HOW THE COPTIC CHURCH CAN PROTECT AND PROMOTE THE COPTIC LANGUAGE
HH Pope Tawadros II
In a previous article, I wrote that the Coptic Church must declare its will to protect and promote the Coptic language. It is my conviction that Coptic cannot be revived without a major role by the Coptic Church in the process. Each nation working to revive its threatened language shares several common approaches of language revitalisation with others but will still have to adopt specific measures that are essential only to it, since each nation’s story of language shift bears unique circumstances and history. The Copts are a deeply religious nation that reveres its religious institution and leaders, and the Church has a strong hold on them and can move them to do miracles. Reviving a language that is classified as dead is nothing but a miraculous endeavor; and in the absence of political independence and lack of a sovereign state, reviving our language can find a matching powerful substitute in the Church. No Coptic nationalist who struggles to see Coptic widely spoken again can ignore the role of the Church in that, hence my call for our Coptic Church to declare its will to protect and promote our language. With all due respect to our saintly and holy fathers, I discuss here how to go about that.
First, the Coptic Church, represented in its Holy Father, its Pope, and supported by the Holy Synod, should declare that the Coptic language is a sacred language that all Copts, clergy and lay, should learn, endeavour to revive, and work to protect and promote in their both ecclesiastical and secular lives.
Second, the Coptic Church should make it compulsory upon its clergy, bishops, priests and deacons, to learn Coptic and excel in it.
Third, all Coptic liturgy and services should be conducted in Coptic, except sermons, which should be delivered in the language understood better by the people, until the people could reasonably understand Coptic.
Fourth, the Coptic Church should make Coptic an essential subject in all its Sunday Schools and all schools run by it; conduct assessments and tests; and run competitions to encourage children to learn it.
Fifth, the Coptic Church should develop its Coptic Language Institute, increase its funding, modernise its building, co-opt more Coptic linguists to it; and charge it with modernising and standardising the Coptic language and developing a full curriculum for it, to be used in its schools. The new institution should decide on which dialect to adopt, and if Bohairic to choose between Old and New Bohairic pronunciation, as the schism on this matter seriously impedes the revitalisation of Coptic.
Sixth, the Coptic Church should establish a publishing and printing house which will be responsible for producing high quality digital and non-digital publications in Coptic that are targeted towards children and adults, and made available to Copts at reasonable prizes in bookshops and on the nets.
Seventh, the Coptic Church should work to convince the Egyptian State to recognise the Coptic language, and protect and promote it.