Local Saints.

What is it like to live in Luxor? Share your experiences of Luxor's culture.

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Local Saints.

Post by Hafiz » Sat Dec 09, 2017 6:23 am

Local Saints.

Lots are said about local morality – particularly about the whites – and much of it is negative.

Its also true that the Luxor region and Egypt has some role in virtue and morality.

There are at least three Luxor/Upper Egypt saints.

St Verena, born Qena 3rd century and died in Switzerland had an interest in the poor, young girls and lepers. A relative of hers, St Victor, also came from the region and was connected to the Roman Theban Legion, which fought in Switzerland.

She is memorialized by the Copts in Cairo (which is a typical Egyptian notion of history because the Coptic Church did not exist at this time). As ever they grab anything Egyptian and ignore the facts.

Her life is interesting because it shows the international connectedness of the ancient world – so whilst she was born in Luxor he died in Switzerland she was part of an international system and probably spoke Latin as well as local Egyptian languages.

There have been other Christian saints in or from Upper Egypt – none of whom get much Egyptian attention – including the Italian St. Daniele Comboni (d. 1881, Khartoum - a medical practitioner and priest) who lived in Luxor, was a major force in suppressing slavery in the region and established a religious order still active (about 3,000 priests and nuns worldwide) in Egypt and nowadays noted for its world-wide role in suppressing modern slavery.

The Copts give Comboni no recognition. Interestingly the Copt saints seen to be generally people, almost always men, who live reclusive, inactive, prayerful and monastic lives and have little physical contact with human beings or practical effect in the real world.

His activities in this period and in the region probably created tensions with the Copts because, according to Burckhardt in his earlier ‘Travels in Nubia’ they were quite active in the slave trade and two local Coptic brothers or priests are described by him as performing the castration “surgery” on Sudanese slaves in an Asyut monastery to allow Muslims to avoid the Islamic prohibition on castration. Others say it was the al Zawya 15 ks south of Asyut and at Aswan, Monastery of Dayr al Ganadla near Abu Tig, the Holy Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Monastery Deir el Ganadla, and the town of Tahta near Asyut (Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt, AUC, 2015 p.103). It was very profitable to the local monastery although a lot of 8-12 year old boys died as a result – possibly 90%. It seems certain that the Abyssinian Copts did the same and that the boys were as young as eight years. (Gwyn Campbell, The Structure of Slavery in Indian Ocean Africa and Asia, Routlidge, 2003).

The Copts were also active in the Sudan slave trade and much later lead and funded armed ‘campaigns’ to capture and enslave local natives for transportation to Egypt and handled the Cairo end of the trade and export of slaves to Turkey. It would be useful to know what year the Coptic Church first prohibited slavery – and castration. Oddly the Copts have not signed the 2014 Joint Declaration of Religious Leaders Against Modern Slavery – although the Catholics, Buddhists, Jews, Orthodox, al Azhar and even the Iranians have. https://www.anglicancentreinrome.org/Pu ... ?ID=144167

St Francis of Assisi also visited Egypt during a crusade in 1219 and in personal discussions with the Sultan tried to broker a peace between the Muslims and Christian armies. As most know his order, the Franciscan’s, are still active in Luxor and in the last century and a half combined with the Italian archaeologist Ernesto Schiaparelli (who founded the second greatest Egyptian museum in the world in Turin) to establish western funded hospitals in Luxor and Assiut for the poor - which after 1952 were seized by Egypt and have ‘disappeared’. He also funded and established with the Franciscans in Luxor schools and an orphanage. The girls school still exists but I’m not sure about the orphanage – both of which suffered after Nasser expelled the Italian staff along with other westerners (except for ‘useful’ German SS Nazi war criminals fleeing war crimes trials) from Egypt after 1952. The Schiaparelli story is an interesting example that not everything in the bad old days is like the present – where rich archaeology teams and their rich universities do little to help poor local people.

It is possible that the Franciscans have been in the Luxor area for 300 years (some local Franciscan parishes might date back to at least 1731) and were, prior to 1952, never previously persecuted under Muslim governments but academic research needs to be done to confirm this.

