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December 15, 2016


Ya’agub Bey Nakhla Rofeilah (1847 – 1905)

 Ya’agub Bey Nakhla Rofeilah (1847 – 1905) was born in Cairo during the patriarchate of Pope Butrus (Peter) VII (1809 – 1852), and lived during the patriarchates of Popes Kyrillos (Cyril) IV (1854 – 1861), Demetrios II (1861 – 1870), and Kyrillos (Cyril) V (1874 – 1927).

He learned at the Coptic schools established by the reformer Pope Kyrillos IV, and studied Italian and English. He was appointed a teacher for these two languages at the Coptic school in Harat al-Saqa’een, in Cairo; and, while a teacher there, he studied and learned French.

He left teaching at some point and worked as copy editor at the state’s main printing house. His works there helped him later in establishing two printing houses for the Coptic newspaper, Al-Watan, and the Coptic charity, Al-Tawfiq Society.

He then resigned his post, and worked as a clerk in the ministry of finance, and was promoted to the position of a director. He was made Bey while working there, and continued to work for the ministry until he retired.

After that, he was appointed secretary to Fayum’s railways company. While living in Fayum, he established Coptic charities, and two schools for the education of boys and girls.

On 14 April 1905 he passed away, aged 58, and was buried at the monastery of St. Mina.

Rofailah was heavily involved in what is called the Reform Movement. Tawfiq Society was heavily involved in that movement; and he was one of the active members of the Coptic Millet Council (National Council).

He has four books:

  • Tarikh al-Umma al-Qibtiya (History of the Coptic Nation تاريخ الأمة القبطية) (1898)
  • A book on how to learn Arabic for the English (التحفة المرضية في تعليم الإنجليز اللغة العربية) (1882)
  • A book on learning English (الابريز في تعليم لغة الإنجليز) (1882)
  • Gamous al-Islahat (The Dictionary of Reforms قاموس الإصلاحات) (This book, was not yet printed in 1910; and to my knowledge, it is not in print until this day)


The second print (2000) of the History of the Coptic Nation by St. Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies

His history of the Coptic Church is the most important. Since the 13th century, no one really wrote Coptic history, apart from a few scattered biographies of the patriarchs. Rofeilah’s history is the first one in our modern age; after it other Coptic historians emerged. He starts his history from Pre-History in Egypt, and the Pharaonic dynasties, the Persian rule, Greeks, Romans, and then the various Arab and Islamic periods until the end of the 19th century. In his last three chapters, he gives summary of Coptic history in modern age, which he, rightly, considers to have started with Pope Kyrillos IV, who is called by him, “Abi al-Islah (Father of Reform)”: he divides that history into three periods, and call the first period, First Renaissance, the second period, Second Renaissance, and the third period, Third Renaissance. Rofeilah adds to his book a useful glossary at the end.

To my knowledge, Rofeila is the first Copt who uses the term “Coptic nation” in a publication. This term was subsequently was used by all educated Copts, until it was suppressed by the Nasser regime after 1952.

Rofeilah’s history is not accurate sometimes, as he draws it from various sources, including Arab and Islamic ones. However, this book, published in 1898, is the first one that treated Coptic history along modern lines. In 2000, the book was reprinted by the St. Mark Foundation for Coptic History Studies, with Dr Gawdat Gabra writing a preface for the new print.


Details of the biography of Rofeilah has been taken from Ramzi Tadrus, The Copts in the Twentieth Century (1911); pp. 24-5. His picture is from the same book, opposite p. 104.


December 12, 2016

The Eye of Horus crying blood for our negligence and the crimes we have allowed by being passive against Ximi, our people and Church

Today is the 12th of December, the day we remember the Arab occupation of Egypt as their troops arrived in Arish. And today, also, we buried our Coptic martyrs who were massacred by the Islamist Muslims yesterday at the Butosiyya Church in Cairo. It’s a poignant reminder of the destruction, oppression and persecution Islam and the Arab have entered Egypt since they arrived in our sacred land. 

We shall never forget our martyrs since the arrival of Islam- and we shall never forget that we are all responsible for their death for not fighting back the Arab hordes in 639 – 642 AD, and allowing them to take over control of our great land.


