WRONG COPTIC RESPONSES TO NATIONAL CHALLENGES
The Coptic historian must be interested in studying responses of the Copts to challenges that face the nation. The lay Copts must be aware of them. The Copts have often responded to national challenges in the wrong way, and such responses have resulted in devastating effects on the following generations. Here, I mention just two, and I have no doubt that the reader will think of a few more:
1. When we were faced by the first signs of the Arabisation of the Copts in the Middle Ages, and the Coptic clerks in the service of the Islamic state and traders learned Arabic and neglected Coptic even in their own households, our greatest concern was that Copts understood their religion, which was mainly written and explained in Coptic, no more. Their response was not to emphasise the importance of learning Coptic and taking a special care to teach it to their children, so that at least they could understand their religion: no, they chose to Arabise even more – they translated religious scripture into Arabic, spoke Arabic in Church, and put aside Coptic books.
That was one of the greatest mistakes to the Arabisation challenge to our nation’s language and identity.
2. The second example is related: Muslims persecuted and oppressed us – our difference inwardly and outwardly made us easy target to mistreatment by the Muslims. So, what was our response as a nation? Assimilation, outwardly, first, and then inwardly, slowly but surely: so, we spoke like them; changed our names to theirs; dressed like them; circumcised our children like them; ran our families like them: veiled our women, treated them as inferior to men, bought slave girls and used them for sex, divorced our wives for extra-Biblical reasons, gave our daughters half the share of inheritance our sons got; learned hypocrisy, trickery, cowardice, avarice, infighting and other misbehaviour that greatly harmed our nation and Church; and at last, converted to Islam completely.
This response started seriously in the Middle Ages, but we see it in action even today. Again, wrong response: the right response should have been to stick to our national culture and identity, while all the time working for equality and freedom.