The Jesuits have also been active in the area for maybe 200-300 years and Henry Habib Ayrout’s ‘The Egyptian Peasant’ (one of the world’s first anthropological studies of peasants) is still a masterwork on Upper Egypt and a resource for social planning. Like their Franciscan friends they were driven down after 1952 with little support from the Coptic Hierarchy

In Cairo and Alex today the Jesuits continue their school (which teaches the Quran and always had Muslim students) and promote liberal cultural and community values – often via film festivals and related activities which emphasize the connectedness of the world and the primacy of science. They also work with rural, handicapped, women and young poor people in Minya (where they have been for 140 years) sponsored by the heroic German NGO, Anna Lindh Foundation (which has now exited/been driven out of Egypt). In most cases their programs are primarily for Muslims. They seem to now control/influence the Egyptian activities of Caritas, the world wide Catholic charity which runs/ran practical programs, including on female reproductive health and human rights, in Upper Egypt in Minya, Luxor, Asyiut and Sohag but I think this activity is on the ‘wane’ and not because of their lack of interest or funding. Relations with the Copts would have been interesting because the Jesuits had a tradition going back 400-500 years of opposing slavery and the Patron Saint of Slaves is the Jesuit, St Peter Claver (d.1654)

Prior to 1952 they ran about 130 schools in Upper Egypt but ‘things moved on”.

An Egyptian Jesuit is the Catholic Church’s leading expert on Islam. Father Samir Khalil Samir, born Cairo, when not a professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome holds professorships in elite universities in Japan, Georgetown in the US and Austria. Whether al Azhar has any expert professors on Christianity is not public. In the past month or two he was reassigned to Cairo –possibly because the current and Jesuit Pope wants to take a more liberal line and Samir’s hair splitting theology misses the big issues. http://content.time.com/time/world/arti ... 57,00.html His views on the historical and theological origins of current ‘radicalization’ in Islam are interesting: http://al-bushra.org/jesuit-father-sami ... -of-islam/. Others ethnic ‘Arabs’ from the region also hold significant Vatican positions including Jesuits – and usually take a sympathetic Palestinian line.

I imagine the Jesuit’s time is again coming to an end as Egypt retreats into isolation. ‘Strong’ governments often want the Jesuits out – Sadam Hussein kicked them out in the 1960’s, Castro expelled them in 1961, Assad hates them and has killed some, Ferdinand Marcos tortured and killed them but Jordan likes them and they are educating the current King’s son in one of their US universities - but the ‘hard right’ in Israel is wary of them. After 400 years in China Mao killed some and kicked the rest out – so they are used to ‘moving on’. In any event the Christians are ‘getting out’ of Egypt and dominate the overseas Egyptian communities in the west and many think that local claims of high numbers in Egypt conceal this.

Back to the saints. Lady Duff-Gordon also refers to a local saint, Abu-Seyfegn, and maybe others know something of him. She also refers to a Luxor eunuch as a religious leader (probably not Copt), which is so unusual as to be doubted, and this adds further evidence to the view that her letters not be trusted as reliable. They are not even well written. On the other hand she purchased slaves as servants, socialized with slave traders and knew Coptic slave dealers so her moral framework was a bit odd for a ruling-class member of an empire that had already made slavery illegal more than 30 years previously. I hope she freed her purchased slaves. Does anyone know? Amelia Edwards occasionally mentioned slavery – but was generally pretty quiet about it and showed little interest in religion – other than the religion of 6,000 years ago.

Postscript – the local Catholic Bishop, Emmanuel Bishay (born in the Sohag area), is a special advisor to the Pope on Islamic issues and chaired the organizing committee for the Pope’s visit. It is likely it was his idea that the Pope should just stand up in the back of a cheap golf cart. Maybe all local leaders could do the same - what would they have to fear? The current Grand Imam of al-Azhar and former president of al-Azhar University, Ahmed el-Tayeb, was born in Qena and holds a Phd from the Sorbonne.

I imagine that there were heroic Islamic leaders in Upper Egypt and think it a pity that Islam is such a poor public communicator of its achievements. It might also be time to celebrate the achievements of female Muslim 'leaders'.

Taken together the above two are current examples that even a poor region with a farming focus, generally poor schools and provincial attitudes can produce important people with world wide influence. By way of contrast the region has never produced anyone important in the actual government of Egypt (who wasn’t corrupt) let alone a local who was ever appointed a Governor of his own region. The contrast is very odd.

Maybe those forum members intimate with the current Luxor Governor could ask for his explanation of why the region can produce people who can lead the religious world but not their own region? The Governor’s answer should be fascinating. It would also be interesting to know whether any person born in the region has ever been a governor of their own region in the past 70 years. I think I know the answer.

Usually if you are connected by blood, family association or physical continuity to the people you serve it means better outcomes but I think the appointment of regional governors in Egypt has proceeded on diametrically different 'principles'. The current chap has a background in desk-based policy/strategy/PR support to the leadership and no actual management or service delivery experience. In fact I cannot find any prior experience where he was responsible for a budget - his work was all about 'managing up' never 'managing down'. I can find no prior record of any prior interest in or concern for Upper Egypt. His many supporters on this forum may know better and should post.



