I call the Copts my friends here, because, for some, it is offensive to refer to the Copts as brothers. Why? Because some 1400-1500 years ago, there was an issue of semantics surrounding the nature of Christ. Is it a dual nature or a single nature? Well, the Copts (Egyptians) say they are NOT monophsites- that they believe in the two natures of Christ- FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN. Some, however, insist on telling the Copts what they believe.... and the debate continues. All I know is that the Copts I have met love, I say LOVE, God and LOVE people. They are more loving and more Christian by their fruits than many of the "real" Orthodox Christians I have known.
I have wept as I watched the Coptic Pope speak of forgiveness. I have been blessed by the respect the Coptic laymen have for the clergy, even those who are not Coptic. I am most humbled, however, by the commitment- even unto death- that the Copts show everyday, as they endure persecution, not only in America, but in their own Egypt. Their churches are being destroyed and their people massacered by the thousands. I do not miss an opportunity to tell a Coptic Christian that I am praying for them and their people.
Today, I met a hard working Coptic man as he served me at a Greek Restaurant. With his broken English and genuine smile, he told me that he had been in America only four years. "Are you an Orthodox Christian?", I asked. "Yes", he said with joy. To prove his faith, he revealed a tattoo on his neck, on his arm, and on his chest. A cross, the Theotokos and an Arabic word, which I assumed left no doubt as to whom he served and would serve his entire life. I thought at that moment that the Coptic people know more than most, the truth of the popular bumper sticker which says, "Orthodoxy, Christianity, Only Tougher". To the Copt, this truth is a life or death statement. "The Muslims", he said, "they are no good." It is the Muslims who are killing Christians by the thousands all across the world today, and I count my Coptic friend, among those whose faith and experience makes them tough-strong-mighty in the eyes of God. I am ashamed and humbled in their presence. And I am weak compared to them. So are many of us who confess the faith and have not experienced persecution such as they have. "By their fruit you shall know them." By their fruit, may I not call them my brothers?