The date 1 June will see the first ever celebration of what is hoped would become the annual Global Coptic Day. The day coincides with the Feast of the Entry of the Holy Family into Egypt, a feast which commemorates the Biblical flight of Baby Jesus, St Mary and St Joseph from the face of Herod the King who wished to kill the Child. According to the Gospel of St Matthew, the Holy Family fled the historical land of Israel and took refuge in Egypt where tradition has it that they stayed for some three years until the angel of the Lord told them to go back home. The icon of the Holy Family in Egypt has been chosen to symbolise the Global Coptic Day.
According to globalcopticday.org, the idea of a global Coptic day was the brainchild of the Egyptian American Copt Nader Anise, a lawyer and marketer based in Florida. On 20 October 2018, Mr Anise presented his idea to Bishop Youssef, Bishop of the Southern United States. Bishop Youssef enthusiastically approved the idea; so much so that Mr Anise travelled to Egypt one month later, and placed the idea before the Holy Synod and Pope Tawadros himself at the desert monastery of Anba Bishoy in Wadi al-Natroun. The idea was met with resounding approval, and Global Coptic Day was born.
Global Coptic Day is intended as a day to celebrate the Coptic Orthodox Church’s rich heritage, including its indelible history of martyrdom and persecution, as well as its theological education and monasticism. It aspires to create global awareness of the Coptic Orthodox Church among Copts and non-Copts all around the world. The day is an annual celebration of the contributions made by the Coptic Orthodox Church over many centuries.
The first Global Coptic Day will be marked in the churches of the Parish of Southern United States with a three-day celebration that starts on the evening of Thursday 30 May, and which includes daily Liturgy, and Vespers service every evening. The main celebration will also feature lectures on the global influence of the Coptic Church, and the theological meaning of the visit of the Lord Jesus Christ to Egypt and will be held in the Florida Coptic churches of St Anthony, and St Mary and Archangel Michael; and the Louisiana church of St Barbara. A number of US Coptic bishops and priests will join Bishop Youssef in the services and liturgies.
On its website, the Global Coptic Day team encourages everyone to wear red, symbolising the redemptive blood of Christ, on that day.
The website also posts a request for everyone to “fill the day 1 June with any of the following P.R.A.I.S.E. activities:
“P(ray): Dedicate all your prayers on June 1st to the peace of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and all around the world.
“R(ead): Start a tradition of reading a story of a Coptic saint or martyr to your young children every Global Coptic Day, thereby creating memories that will last a lifetime. Of course, the R also stands for Reading the Bible, including the verses related to the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15).
“A(cts of Mercy): Take the time to visit the sick or feed the hungry, give to the poor, clothe those in need or visit the imprisoned. If you contact your parish priest, you can coordinate with him.
“I(nvite): Take this opportunity to invite friends or co-workers to attend one of our Coptic services, whether Vespers, Liturgy, Bible study or other gathering.
“S(ervice): Provide whatever service might be needed in your community, neighbourhood or local parish.
“E(ducate): On June 1st, use social media to educate the public about what the Coptic Church is all about. Share beneficial articles, videos, links, photos and anything else that would bring the Coptic Church closer to people’s hearts and minds. The E can also stand for ‘Evangelise’ which the entire day attempts to do.
“Through the official website, the Global Coptic Day team calls on all those who will observe the celebration to share their photos and videos using the #globalcopticday.
Copts around the world are very enthusiastic about the recognition of the Global Coptic Day celebration the world over, and for it to specifically fall on the same say that the Feast of the Entry of the Holy Family into Egypt, an occasion that is exclusive to the Coptic Church, a fact of which Copts are proudly conscious.
On his part, US President Donald Trump addressed a letter to the Coptic Orthodox community, where he extended his warmest greetings on the inaugural Global Coptic Day. “For centuries, the Coptic Orthodox Church has been an integral part of the faith community,” Trump wrote. “As June 1, 2019, marks the first Global Coptic Day, it is my hope that today provides a renewed sense of purpose for the millions of Coptic Christians in the Middle East and around the world.”
In his letter, President Trump mentioned the inauguration of the Cathedral of the Nativity of Christ earlier this year, describing the event as a milestone for members of the Coptic Orthodox Church. He also gave a thought for those who lost their lives for their faith, and said that his administration will always defend religious liberties and work to ensure that people of all faiths are free to live and worship according to their conscience and beliefs.
The President closed his letter with: “Melania joins me in wishing all Coptic Orthodox Christians a momentous celebration filled with joy. May God bless you.”
30 May 2019