Damanhour University in Beheira, west of the Nile Delta, recently held its first Coptic Studies Conference, organised by its Faculty of Arts.
The Coptic Orthodox Church was invited to participate in the conference. Anba Pachomius, Metropolitan of Beheira and Matrouh, responded to the invitation on behalf of Pope Tawadros, together with Anba Pavli, Bishop-General of al-Montazah churches in Alexandria.
Ebeid Abdel-Ati, President of Damanhour University; and Hanan al-Shafei, Dean of the Faculty of Arts; welcomed the Coptic prelates.
Dr Abdel-Ati talked of the importance of Coptic studies, saying that Egypt has a wealth of Coptic antiquities, monuments, and art that testify to Coptic ingenuity throughout successive ages.
“During the second half of the 20th century,” he noted, “global interest in Coptology peaked, especially after opening the Coptic Museum in Cairo in 1908. Our Coptic heritage is profound and precious. It is manifested in the fixed tangible heritage of the splendid Coptic architecture in churches and monasteries; also in the movable heritage seen inside museums, art pieces, and acquisitions.
For her part, Dr Shafei expressed happiness at holding the conference, terming it a significant event. “Egyptian identity has formed over thousands of years, and it includes a definite Coptic element,” she said. “Yet interest in Coptic studies had to wait till the more recent centuries, and was first launched by European researchers.
Anba Pachomius expressed his delight with and support of the Coptic Studies Centre recently founded by Damanhour University, and announced a financial donation by the Coptic Church for it.
The conference concluded with several resolutions. Among them was drafting bylaws to govern the operation of the newly-founded Coptic Studies Centre; publishing a book that would include all the proposals and suggestions discussed in the conference; coordinating and networking with all associations interested in Coptic archaeology and civilisation in Egypt; and holding the conference periodically over the coming years.
Coptic Studies have been gaining interest among academic circles in Egypt in recent years, after centuries of absolute disregard. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) established one of the first and most robust centres of Coptic Studies in Egypt in 2013, but EgyptIan universities lagged behind; not one boasted such a centre or department. In April 2019, Fayoum University’s Faculty of Antiquities held its first conference on Coptic antiquities, jointly with the BA’s Centre of Coptic Studies, with participation of Anba Abra’am, Bishop of Fayoum, who is a PhD in History. The university highlighted its work on Coptic archaeology and antiquities in Fayoum, some 100km southwest Cairo, a region rich in Coptic heritage. The conference, which saw the participation of 62 research papers from Egypt, Russia, and Japan, recommended the establishment of Coptic Studies centres or departments in Egyptian universities.
17 June 2019