By Fr. Hani Bakhoum Kiroulos
It’s a great honor for me to be with you today, to exchange words, and idea about our Coptic heritage and itschallenges.
Thanks for all the organizer of this day; it's a positive step to be depth on these challenges to understand so we can overcome them.
Our meeting title is" Our Coptic heritage, is it being a monuments?" but this title is being amazing, I wish it expresses the fact, I can see this but I also afraid to be continued. What does it mean?
$11. The heritage concept:
The heritage – according to a lot of dictionaries – is what gives by preceding generations to the next generations.
The heritage is what the ancient had left to be a lesson from the past, and it is a source for our sons to learn lessons to can live now a day and have best future.
$12. What is the Coptic heritage?
The 1st origins of the word "Coptic" come from Hieroglyphic word which is "Hakabtah", some specialists see that this name refers to "Memphis" city, or to "Petah" the God of "Memphis" city, because it sometimes the city called by its God's name. "Memphis" is one of the ancient Egypt capitals so its name was being known, but through ages; some letters of this name had been exchanged to be in Greek" Egyptouse". This name was used for a long time to describe Egypt and its people.
Some specialists said that the capital of Upper Egypt was named "Gypto", from that this name was derivate. At all, this name describes the Egyptians (Christians, or not).
So the Coptic heritage "what we inherited from our Egyptian Copts ancient" is a linked part from Egyptians' deposit, and it is owned for each Egyptian, because Coptic heritage is an Egyptian heritage with Coptic method, so it grew and developed by Copts and it is one of Egyptian heritage aspects jewelries, because Egyptian heritage has a lot of aspects such as: Pharaonic, Coptic, and diverse Islamic heritage.
At the end, I would like to say that there is only jewelry which still at our Egyptian heritage, that we cannot separate them, or dispense one of them, otherwise we risk to destroy, and lose the value of this jewelry, which is;" our Coptic heritage".
$13. The Coptic heritage fields:
Heritage is not only an architectural, or technician heritage because they are part of it, but heritage includes all life fields, so it represents the people entity, and identity, and survives its special faith in various circumstances, so it affects on it, and was affected by it.
$1· The music heritage:
It is a group of Coptic tunes and religious songs, which is very influenced by Pharaonic tunes, and it is considered as a connected link to the Egyptian music, (like what many specialists and historical confirm), for example, "Gholghotha" tune which means "Golgotha" (the name of a mountain on which Christ was crucified) was the same tune was used when embalming the Pharaonic king body after his death, and also its so like sadness songs in a lot of upper Egypt villages until now.
$1· Coptic language:
It’s the last stage of Egyptian language development stages, which our ancient Egyptian had spoken and written it about more than five thousand years ago.
It is not only praying language but also, it is vivid language which riches with languages and poetic formulations, that the Coptic Church can maintain it through its tunes, rituals, and prays. Because of the Coptic language is the great civilization language development at the human history. And that what has been confirmed by the historic Al-Makrizy when he said: "the Egyptians are the people who speak Coptic language", which mean that the Coptic language was the current and general language.
The Coptic year months such as (Tote, Papah, Hatour, and others) come beside the AD, and AH calendars, and the Coptic calendar dates back to the Pharaonic era at 4240 B.C. and also it has a special position to Christians and Muslims peasantry, because they related to cultivation, irrigation, and harvest seasons. So the Coptic months have they meanings in popular proverbs, which the Egyptians were inherited, and summarized the popular culture eloquently, and the relationship between human and nature in our country.
$1· The Coptic literature:
The Coptic literature is more than the religious literature that is because the Coptic literature's mundane monuments are not less amazing than the religious monuments. Despite Copts had faced some difficulties in writing their products because of the papyrus are so expensive on the 1st ages.
The Coptic literature was flourished on the fourth, and fifth centuries, and the latter half of seventh and eighth centuries where a literary renaissance was held with popular character than religious, at this time monasteries systems are less stringent than now a day, which allowed monks to have many jobs, and the ability to own the non-religious books, that is beside papers were replaced the papyrus which became accessible to everyone.
The "Theodosius and Dionysus" story is one of the most important Coptic popular literary works, which dates back to the early eighth century, and its hero was an Egyptian worker, who became the Greek Emperor and forgotten his brother who was an Egyptian carpenter after he had met his brother again, he appointed him the head of the Greek capital bishops…. also one of the most famous Coptic literature stories which is "Kambiz" novel which was written in Coptic language, included an imaginary history about "Kambiz"( the king of Persia) Egypt invasion…. Beside these stories, some parts of the Great Alexander which were translated to the Upper Egyptian Coptic language had been found…. And there are a lot of literature heritage such as "Erkhledes and his mother Sncletx" poem.
All of these proved that Copts had great heritage at Egyptian popular literature.
$1· The Coptic folklore:
Dr. Ahmed El-Khamisy said in his article "studies and researches in the heritage": At 2010 The Culture Palaces Authority published a book in popular studies group, which was titled "an introduction in Coptic folklore" written by Essam Staty." This book had a special importance because researches at this field are rare, and it focused on what was common between our national cultures.
