhaps even find liturgical traditions unknown to us today, but known very well in the 3rd to 6th centuries.
In my opinion, the Coptic language and heritage is a heritage that we must preserve, but not in spite of the Arabic culture, but rather complimentary to the Arabic culture we have assimilated into. Therefore, with this mindset, and with a mindset of hopefulness in dealing peacefully, in unity with our peace-loving Muslim brothers, and in non-violent resistance and love to our bigoted Muslim brothers, we may, with long-suffering patience, find ourselves come out victorious as the ancient Roman Christians once were, that we may be an enlightening witness to all non-believers around us showing how true Christians act.
Thank you for your post. Your post is a good representation of those Copts who see themselves only as a Church not a nation. We disagree with this, and reaffirm our belief that we are both Church and nation – we have both spiritual and temporal needs. And we must fulfil these needs. I cannot understand your statement that “[O]ur place in this world is not for the purpose of political establishment or leadership, but of peace, justice, righteousness, as well as assimilation for which does not contradict our own Orthodox faith.” How can you have a place of peace or justice or righteousness unless you are active in this temporal life and try to build a better place for you, your nation and the world? And the worst thing I find in your statement is your advocacy for assimilation as long as it “does not contradict our own Orthodox faith”. Haven’t we learned from our own Arabisation and cultural Islamisation that has weakened our nation immeasurably and led to the Islamisation of many millions of the Copts throughout the last fourteen hundred centuries? It is a myth that you can keep your own Orthodox faith if you can compromise on your nationality and culture. I am afraid this is the mind-set that was responsible for the loss of Egypt to the Arabs in the first place and then, thereafter, the failure of all our attempts to shake off the yoke of our oppressors. But we shall return to this point several times in our future posts.
You see, as an Orthodox Christian, it is not within our interests to “develop a nation.” A false sense of “Coptic pride” mingled with Church interests will corrupt the Church. If you want to develop a “Coptic nation”, do it without representation of anything Christian at all. But if you want to add the Coptic Church into this, then you have to understand the Coptic Church is first and foremost “Orthodox” in her praxis more importantly than she is “Coptic,” first and foremost a citizen of the Kingdom more importantly than a temporal citizen.
Consider this second century anonymous Christian, calling himself a disciple of the Apostles, “Mathetes”:
For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.
The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.
As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners.
Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.
They marry, as do all [others];
they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.
They have a common table, but not a common bed.
They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.
They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.
They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.
They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
They are unknown and condemned;
they are put to death, and restored to life.
They are poor, yet make many rich;
they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all;
they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified.
They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified;
they are reviled, and bless;
they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour;
they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers.
When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life;
they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks;
yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
To sum up all in one word— what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world.
The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world.
The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.
The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible.
The flesh hates the soul, and wars against it, though itself suffering no injury, because it is prevented from enjoying pleasures; the world also hates the Christians, though in nowise injured, because they abjure pleasures.
The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them.
The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world.
The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens.
The soul, when but ill-provided with food and drink, becomes better; in like manner, the Christians, though subjected day by day to punishment, increase the more in number.
God has assigned them this illustrious position, which it were unlawful for them to forsake.
It is by this way of life Christians eventually enlightened the Roman world, and were able to eventually have the whole imperial government turn Christian. It was a sense of non-violent resistance to their policies. They won’t forsake their own beliefs, but they still obey and love their own leaders. They assimilate into their cultures, and yet they don’t abandon their beliefs, even if the face of imminent destruction and persecution. They were able to do good to their enemies, and eventually turn the hearts of their enemies towards their side.
If you seek Coptic human rights, you need to look no further than the non-violent demonstrations that take place. But if you seek a “Coptic nation”, this goes against the essence of the gospel. If you identify yourself as a Christian first-and-foremost, then all this talk of a Coptic nation is vanity. Protecting Coptic heritage as a form of understanding our past better as well as our faith is different. I am all for that. But to protect Coptic heritage to resurrect it in some political form is nonsense.
Unless it is more important to identify yourself as a Coptic than an Orthodox Christian, one cannot serve both man-made culture and divine ordinances equally. I’m not a Coptic equal to an Orthodox Christian. I am an Orthodox Christian in the Church of Egypt. It transcends race, culture, politics, and temporal needs. Sure, we have temporal needs. But a desire to make a Coptic nation is a temporal WANT, not a need. It is unnecessary, and even impractical today.
Did the African slaves of the United States lead a revolt to bring back “African culture” into their own lost past? Actually no! For the most part, the only true successful African American civil rights movement came from a westernized Baptist minister, from whose name comes from a German pastor who started the Protestant movement. It wasn’t the militant Black panther party, it wasn’t the idiotic Nation of Islam, it certainly wasn’t any “African” group of Black people. It was an assimilated Protestant group, leading a non-violent resistance against the unjust and bigoted laws of the land, which garnered enough support and grew from all types of societies, including righteous white people. Now, you may say, “Muslim people and the Islamic culture is nothing like the white people.” I beg to differ. Studying the history of the abolitionist movement, the white people of the South unbelievably acted no different, at times perhaps worse than the Salafis and Ikhwan, and Northern white people were prejudiced enough not to know how to deal with the situation correctly, because despite their “Christian” upbringing, they still believed black people were nothing but an intelligent ape species, and not human. Can you imagine therefore, the justification of enslavement, brutal beatings, separation of families, the raping of slaves, the killing of dissident slaves, because they were not human, but they were under the pretense of a “right to property”? It’s far from believable that something like this would happen in the United States. Even Abraham Lincoln initially was not planning to get rid of slavery, but looked to make things worse for black people, until no negotiation was possible in the Civil War.
I can’t lose hope on what is going on in Egypt. With enough support from more like-minded Muslims, I have hope we can achieve our “temporal needs,” and not unnecessary desires of some sort of Coptic nation that matters not in the general spiritual nature of what a “Copt” is today.
YESSS THANK U
By the way, I am not in any way discrediting your blog. I am actually enjoying your blog and love very much your posts, and I encourage you to continue.
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