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May 17, 2019


Inset, Fayum portrait, Egypt, 300-325 AD

I address this to my fellow Copts: You cannot be a coward man and woman and Christian at the same time. I am not talking about fear, for fear is a natural emotion that everyone has, and is meant to protect you. Fear is defined in the Oxford Dictionaries as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger”. Cowardice, on the other hand, is defined in the former dictionary as “lack of bravery”, and in the latter as “lack of courage or firmness of purpose.” While fear is a natural emotion designed to protect one’s self against threats, cowardice uses that fear and transforms it into a sin – a situation in which man destroys his dignity, integrity, and character by shying away from undertaking one’s duty, from doing things that are right yet difficult or unpleasant. It is for this that Revelation says: “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”[1] And while fear is normal, being taken over by, by not controlling it, or being fearful, or doing anything to save one’s own skin, is not – it is cowardice. The Christian must be bold like a lion: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”[2] The Scripture is full of exhortations to the Faithful not to be fearful, not be afraid. How many times we read this injunction in the Bible in Coptic: “Imper erhoti (Do not fear)!”

And do not think, my fellow Copts, I am exhorting you to be brave, and avoid cowardice, only when your enemy asks you to abandon Christ. Martyrdom is of course rooted in bravery, but there are other situations where bravery is needed: when your homeland is invaded by the enemy, when your nation is exposed to danger, when your family is attacked, when it is your duty to speak truth to power. Cowardice is entrenched in selfishness and driven by putting one self’s first, and a will to live at all costs.

And while we are strong in bravery when it comes to witness to Christ, we are often cowards in other areas. Frequently the Bible and pacifism are quoted as excuses for our cowardly acts, even when our life does not attest to pacifism. So, a Copt may allow his family to be attacked, nay murdered by Islamists, and quotations of love and peace from the Bible are given. Do not deceive yourselves, my fellow Copts, you can choose not to resist evil when it is directed against you, but when it is directed against your family, your nation, your homeland, it is your duty to resist. If you don’t, it is your cowardice to lose life or limb which dictates your action.

Therefore, fellow Copts, do not fear when it is your duty to resist, be it in matters of spirit or body: Imper erhoti! Death is better than destruction of your character by cowardice.

And do not think you are being Christian by being a coward.


[1] Revelation 21:8 (NIV).

[2] Proverbs 28:1 (NIV).

One Comment leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    May 17, 2019 5:27 pm

    Hi Dioscorus.
    My name is Andrew, a Coptic Egyptian born in Egypt and raised in Canada. Coptic nationalism has been an intensely brewing ideology in my mind and continues to burn deeply within me as I grow older. I am wondering if there is anyway at all of reaching you privately whether by email or otherwise. It’d be a pleasure to discuss this topic with you in a more direct and specific manner. It’d be greatly influential to me.
    Thank you.

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