THE REAL FIGHT WITHIN THE COPTS IS THIS: ARE WE COPTIC CHRISTIANS OR ARAB CHRISTIANS?
Are the Copts Coptic Christians or Arab Christians like some Palestinian, Jordanian, and even Lebanese Christians confess? This is the question I should think that will be central to the future of the Copts, and ought to be discussed by all Copts in a serious manner.
Do not underestimate the strength of those who would like to see the Copts as Arab Christians: this camp includes many who call themselves Leftists, or work in the Egyptian government and media, and even some clerics, including bishops, sadly. To this camp, all that is important is Christianity, and everything else is valueless. Our language, or ethnicity, and our unique history that has often been at odd with Arabs, do not worth a dime. Let’s forget about our language, our history, our roots; and let us celebrate Arabism – let’s submerge in Arab culture, and as long as we don’t leave the Church, it is ok. Let’s adopt Arabic as our language; pray our liturgy in full in Arabic; and write poetry and hymns in it. Let’s ignore Coptic – let’s set up classes in our churches to teach our children, even in the Diaspora, Arabic and not Coptic. Let’s be part of the Arab nation; and let’s call our patriarchs “Popes of the Arabs”! Let’s consider Arab issues ours; Arab fights ours; and let’s even glorify Arab history and culture.
This of course runs against the grain of Coptic nationalism that sees the Copts as Coptic Christians not Arab Christians – it sees the Copts as no Arabs, and wants to revive this unique nation with its special language and culture. It sees Christianity – this Coptic Christianity – as of paramount importance, not just nationally for its central role in the development of our nation, but also spiritually for its life-giving unique quality: Christ has and will remain the central point of our whole being.
Between these two camps the cultural fight will be joined – and there can be no question that the Coptic Nationalists will win.
Two points I would like to stress here:
1. Many, many people, lay and clergy, even bishops, join us in our position.
2. Coptic nationalism is not anti-Arab or anti-Muslim: it only wants to free itself from every Arab or Islamic influence.
You must decide on which side you stand! You cannot be neutral on this if you are a Copt!