Free the Copts

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Introduced as the first Coptic book of this kind, Free the Copts has begun to circulate and Suzy Hanna describes it’s importance.

I remember a conversation I once had with my best friend. She asked me if I was related to the Pharaohs, as my background was Egyptian. I proudly told her of how the Coptic were the Indigenous people of Egypt and prior to the Arab Invasion (or Settlement, depending on semantics) our culture was in direct descent of the Pharaohs. The Coptic language, I boasted, was similar to hieroglyphs and was used to help translate the Rosetta Stone. Under the Arab rule, my ancestors were punished by having their tongues cut off if they were found to speak the language, yet the Coptic language still exists today. Then she asked me something that silenced me. Did I myself speak Coptic?

My answer was no. Apart from commonly used words in the Coptic Mass, “My name is Suzy” and “Queen Suzy” (which for anyone interested is Tioro Suzy) I did not know this ancient language. She looked at me disappointed and said, “It is a shame that you have such a rich language, yet do not know much about it.”

For so much of my history and identity, I thought I knew a lot, but in reality, I did not. When I read the book Free the Copts, I realized how important it was that there was a book that documented the many facets of Coptic culture- language, socio-political persecutions, Copts in the diaspora, contributions of Copts around and many other aspects of a rich heritage. Free the Copts chronicles the contributions of the Coptic culture as well as their struggles from Coptic and non-Coptic perspectives from Bishops to politicians.

I remember years ago, watching a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader on a television show being asked how he felt about the Coptic language. He angrily and forcefully replied by saying that if Copts wanted to use the language as part of their religious rituals that this was fine, however, he said that they should be prohibited from learning it as a language. I remember feeling astounded. What is it about an almost ‘dead’ language that angered him so much? And then I realized. It was the concept of identity.

Coptic identity is intensely strong. As the book chronicles, we survived systematic persecutions up to and including the day you are reading this. Even the Copts in the diaspora have worked tirelessly to help our brothers and sisters in Egypt, such as seen by the work of the Australian Coptic Movement. By killing our identity, the Coptic problem will be killed along with it. The protests, the international lobbying on the Copts’ behalf, the constant fear of Copts being part of every conspiracy in Egypt from the Black Bloc to the June 30 2013 protests and the Rebellion Campaign. The solution is simple- if you cannot get rid of them physically, get rid of them as a group. Which is why education is paramount. Free the Copts is a vital work in alerting the world about the Coptic people- their culture and struggles.

 

Suzy Hanna is member of The Australian Coptic Movement Association working within the media and public  relations area. With a Bachelor in Law/Arts, Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, Bachelor in Arts (Honours) and  Bachelor in Secondary Teaching, Suzy’s education and personal interest in sociological affairs of Copts and Egypt  has  seen her on the front lines of elevating the Coptic Cause. Suzy has fronted an array of media outlets including  SBS Broadcasting, Sky and local and independent media. You can contact Suzy via suzy@auscma.com.

 

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