December 11, 2016

Today, the whole world watched with horror the images of the Coptic Christian women and children who were massacred by the coward Islamists in the Butrusiyya Church, in Abasiyya, Cairo. Everyone, with a conscience and heart was appalled by the massacre of peaceful worshipers, women and children, in a church. And all expressed their anger; some with denunciation of the heinous act, and others adding to that condemnation of the religious ideology that encourages such acts. The act was clearly carried out by Muslims who believed that the Coptic Christians were a justifiable target because they stood against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, under  Muhammad Morsi (30 June 2012 – 3 July 2013). There are many religious texts in both Quran and Sunna to support their action: by expressing their political preference, the Copts become militant enemies of Islam, and must be fought. The was no escape of recognising the massacre’s Islamic nature – and it was necessary that people understand that, so that a serious challenge is mounted against these Islamists, who are anti-humanity and anti-civilisation.

But of all the responses, I have not found a more upsetting one like that, sadly, of Anba Moussa, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop for Youth. Shortly after the massacre, and before the bodies and parts of the 27 Coptic martyrs and the dozens who were injured were removed from the church, he published the following statement:


I translate Anba Moussa’s statement below:

“We are sorry that a horrible explosion has occurred inside the Butrusiyya Church, in the perimeter of the Cathedral [The Cathedral of St. Mark], and that martyrs and injured have fallen (25 martyr until now, and above 50 injured, some of whose injuries are serious) … What is the guilt of the innocents who came to worship, that such black terrorism hits them?! But, it is known that terrorism has no religion or country; it hits everywhere; hits every human; and it does not differentiate between a man or a woman or a child!! These criminals.”

Had Anba Moussa ended his statement with “… that such black terrorism hits them?!”, without even mentioning religion or Islam, it would have been acceptable. No one would have demanded more from him, considering his sensitive position. But he hastens to add: “But, it is known that terrorism has no religion or country; it hits everywhere; hits every human; and it does not differentiate between a man or a woman or a child!!” This is catering to the Muslims, even when the blood of the Coptic martyrs and injured has not yet cooled, and is unacceptable. There is a prompt attempt there to extricate Islam of all the persecution we have been exposed to since Islam ruled Egypt in 740 AD.

Anba Moussa goes on to tweet, emphasising his previous statement:


It says:

“The black terrorism continues its attacks: terrorism has no religion or country. And the criminals hit the innocent during mass. Our condolences to all; and our prayers is that God lifts up this grief.”

Within a few hours, he talks to Watani, the Coptic newspaper, which tweets part of his interview, particularly his message to those who committed the crime: “You are not Muslim; and you are not Egyptian; for Islam says: ‘Whoever hurt a Dhimmi has hurt me, and I am his adversary.’”


Anba Mousa here is quoting an unauthenticated saying by Muhammad.[1] He thinks he could deceive Muslims into thinking it is authentic. Also, he ignores all the authenticated sayings of Muhammad and the verses of Quran which have always supplied a religious justification to Muslim fanatics to attack Copts and non-Muslims in general.

This is not the first time Anba Moussa gives statements that are damaging to the Coptic cause, to the anti-Islamist fight across the world, and to the tender souls of the youth he is looking after. Does he tell Coptic youth that Islam is tolerant, loving and good? Why not then accept Islam if it is so lovely? If you believe I am exaggerating, please visit the article I wrote on 8 January 2013 here, under the title: When even Diocletian could be tolerant – the trouble with some of our bishops: in praise of Islamism, to see more from Anba Moussa. Egypt was then still under the grip of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Morsi was still president, and the attacks against the Copts, their churches and properties were mounting. Following incident of the Village of Sole on 5 March 5 2011, in which the church was set on fire by a group of Muslim men angry that a Muslim woman had been romantically involved with a Christian man, and the Copts of the village intimidated and bullied, a video surfaced in the social media in which His Grace, Anba Moussa is featured talking about the “love” and “justice” of Islam, which Islam marched on with, and which “we have witnessed”. He then goes on to praise the “absolute love and wisdom” of Umar ibn al-Khattab (634 – 644 AD), the Second Caliph of Islam who occupied Egypt and is considered to be one of the most anti-Christian of all caliphs; Amr ibn al-Assi (641 – 645; 658 – 664 AD), the Arab general who invaded and subdued Egypt, and became its first Arab ruler; and Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin; 1171 – 1193 AD), who persecuted the Copts and destroyed their monasteries and churches. Additionally, he talks about “us standing together” against the French, English and Crusaders, which is not only inaccurate historically but also economical with honesty when one focuses on “Christian invaders” and ignores all “Muslim invaders” of Egypt.

