Pride and Prejudice – Coptic Style II

One of the more pernicious bigotries that occasionally rears its ugly head in our community is that of racial prejudice. Now I know that it is a built-in instinct in human nature to form groups to belong to and to which we show loyalty. There is nothing wrong in appreciating one’s history and lineage and taking strength and a sense of identity from that.

Where it does go wrong is when this belonging becomes competitive. To borrow from St James; competition, when it has conceived, gives birth to antagonism; and antagonism, when it is full-grown, brings forth enmity.

This has historically been one of the major obstacles to our Church evangelising those of other nations and bringing them to Christ. Back in the 1950’s when HG Bishop Antonios Markos, the modern pioneer of Coptic evangelism in Africa, would speak to others in Cairo about his dreams, he would mostly be met with scorn. “Why waste your time with black people?” the incredulous Egyptians would ask.

And yet, amazingly, here in Australia in 2009 it is possible to find Copts who, incredibly, have that same mindset! A small section of the community still asks why we should waste our time reaching out to our neighbours to share the love and peace of Christ with them. They continue to treat newcomers to our Church as second class citizens and to make them feel unwelcome. And all this simply on the basis of race!

Even more unchristian is the artificial division between Egyptian and Sudanese within our Church community. Forget that the Sudanese members of our community all originated in Upper Egypt, and that only a few generations ago at the most. Never mind that the two cultures are virtually identical in every way that matters, or that they have blended together in perfect harmony in Sydney Coptic Churches for the past 40 years. No, there are some who try to draw this line in the sand and say, “We on this side are different to you on that side. And we are better.”

Of course, such a judgement is ridiculous in every way that counts. Your racial background helps define who you are, but an honest observer will see that there are good and bad people in every race, nation, culture and racial group. Race is merely one small factor in the hand that is dealt to each of us. It is how we play that whole hand that makes us who we are, and that depends on the individual person, not the race from which they come.

This kind of divisive thinking is also clearly unbiblical too. How can it possibly be justified in the light of passages like this:

“… there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:11-17

Can you imagine the Lord Jesus coming to one of our parishes and saying, “I’m not going to hang around with THAT group; I don’t like that race”? That would be so diametrically opposed to His gospel of unconditional love that I am amazed that anyone could ever think it was an acceptable way for a Christian to think! Does the “word of Christ” spread bigotry? Is it possible to incite racial hatred “in the name of the Lord Jesus”?

Perhaps the problem is that this kind of error often begins as a harmless joke. We all know many Irish jokes, Polish jokes, Upper Egyptian jokes. But what if a joke becomes a philosophy? That’s just not funny.

If we are to be authentic in our Christian walk then this is something we cannot ignore. It is compulsory, if you wish to truly follow Christ, to love your neighbour as yourself. When He was asked to define what He meant by “neighbour”, He told the story of the Good Samaritan, pointing out that Christian love crosses all boundaries of race. Even those who have traditionally been racial enemies, such as the Jews and the Samaritans, are brought together in Christ and united by His boundless love.

There is no nice way of putting this: racial prejudice is a sin. It needs to be repented of with sincerity, in thought, word and deed. Those who divide the Church along racial lines are dividing the very Body of Christ. That’s got to hurt Him…

Fr Ant

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4 Replies to “Pride and Prejudice – Coptic Style II”