Dear, we need to these researches a lot now a day because the increases of intolerance until it reached to violence
Essam Staty focused on the presence of general and common Egyptian popular literature, which appears on harvest, working, fishing, happiness, and sadness songs. And the only different appeared on the ritual popular literature field, on which appeared the differences between the Egyptians Christians, and Muslims creeds.
We found that Egyptians participate in denominators identity of ritual popular literature, because songs at the two creeds had the same musician templates, and sometimes the same text with simple changes. For example: the Christians cheer for the Virgin: “the upholstered Virgin, the mother of lightly candles.” Like what Muslims cheer for El Sayeda Zeinab: “the upholstered Sayeda, the mother of lightly candles.” And also the Birth celebrations, in spite of their ritual character, they are blessing for all (Christians, and Muslims) at “El-Said El-Badawi”, or “The Virgin” birth celebrations. On which Ancient Egyptians vows to their Gods changed to be to the Saints, and the Tutors.
By all of these, we find that Muslims children celebrating Ramadan saying: “Halo ya halo” this word was taken form a Coptic word “Helol” which means congratulations this leads to presence of the famous popular word “ya haloly” which means “congratulation for me”. Also we found the famous song of children songs “rains rokhy rokhy”, “rokhy” is a Coptic word which means “wash, and clean” and there are a lot of examples like these.
Dr. Ahmed confirmed that: “we need a lot of these books to appear our united nation, so we can confirm that Coptic folklore researches are Egyptian character researches at knowledge, and humanity components.”
$1· Challenges and hopes:
Gentlemen, I explained information that may be known for all of you, so I such aimed to remember these information not to tell you recent one, to can explain some important challenges such as:
1st: When we considered the Coptic heritage as a ritual heritage for specifically religion and its sects, it looks like choking and minimizing the heritage, by the time it will be like a died body, and does not become a source of present inspiration, or future impulse, in this case it was important to develop the sensitizing of this heritage, and its important. So I would like to mention The Alex. Library role by participating in seminars with the Catholic Church which is represented by the Franciscans to make courses for Coptic science.
But these treasure still limited to specific elite, so I suggest doing common wariness campaigns between Muslims and Christians all over the country to publish this cultural, and heritage awareness.
By beginning with the Sheikh and the Priest, because they have an affective role in this society, going to them and let them go to youth, and children.
What shall we do?
Simply meetings, and awareness, Coptic, and Islamic places journeys to can know the homogeneity and integration, knowledge motivates contests, and other similar initiatives.
But it is not enough, because it’s so important to separate this spirit in our schools, and colleges. So where are we from learning the Coptic era of the Egyptian history (the period between 1st and 6th century)? I assure that; I don’t remember hearing anything in this regard at school.
2nd: The Coptic heritage restriction on architecture and Coptic monuments, leads to limiting it on arts, and architect of ancient Churches. This is turned our heritage onto monuments, denotes at only ancient things, and loses its active and formative dimension for today's society, so it will be the past pertaining mark, which doesn't help us to can understand our present, or thinking of our future. While Coptic heritage contacts with all Egyptian life manifestations (as shown before), and this for being near to this sciences spirit rich heritage, openness to others, accepting diversity and pluralism, and understanding it as being rich not as a danger which treats the entity and presence of any one.
3rd: We have to revision and develop this heritage to can an active heritage for the next generations, we always consider heritage as constant and we have transfer it as it was being. Thus, we go back to the same situation which is: the heritage is being monuments. But it's important to re-thinking in many aspects, developing it correctly without changing constants, to can keep pace with the present. Thus the next generations are received what we were received from the ancient, and it does not mean changing the heritage absolutely, but it surviving it with a renewable pushing force. Here comes the importance of documenting the heritage of scientific and historical documents. So we can study it deeply to can reach to what was essential and the manifestations of each era. And how often it needs to open the soul to self-criticism, and no fear from losing identity, because of introversion killing it, while conscious openness entrenching and developing it.
4th: Finance, it needs high cost to saving, learning, and awareness the heritage, but I think it's a useful and successful investment at the same time, not only on the country culture and civilization levels, but also on the financial level. At this new and distinguishing stage when we life in Egypt now a day, and we all have great expectations in. so I wish to devote an appropriate part from the general budget of the state for this purpose.
5th: Terrorism is a great challenge. Financial terrorism such as murdering, bombing, and burning erases the heritage basis.
Like what happened at August 2013 events, when more than one hundred buildings from our Churches and Coptic buildings were infected. Beside that the intellectual terrorism is a special kind of terrorism which prevents the person involuntarily to express himself, his identity, and his private entity. That poisoned the heritage because the person fears to appear who he is being in front of the others, afraid of being excluded, or marginalized. That leads topsychologically, and physical annihilation.
Gentlemen, our Coptic heritage is in our hands so we have to embrace it with the rich and diverse Egyptian heritage, so we can establish together society with constant basis, as The Saint Pope John Paul the 2nd said: "breathing a completely respiration", ( saying that about East and West heritage). We have to life like that without excluding, marginalizing for any one, fearing, or afraid. Let Egypt, its civilization, dignity, and development of human are being the focus of our meetings, dialogues, and an essential goal of our existences.