The reader can watch the video and judge for himself. For this, the reader must click on the link I have provided above.

This is not a simple matter, and I always hesitate when I write about our esteemed and blessed bishops; however, such statements from Anba Moussa, in my opinion, are extremely damaging, in the first place to the Coptic youth, who need somebody who could tell them about the truth, or at least keep silent. Perhaps he should be removed from his post, and be asked to go to one of the monasteries in the desert for the rest of his life.




[1] Read (in Arabic) about this hadith which has been unauthenticated by the scholars of Islam here.


December 10, 2016


Mu’awad Dauod Abdel Nour (1921 – 2000)

Possibly, the most comprehensive available Coptic-Arabic dictionary is Dictionary of the Coptic Language in Bohairic and Sahidic Dialects, compiled and arranged by the Coptic deacon and linguist, Mu’awad Dauod Abdel Nour (1921 – 2000).

Abdel Nour produced the first version of his great word in the years 1981-88 in four parts, including only Bohairic words, and as hand-written print. In 1999, again hand-written, he printed the same after adding Sahidic words to it. In 2000, an electronic print appeared, shortly after the passing away of the author. A third print was produced in 2013 by the Coptic Orthodox Cultural Centre, in Cairo.


The dictionary is perhaps not very helpful for English-speaking readers who don’t have some knowledge of Arabic. One would hope that a further version of the dictionary will be produced to include Coptic-English translation. For those who know Arabic, the dictionary includes at the eand an index of Arabic words, alphabetically arranged, with the pages in the book that contain the equivalent Coptic words. It is very helpful.

The dictionary can be ordered from St. Mina Monastery in Maryout Press (email: It is also available in large Coptic bookshops in Egypt. In October 2016, it was sold for E£180.



December 10, 2016

On the 12th of December we remember the day Arab army touched the sacred land of Egypt, as Amr ibn al-As, the Arab leader, arrived in Arish, the most north-eastern Egyptian city in Sinai. This day is recorded in history, as we know that it coincided with the eve of Aid al-Adha that year, and was dated by the Arab historians as the 10th of Dhu al-Hijja, in the year 18 AH. This corresponds to 12 December 639 AD, and 15 Kiahk 356 AM.

This day must be kept in Coptic memory as the blackest day in our history – and must be actively remembered. We must feel sorry for allowing that day to come.



ON COPTIC NATIONALISM في القومية القبطية




Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula at the beginning of the 20th century before oil

The Arab Conquest of Egypt was largely complete by the summer of 642 AD, and on the 17 September the Romans of the Byzantine Empire evacuated Alexandria, the capital of the Egyptian Province, and handed it over to the invading Arabs and Muslims.

The Arab occupation of Egypt had started a little more than three years earlier. The first time the invading Arabs touched with their feet the sacred Egyptian soil was in 639 AD. Arab chronology of the Arab Conquest of Egypt is generally not to be trusted as prominent historians have more than once observed; however, there is one date that can be trusted: the 10 Dhu’l Hiijja, 18 AH.[1] On this day, according to Arab chronicles, the invading Arabs celebrated Eid al-Adha (عيد الاضحى), or the Muslim Day of Sacrifice –…

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December 9, 2016


Salama Moussa (1887 – 1958)

 Many err in their perception of Salama Moussa, the great Coptic writer from the twentieth century (1887 – 1958): they see him as the ultimate socialist, who showed no interest in Coptic affairs. Wrong! I have explained in a previous article, Salama Moussa on Coptic Exceptionalism, how Musa, though in the beginning of his writing career was a staunch Marxist, and like all Marxists showed no interest in the Copts, he later returned to his roots, and joined the Copts in thinking about their future and how to improve their situation and protect themselves.

