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September 12, 2014

I would like to introduce two coined words into Coptic national debate: Shlilists and Shlolists, and one can drive from them further words to describe the ideology behind each group, Shlilism and Shlolism.

Shlil in Coptic (ϣⲗⲓⲗ) means ‘to pray’, while shlol (ϣⲗⲟⲗ) means ‘nation’ [In contrast, laos (ⲗⲁⲟⲥ) means ‘people’]. There is another word in Coptic reserved for a nation, which is ethnos (ⲉⲑⲛⲟⲥ), but it is Greek in origin while shlol seems to be purely Egyptian.

Who are the Shlilists?

I define them as those Copts who think of themselves as ekklesia (ⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ – Church) only; as Christians, who are sojourners of the world and true citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven only. They do not see the Copts as a cultural nation; and other aspects of Coptic culture, such as language, literature, arts, and music, do not interest them except in as far as they serve religion. In fact, they do not see any problem in the Copts and Coptic Church being completely Arabised. Their main focus is the Church and their main interest is their religious freedom: if they are allowed to worship in freedom not withstanding how they are treated otherwise they are satisfied; their only weapon in the face of injustice is prayer and the invoking of the saints and martyrs to intervene, sometimes in a violent manner. They do not entertain the prospect of any active resistance against their oppressors – martyrdom is the only thing they could offer.

Who are the Shlolists?

The Shlolists think of themselves as primarily a cultural nation: their Christianity is dear to them and Christ takes the centre point in their history. They believe the Copts are an ekklesia but a nation in a cultural sense too: religion is not the only important matter to them but other aspects of their cultural life are essential, such as the Coptic language, history, literature, arts, music, etc. They cannot think of losing their language, for example, without losing something very intimate and essential in their identity. They do not work only to protect and promote the propagation of Christianity but Coptic culture as a whole. They are not only interested in religious freedom but in all of their civil rights and their cultural collective rights too. They may die as martyrs but they may fight injustice through active non-violent resistance.

The above is only an attempt at descriptive definition.

I would like to stress two points:

  1. That the attempt to distinguish between two is not meant to pass a judgement on any but to make the debate more intelligible. Both represent honest people; and each must respect the other, even as they try to argue for their position and convert the other to their point of view.
  2. There is an overlap between Shlilism and Shlolism and they merge with each other at many points.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2014 4:59 am

    To add to your description on Shlilists, which is more or less what I would agree with inasmuch as description goes, I would say that I personally (I don’t know about other “Shlilists”) also advocate non-violent resistance. Like I said, while I may take a predisposition towards seeing the religious life of more importance than the political life, I don’t necessarily want to be divorced from political life. I just seem to be at odds with your political views. I tend to try to see a way to work with the system there is now. Perhaps, you could see it as a pragmatic approach. I try to see it as a way to make life easier for the Church to function its essential duties for the community around it.
    So I would say that non-violent resistance is something I personally adhere to in a political fashion. And I think there is something to say about a somewhat “defiant” appearance of prayer among those who wish to suppress these rights for us. I would only caution the idea that the Church be involved in any political office or leadership, which is another facet of political life. Maybe to be lobbyists for political rights, but even then, as a Shlilist, essentially, one has to believe that not to hold out hope that it is politics that will help the Church. Rather, the Church doing her set Christian duties that will force the hand of politics.
    What this means is a good and true Shlilist I think would take the words of Christ, “Be humble like a dove, and wise like a serpent”. I think one has to be smart about the politics that goes around, not ignorant of them, so as to be well-informed on how to participate in the political atmosphere. Abouna Abd el Messeh al Habashi once said, “Simplicity of mind without wisdom is stupidity, wisdom without simplicity is satanic.” I find that if Shlilists are not able to engage wisely with the political atmosphere, then I would think there is no respect at all for the Shlilist position. However, I also tend to see that political leaders (emphasis on the word leaders) tend to also take the Satanic road, and so the Shlilist would remember the words “do not trust in princes” as “don’t count on them doing anything meaningful for the Church.” Therefore, I also see an effective Shlilist as a “ground-rootist” rather than trusting the political leaders do anything for them. Only then, I think, can we twist the arms of the political leaders, just as non-violent resistance can.

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      September 13, 2014 8:40 am

      I have edited the word ‘Shlolist’ in your comment to ‘Shlilist’, which means those who pray (Shlolist is used for those who believe in the nation). The confusion was made by my original article. I have now corrected it.

      As I have said in my article, there is an overlap of the two groups, and not all will strictly fall under one group only.

      • September 13, 2014 12:47 pm

        Ah that makes more sense! I thought something was off, but I said maybe I got it confused 😛

  2. September 22, 2014 2:14 am

    I just saw this video and I said to myself, “I have to show this to Dr. Dioscorus right now!” This Muslim poet gets it. I bet if we lobbied strongly for all Egyptians to know Coptic history, more people will think like her:

    • Dioscorus Boles permalink*
      September 22, 2014 9:00 am

      Thanks for this link. Fatma Na’aout is very good and interesting Egyptian just like Sayyid al-Qimni but people like them are to be counted on one hand.

      I do hope your wish (bet) comes true but I will not hold my breath, my friend. 🙂

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