Ask a Copt initiative-مبادرة اسأل قبطي batch 2

22 06 2011

Batch 1 of questions and answers: Here

Questions regarding Copts specifically.

What does the word “Copt” mean?

  • The word “Copt” is derived from the Greek word “Αἰγύπτος (Aegyptos → gypt → qibt → Copt (in English)) so it basically means Egyptian, However during the Arabization of Egypt, there was a semantic shift and the word became a description of the Christians of Egypt. But originally any Egyptian is a Copt. It is worth mentioning that the Copts are not Arabs nor descendants from the Arabic tribes that dwell in Egypt.

What is the Coptic language?

  • The Coptic language is the latest development of the ancient Egyptian language. It was the main spoken language until the Arab conquest of Egypt and even later on. It is still used in the liturgical prayers of the Coptic Church. In the Coptic language, Egypt is called “χημι” (Kimi) and the Copts are called “ρεμʹνχημι” (RemenKimi)

What is the Coptic Calendar?

  • The Coptic Calendar is the ancient Egyptian Calendar, it is used now mainly in the church context and for the agricultural seasons by Egyptian farmers. Today is 15th of Paona, 1727 A.M. (Anno Martyrum or “Year of the Martyrs” )

What is Coptic art?

  • It is the art produced in Egypt during the Coptic era. It ranged from regular art (like the Fayum Portraits – Textiles), to Christian art (Icon painting, church architecture). The Coptic Museum in Cairo exhibits a lot of art pieces that belong to the Coptic era. Nowadays, Neo-Coptic art is the extension of the early Coptic art and is usually illustrated in Iconography.

Are Copts loyal to Egypt?

  • The Copts are proud of their glorious (even though marginalized) history. They are loyal to the land of their ancestors. Their identity as Christians is tightly related to their identity as Egyptians, hence the name the “Coptic Orthodox Church”. However, they are loyal to the Egyptian and African identity of Egypt and less to the Arabic identity of Egypt.

How do Copts Pray?

  • The Copts pray both at homes and in churches. On a daily basis, the Copts have Seven prayers, each person according to his/her ability, spiritual status, and guidance chooses the number of daily prayers to pray. And at churches the Holy Liturgy is prayed on Sundays (and Fridays in Egypt), however, many churches pray the liturgy daily, Most of the Copts attend one liturgy a week.

Do Copts fast?

  • The Coptic Church holds one of the most strict fasting rules among all the Christian denominations. Copts fast almost two thirds of the year. The fasting period consists of total abstinence from food for some hours and then followed by eating vegan food for the rest of the day.

Why churches are important to the Copts?

  • The Church is the gathering place of the Christian believers, it also enforces the unity and fellowship of the Christians which is commanded in the Holy Bible. Usually Liturgies cannot be performed outside churches, and liturgy is the one of the most important practices in the Church worship. Hence, comes the importance of churches.

Do Copts hide weapons in churches?

  • The only weapon that exists in churches is the weapon of prayers. Copts believe that prayer is more powerful than all weapons of any sort. As for traditional weapons, they have no place in the churches!!

Do Copts use magic in their churches?

  • No they don’t. But through prayers (again), all demonic forces are nullified. So there is no need to perform magic when we can pray to the Lord, and this prayer is stronger than any magical spells!! But since we pray in Coptic language, and usually sing our prayers, people might think that we are doing something related to magic. (well prayers are magical in some sense!!)

Are Coptic churches fortified?

  • They are fortified by the watchfulness of our Lord, not by bricks and concrete.

What is a monastery?

  • A monastery is a community of monks who willfully choose to renounce the world and live in isolation, dedicated to asceticism and prayers. Monasteries are usually in desert areas away from the chaos of the world. There are no troops or armies in these monasteries, nor are there trained lions and beasts, as it is rumored!!

Can I visit a church/monastery?

  • Yes, you can! Tell one of you christian friends and s/he will be glad to help! But bear in mind that sometimes monasteries are closed during fasting periods of the year.

Do Copts worship the Patriarch/Pope? Why do they bow down in front of him?

  • No they don’t! I can’t even find a reason why people might think so! They bow down as a sign of humility and reverence not as a sign of worship. They don’t worship any of the saints/their icons/their relics either.

Why do many Copts have cross tattoos on their wrists?

  • Back in the days, This was compulsory during some eras as a way of discrimination. After these times, the Copts were proud of what their ancestors have gone through, and willingly draw these crosses on their wrists. This tradition can only be found in Egypt.

Why Copts say “sada2ny” (believe me) instead of “wallahy” (I swear to God)?

  • Because Christians are commanded in the Bible not to swear by the name of the Lord.

Do Copts really use the word “Al rabb” as they are depicted in movies/TV series?

  • Actually this is a rather funny stereotype. Most Copts use “rabena” or “Allah ” instead. This stereotype just shows how film producers are ignorant of the Coptic culture they want to depict.

What are the terms that pejoratively describe the Copts?

  • 3adma zar2a” , “2rba3a ressha”, “kafates”. The phrase “3adma zar2a” actually has a sad story. Copts during the reign of one of the Fatimid Caliphs were ordered to carry a heavy cross all the time, again as a way of discrimination, this heavy weight caused the back of their neck bone to turn blue! I would refrain from using these words because some Copts are sensitive to them.

Is it correct to call the Copts “Nassara” (Nazarene)?

  • This is a historic misconception. The Copts are not “Nassara” (Nazarene). The Nazarene are a Judeo-Christian group that never lived in Egypt. The Arabs not knowing the difference called the Christians of Egypt Nazarene, while they are not. I personally find it offensive to be called “Nassrany”, simply because I am not, I am a Christian Copt. To know more about the real Nazarene click here.

What are the myths about the Copts?

  • Just for the fun of it!

          1- They smell bad because they eat pork!

          2- They get drunk and kiss in the church 😦 😦

          3- They perform witchcraft!

       4- Coptic priests wear black because they are mourning the conquest of Egypt by Arabs!

  • I don’t need to say that these myths are far from truth and they are just annoying rumors!

To know more about this initiative please click here