Two books, written in Arabic, about Musa, one by a Copt, Ghali Shokri,[1] and the other by a Muslim, Mahmoud al-Shirqawi,[2] – both Socialists – are defective, and do not show the two phases of Musa as a thinker and activist. The best book to show that is not dedicated to him in particular but to Coptic political acts and reactions in the first half of the 20th century, The Copts in Egyptian Politics, 1918 – 1952, by the American social scientist, Barbara Lynn Carter, and which was first published in 1986.

Carter uses Moussa’s career as a paradigm for the Coptic community. It could be said that he, with the Coptic community, experienced a change in views by the late 1938s and the 1940s, as their hopes, after the 1919 of a secular Egypt in which the Copts would live in peace and respect, were dashed by the rising tide of Political Islam since 1928.

Before his change, Moussa was considered to be the Father of Egyptian Socialism: he, like many Coptic politicians, showed no interest in the Coptic Church or Coptic communal affairs, but leant towards a wider national or even international perspective. He was a committed nationalist, secularist and a supporter of the Wafd Party.

But, by the mid-1940s, and instead of this, as Carter tells us, he retreated into communalism – and here he was reflecting what many other Copts did. What was the cause of that? How did the Copts who started off after WWI and around the 1919 Revolution as staunch Egyptian nationalists and secularists, full of hope of the possibility of a secular Egypt in which religion of the citizen was irrelevant, end up by withdrawing into their community, and solely seeking to defend it against attacks by Political Islam?

Carter tells us that the turning point for Moussa as it was for many Copts may have been the 1938 election, which was marred by the elevation of Islamic discourse and anti-Coptic propaganda. It was the election that resulted in the lowest Coptic representation in the parliament, down to 2.3% compared to 8.8% in 1936. “Like other Copts, Musa came to realise that the experiment had failed and that the Copts, as a community, required a special protection.”[3] Mousa talked about a few remedies:

  • The abolition of Islam as the religion of the state;
  • Proportional representation in the parliament;
  • Control of Muslim religious groups by the government, and prohibition of their political activities;
  • Provision of Christian religion instruction in government schools;
  • Air time for Christian religion broadcasts.

As Carter says, “If the Copts could not be genuinely equal, then they would have to work toward a position that would grant them safety through separation.”[4]

What does that teach us?

  1. The problems that the Copts face did not appear in the 1970s when Sadat allowed Islam to be reactivated in Egyptian political life – it predates the 1952; and started as early as the 1930s (ignoring the problems prior to the British occupation in 1882).
  2. The Copts lost faith in the possibility of a secular Egypt a long time ago as the Egyptian Muslims preferred Islam to secularism, equality and citizenship.
  3. That loss of faith was experienced by the profoundest Coptic thinkers, such as Salama Moussa.
  4. The falling back on communalism by the Copts was not a choice but a necessary defensive mechanism imposed by the Muslims’ refusal to accept them on equal terms within a modern, secular Egypt.

What Salama Moussa, a great Copt, came to realise in the second phase of his active life is what Coptic nationalists hold: the Copts must seek to strengthen their community and defensive lines in order to fight the aggression that Political Islam poses on us. Neither Moussa, nor us, propose that we withdraw from national life – we must fight on a national level for a modern, secular Egypt; but, at the same time, we must strengthen our community – our nation. Let’s not be fooled again.


[1] غالي شكري، سلامة موسى وأزمة الضمير العربي  (دار الطليعة، بيروت، ١٩٦٢).

[2] محمود الشرقاوي، سلامة موسى المفكر والإنسان (دار العلم للملايين، بيروت، ١٩٦٥).

[3] B. L. Carter, The Copts in Egyptian Politics, 1918 – 1952 (The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo, 1988); p. 297.

[4] Ibid; p. 298.


December 9, 2016


The Copts joined the Muslims in the 1919 Revolution against British Rule

Major C. S. Jarvis, or Claude Scudamore Jarvis, (1879 – 1953), was a British Arabist and colonial governor in Egypt (he was appointed governor of the Western desert and then Sinai, retiring in 1936).