  1. Well said father Anthony …it was expected that issue to be addressed and rectified by our Bishop in the last few years ..it had being going for a long time and the damage already done in our churches and its community with the result of lack of trust and acceptance among the whole community and the church !!!??the outcome of the ethnic divisions of Egyptian and Sudanese resulted in the development of party s with unhealthy and i respectable church environment …i believe some church fathers realized the evil effect of this in its beginning but they did not get the real attention and support from our bishop ..i do not want to point the finger at any as this is not the way of the children of God but let us hit the SIN which divided our community ..those evil parties made from small church issues big stuff when it suits them and their targets .. get people against people, even against priests even against the bishop …i believe in the last few months all church community and our priests realized that evil thing and left them to bark at the wrong tree ..nobody is taking notice of them and we got peace in our church and community by sticking to our identity as AUSTRALIAN COPTIC COMMUNITY and we started to work quietly to build a healthy community with the support of our Lord … … we all believe anybody wants to enjoy own ethnicity or fund raising for overseas or or a club or a center or whatever are free to do that as a multicultural country but and but AWAY from our Churches …i believe it worked as even now the priests most of them they do not announce or involve in those events of ethnic background , even our community is doing the same …i believe it encouraged our church community to come back to the church in a peaceful , caring and loving environment …i believe a big revolution is happening in our community church , also the good news now our theological college opened branches with deputy registrar in Archangel church in the west as well as another branch in Abu Safeen church , it is great positive move … Bible studies by the theological college lecturers will be done regularly in the west ..God bless all those honest people who work behind the scenes ..we look forward for our beloved bishop to be with his community church soon and i believe most of the community will be happy with flat structure to look after our church affairs and its needs instead of this hierarchy … also we look forward that the bishop to bless us for a couple of days a week in Archangel for our blessings and to sort any problems for our church congregation in the west as most of them find it difficult to go to Baxelly to sort their issues of concern which needs the diocese …above all we need mainly his spiritual guidness and blessing … may the holy spirit guide us all to do the right thing and give us the wisdom …

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  2. “they did not get the real attention and support from our bishop ..i do not want to point the finger at any as this is not the way of the children of God”

    You just pointed the finger Mr. Romani…just leave the bishop alone.. he bis gone anyway… and stop using spiritual talk to have a go at certain people..enough man..no body is interested anymore… i have not looked at this site since months now…
    I can’t believe it is still going on.
    What do you mean by flat structure???? if you know anything about management it has to involve a hierarchy???
    I am so lost in all this.. but you know at the end of the day WHO CARES..what has been done has been done..damage is there & my respect to the minority who can still see God and are spiritually surviving this damge…
    by the way I miss Bishop Daniel & His simple loving manner that was missunderstood by the complicated people/priests of our challenging Australian Coptic Community…..Only God is his judge…

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  3. Hello Daniel , nice to hear from you mate after so long ….just i want to stress that Bishop Daniel is our Bishop and he will come back to his Sydney parish soon or later ….our way of life in our Coptic church that we always love and respect our bishops , we love our priests and we love our saints and our churches all the time and i believe you do too ….i personally, if you believe it or not i do not know exactly what happened and i do not want to know because i believe all of us are humans and we do mistakes even if we live one minute in this earth …we do mistakes all the time intentionally and unintentionally .. sometimes we do mistakes in a good faith ???!!however at the end of the day ,the worst thing is to continue in our mistakes …i feel your feelings mate and when the time comes nobody will be able to stop” HIS WILL “…….just back to the terminology “Flat Structure “, i will try to explain it to the best of my ability , yes i studied management and i practiced it beside my profession , but to tell the truth it was a long time ago when i was young so those management concepts which i learned are no more applicable and useless …anyhow in the old days management used to be as you said the Hierarchy type but those professionals in the last ten years they found it not working as the top do not see the bottom and vice verse ….so a lot of big organizations reformed and restructured and removed the middle management and gave more control to the front liners as managers and it worked as the bottom see the top and vice verse with more openness and transparency …yesterday i looked at the spring of love , mate the number of committees and subcommittees are so many , it was in a sort of congratulating our bishop on his seventh year in the parish if i am not wrong …. i still believe a flat structure will benefit our parish and our community , however at the end of the day may the holy spirit guide us all and our bishop and our church community to do the right thing ..

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  4. We are Christian Egyptian , unfortunately we can’t get rid of all the bad habit we grew up with, No respect for each other every one wants to be heard and wants to be loader than the other, I have respect for Anba Daniel and priests but they are still Human, They should be more open to people and what is happening behind closed doors has to be public to stop every one from assuming, Bishop Daniel ignored some important issues and the problems has accumulated.

    Again an announcement has to be made by our Diocese explaining to people what is going on and stop pushing it under the carpet

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