February 04, 2007

Shaykhspeara in Egypt: Bishop Thomas

Irini: Peace in Coptic.

In a small area between Alexandria and Cairo, Bishop Thomas has created Anafora. A spiritual retreat and getaway for people of all religions to meet and get to know eachother.

In the fall of 2006 he was in a car accident on the road to Cairo with a Swedish family. The mother and daughter passed away and the father and Bishop Thomas made it with serious injuries.

I met with him more than a week ago at his place in Anafora. I was informed he wasn't to be tired out so brief was the word. I had questions about the situation of the Copts in Egypt, being a Christian minority in a Muslim majority.

"Layers, it's all about layers" he started. "On a social level things may seem OK, people meet, socialize attend each others parties and gatherings."

He turned to me and my group and asked us "How frank can I be with you?"

"I wanted to set up a school for the poorer children at Al Qusayr where they would be able to learn foreign languages like English, French or German. At the bottom of the list of languages that would be available to study I had placed Coptic."

Apparently the man incharge of supervising the project in that particular area had taken one look at the list and said; Coptic? What's that?

Bishop Thomas was asked to remove it saying it was not allowed to teach it in the school.

"In my area (Asyout, Al Qusayr), a new church hasn't been built since 1932, it is next to impossible to get permission to build one or restore an existing one there and yet when I travelled to Uppsala (Sweden) and a new mosque was about to be approved to be built I got the question whether I thought it was a good idea to let the Muslims in Sweden build a mosque or not. I told them, let them build it. Why not?"

And yet in Cairo you see many new churches. It was never clear whether it is Egyptian law that discriminates or Egyptians in charge themselves. In Cairo I met with Hisam, a young Coptic Egyptian who had a different view on life as a Coptic in Cairo. It was clad with far less reservations against the ruling majority.

However Egypt is a vast land and one area can differ from the other in attitude and implementation of laws.

Bishop Thomas left me with a slightly worried feeling, of the increasing polarization in between Muslims and other Muslims and non Muslims, brought on by the growing media influences of islamo-political channels in the Muslim world. Each channel with its own message and direction indirectly not letting its viewers accept any other message or point of view, being far from self-criticism.

The issue of the situation of the Copts in Egypt was raised by our group with a local muslim NGO and they were all surprised and upset to hear about the attitude towards the coptic language. Hopefully they will carry on investigating the why's and why not's.

In this globalized world it is ever more clear that you can be a minority and a majority at the same time. A Muslim minority in Sweden a Christian majority in Sweden, and a Muslim majority and Christian minority in for example Egypt. In a position of dependance and power, all at once. With added awareness and responsibility as a result of that, but do we take heed?


khanana said...

welcome backkkk

yaar i feel envy :P
anyways gues what ive got a news here....
kharr.. wil type u back in detail... later..

best of luck!

A world of Symphony said...

Welcome back :)

Glad to know you're okay and all's well with you :)

Egypt is a colorful country, isn't it?

Samawel said...

It is always angering and depressing about this issue. Coptic, from the beginning till the end, is the true Egyptian language. I hate to see a language with so much history fall out of existence and use. I'm still anxious to see Coptic make a come back as a language widely used. Maybe if we're lucky we might even see Coptic go through a language revival if the Egyptian government help.

I applaud Bishop Thomas' attempt at teaching Coptic in a school. Maybe there should be more people Copts and non-Copts in Egypt that insist on getting somewhat familiar with the language, more like a grass-roots way of getting attention to the Coptic language. (Maybe we could learn the language, eh Shaykhspeara?)

Destitute Rebel said...

Hey welcome back SS,glad you enjoyed your travel to Egypt. great mind provoking post. Look forward to another year of amazing articles from Al Baal.

ferramis said...


nice to have you back at "home". Lucking forward to read the many other stories from your journeys.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back :-)

musicalchef said...

Welcome back, and great post!

I'm curious, what do you do that you get to travel to so many interesting places?

Joshua Keaney said...

I dont even know your name. I am a good friend of Bishop Thomas's and worked for him for a year in Al-Qussaya. I love Anafora and think he is an amazing person.

I stumbled across this post and wanted to thank you for sharing your experience. I heard about his recent accident and its good to see him still active.


Joshua Keaney

nzm said...

Welcome back SS, and what a wonderful experience with Bishop Thomas, although I can understand your unease at his message.

Still, we have hope, huh? :-)

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Thanks everyone :) It's good to be back.

AWOS: It sure is, both dark and light.

Samwel: I reckon you're on, about coptic! lol

D Reb: Thanks :)

Ferramis: Danke, we must meet soon. And I am sure you have some good news for me?

DG: Alf shukur!

Musical chef, welcome to the blog. Thanks :)
Well it would be hard to explain what I do, since I am doing many things all at once that have little relation to each other :) if that makes any sense. But one of the things I do is work in the field of peace.

Hey Joshua! Glad to have you here :) Bishop Thomas seems to be doing much better now, in good spirit. I have more pictures for you if you should want that. Just drop me a line. It's a small world ey? He is very inspiring indeed.

Darlin' NZM :) Thanks. We sure do have hope lol glad that caught on!

JamilaLighthouse said...

He has beautiful eyes.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

Welcome there jamilalighthouse! Well umm, I never thought about that but now that you mention it, I guess he has!

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