Jarvis was an imperialist and proud of it. He hated the popular Egyptian Wafd Part, which agitated since 1919 for the complete independence of Egypt. He always believed that Egypt was not ready for independence; that there was no immediate sign of Egypt being able to govern herself successfully; and that was because the Egyptian mob [what we can call now the masses] had proven that it was unreasonable, uncontrollable and unpredictable – it had a propensity for attacking Christians and foreigners once they are in possession of any power. “When the mob gets the upper hand in Egypt, history proves there is only one result – looting and attacks on Christians and foreigners.”[1] In his book, Desert and Delta, which he published in 1938, he gives several examples, starting by the events in 1882, which ended up by the British occupying Egypt. He says:

“In the year 1882, owing to a mutiny in the Egyptian Army, a state of complete anarchy ensued in the Nile Valley involving among other things the murder of Europeans and looting of their houses and shops. The rising was organized primarily to call attention to the inequitable treatment of Egyptian officers in the Army and the preference shown to Turks; but in a few days the object of the rebellion was lost sight of completely and degenerated into a massacre of Christians and the extermination of all foreigners.”[2]

Jarvis gives two examples from Alexandria in the period 1919 – 1923: “On one occasion a mob, which with the best possible intentions had started out to show their disapproval of the British occupation in the orderly manner, for some unaccountable reason became imbued with anti-Hellenic views and three Greeks were killed and innumerable Greek shops looted. Another mob at a later date with the same laudable intentions in their minds seized an unfortunate Italian, poured petrol over him and burned him to death.”[3]

But the most interesting example, if only because of its relevance to the Copts, is the following:

“[T]he episode … happened in Assiut in 1919 when the whole of Egypt blazed up into open revolt against the British. Assiut is a large town on the Nile. Half-way between Cairo and Luxor, and is the dwelling-place of most of the rich Copts in Egypt. Here they have wonderful palaces on the banks of the Nile and live in the lap of luxury. The Copt, the Egyptian Christian, had for generations experienced a not particularly happy time in Moslem Egypt, but with the strong British control during Cromer’s days he came into his own. He has, as a rule, more brain and business acumen than his Mohammedan brother, and with the bar of religion removed the Copt rose to eminence officially and vast wealth commercially. When all Egypt rose against the British, the Copt, who is essentially an opportunist for his hard life since the Arab invasion has taught him the necessity of always backing the winning horse, considered that he also must strike a blow for freedom if only for the sake of effect, so certain of the young Copts stirred up the Moslem fellaheen of Assiut against the British.

The resulting mob, some thousands strong, advanced upon the town and found a company of British infantry behind hastily erected sandbags; this looked decidedly unhealthy and most unprofitable, and the mob scratched its head for a moment. The British were Christians and unbelievers and it was primarily against the unbelievers that they had assembled together; if certain of these unbelievers were unsporting enough to arm themselves with machine guns and rifles and get behind sandbags there were other unbelievers who had not taken these precautions and who were far better endowed with this world’s goods. And so as one man the mob moved on to attack the palaces of the rich Copts and the long-suffering British infantry had to go forth and protect the lives and property of the people who had actually instigated the revolt. These incidents happened only nineteen years ago and there is not the slightest reason why they should not happen again.”[4]


The unreasonableness and unpredictability of Egyptian mob is known. My purpose here is to connect it to another quality of the Egyptian mob (by which I mean the Egyptian Muslim masses, to be clear), which the Copts have discovered and repeatedly experienced – its untrustworthiness and empty promises. Whenever the Copts and Muslims united in one endeavour, the Copts having been duped by the sweet tongue of the Muslims and their promises, the Copts found themselves betrayed shortly after by the same men they had trusted. This is not the place to write a long article on this particular matter, but the reader may be astonished to find that it goes back to the eighth century at least. There is evidence that at the times of the Abbasid revolution, the Copts believed the Abbasid propaganda that the new rule would be better than that of the Umayyad, an awful rule; so, they joined in the fighting with some Arab tribes against the last Umayyad Caliph, Muhammad ibn Marwan (744 – 750). Once the Abbasids won, the Copts found that the Abbasids were not better than the Umayyads:  the persecution resumed, and worse than before.[5]

There are more examples, but I am more concerned about what happened in the 1919 Revolution. Britain occupied Egypt in 1882. In 1919 Egyptian nationalists started agitating for independence and complete British withdrawal from Egypt. The shouts rose: “Complete independence or fast death.” Egypt as a whole benefited from the British occupation, and the wise administration of Lord Cromer (1883 – 1907) in particular; but the Copts had a special reason to celebrate the British Rule, since, for the first time, Muslim religious discrimination of the Copts ended, and oppression stopped; thus allowing the Copts – a very industrious and resilient nation by the verdict of others – to flourish and build their community in peace and prosperity. As Jarvis says: “The Copt, the Egyptian Christian, had for generations experienced a not particularly happy time in Moslem Egypt, but with the strong British control during Cromer’s days he came into his own. He has, as a rule, more brain and business acumen than his Mohammedan brother, and with the bar of religion removed the Copt rose to eminence officially and vast wealth commercially.”

So, why did the Copts support the 1919 Revolution? Were the Copts astute and opportunistic in supporting the 1919 Revolution, or stupid and gullible? I would bypass the claim of patriotism, which no one can doubt. The Copts are a patriotic nation; but patriotism is no good reason to end a good situation in favour of an insecure one.  Jarvis seems to answer the question in his own way: “the Copt, […] is essentially an opportunist for his hard life since the Arab invasion has taught him the necessity of always backing the winning horse.” This may be the case: some may call it astuteness: the Copts could not take an antagonistic position to their Muslim compatriots, since the British occupation was not expected to last forever. Taking a different position may bring hell over their heads, and allow the Muslims (who were happy to be occupied by the Ottoman Empire) to attack them, accusing them of taking an unpatriotic position. Others describe the Coptic position in 1919 as a stupid position, characterised by gullibility and naivety, as the Copts foolishly trusted in the promises provided by Muslims in exchange for support, and helped in the ending of the British rule that had protected them? As we know, despite the undoubtedly great Muslim leaders at the time, such as Saad Zaghlul (1858 – 1927), the greatest of all Muslim leaders, and the fact that the Copts fared well for some time after the 1919 Revolution, the Coptic situation deteriorated once the British rule became thinner with time, particularly after the 1936 Treaty, and eventually ended after the 1952 Revolution.

The British rule was very good to the Copts, despite the problems created for them by Eldon Gorst (1907 – 1911), Consul General under the British Liberal government (1905 – 1915). There is no doubt that it was better than any Muslim rule that came before or after it. So, why did the Copts support the Muslims in their endeavour to throw the British rule? The accurate answer to this question, in my opinion, is not as important as the debate that such a question would engender. It is important to discuss this topic freely and without hindrance or fear of what the Muslims would think.

Whether astute or stupid, I think the Copts should have taken the following position during the 1919 Revolution:

  1. Emphasise the good that the British Rule has done to Egypt and the Copts.
  2. Insist on guarantees by the Muslims, constitutional and legislative, including minimum Coptic representation in the parliament and cultural autonomy for the Copts, after the British leave.
  3. Demand external guarantees for the rights and liberties of the Copts, including acceptance of the offer of protection of the minorities in Egypt by the British.

The participation of the Copts in the 1919 Revolution should have been approached by the Copts in a courageous, strong and clever way. The Copts should have negotiated a deal with the Muslims to guarantee the promises which the Muslims gave them.

But the Copts are not very good at such things, fear of the Muslim reaction overpowers them; and in the process, they forget about the power in their hands that prompts Muslim in the first instance to court their support. The Copts must understand their power. They must learn how to negotiate a deal that is based on concrete guarantees rather than on empty promises. The events surrounding the latest revolutions, 25 January 2011 and 30 June 2014, prove that they have not yet understood their power or learned to strike a deal.


[1] Major C. S. Jarvis, Desert and Delta. An account of modern Egypt (London, John Murray, 1938); p. 3.

[2] Ibid, p. 1.

[3] Ibid; p. 4.

[4] Ibid; pp. 4-5.

[5] As I said, I do not intend to write a long article here; so, if the reader wants to find more about this, he could consult the History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church.

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