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Re: Local Saints.

Post by A-Four » Mon Dec 11, 2017 10:00 pm

I do take keep interest here in your knowledge of the the Coptic Church, and suspect, though maybe wrong, that you are a member of that Church, which I suspect you therefore believe to be the first Church in Christendom.

In truth, I think you and I know that the first Church in Christendom came much earlier, though much of this fact has in the modern day been covered up. In my own knowledge, and you may remember the old Coptic Museum in Cairo, where recent media inform us this was seriously damaged during the earthquake. In truth this was not really so, it was quite old fashioned in its lay out, but highly detailed, and certainly not embarrassed to inform the layman of the meaning of 'true' cross, unlike the other later Greek and Latin Church. A huge donation from the U.S. came to substantially help to pay for modernising the museum, to much of what we see today. I should point out though, that such information about the 'true' cross has now disappeared.

I suppose my question here is,........do you have any knowledge of the 1st Church of 70+A.D., within the WB Luxor area, other than at Habou ?

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by Hafiz » Tue Dec 12, 2017 5:12 am

Thank you.

No to both questions.

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by newcastle » Tue Dec 12, 2017 7:44 am

Thank you for an interesting post Hafiz.
She is memorialized by the Copts in Cairo (which is a typical Egyptian notion of history because the Coptic Church did not exist at this time). As ever they grab anything Egyptian and ignore the facts.
This puzzled me a bit as I'd always thought Christianity came to Egypt with the evangelist Mark who established what is usually described as the Coptic Church of Alexandria.

Copt doesn't really signify much more than "Egyptian"...although the term is nowadays associated with the Christian element of the population adhering to the doctrine pre the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

Can you enlighten me? I expect you're right....but would like to understand the distinction and why you say the Coptic Church didn't exist in 3rd Century Egypt.

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by Hafiz » Tue Dec 12, 2017 2:11 pm

Your narrow point. At that stage there was no central, comprehensive, enforcable system of Church governance. Theology differed from region to region. At best, within Egypt at that time, there was no Coptic Church. Maybe there was some loose federation of 'common believers'. who saw some allegiance (difficult to know) to a 'common' belief and, maybe to Rome. There were also huge divisions. It worked for a few centuries as a notional single church (a big stretch) and the Eastern Church then split and fought among themselves on mad distinctions until now. My point is this - there was at this stage no proclaimed, organized Coptic religion. This distinctive, ethnic based, idea emerged centuries later (and in opposition to the universalism that was then part of Christianity) and only after they split off from almost everyone else. Something they still quite like to do. At this stage they did not exist in any formalized, organized or consistent way. Admitting just how messy the foundation of Christianity was is not a strength of the Coptic Religion.

Christians did exist in Egypt 300 years after Christ's death. Its also true that St Peter got to Rome (much quicker) in his lifetime and St Paul propagated, widely and much quicker, the 'new idea' in southern-coastal Anatolia and Syria. Its also true that some time later Roman-Greek Alex became a center of theology (now entirely discredited and regarded as a dead end). There was never a time that the culture of classical Alex was 'integrated' with much of the rest of Egypt.

The view that Egyptian Christianity is a practical, historical or theological basis of Christianity is a charming and romantic view - particularly if your are Coptic - but ignores facts and the intellectual vacuity of Egypt. The Coptic view that Egypt was the basis of the spread of Christianity ignores the facts. Also the idea that other than a few Romans and Greeks in Alex had any effect in the Classical period on broader Christianity and therefore western culture is a myth.

For example the so-called Copts popularized hermits in caves or sitting on pillars and the related, solitary mess of their monasticism. Benedict reformed that model centuries later and said that you have to be practical, collective, rule-based, productive, relevant and work. This was not, and has never been, a popular view in Egypt. Their idea of monasticism ended in a dead end - but still popular in Egypt.

I could be wrong but I think its true that even at its peak Christian Alex produced no religious ideas that survived. A bit like later.

In any event the Copts have for a long time seen themselves as a 'national', 'ethnic' church but Roman Christianity very quickly saw itself as a universal church (not always adopted). The Copts still see seethemselves the same way. The Coptic ethnocentrism seems to ignore the obvious and at its worst is no better than the worst of the Church of England.

Newcastle - Marks presence in Egypt is more conjecture than fact and I note the complete absence by the Coptic Church of any scientific, refereed historical study of this matter. My point about Verena was a bit sly. The real point was that she, unlike others, was an internationalist who went well beyond the narrow confines of Upper Egypt. Something not dominant in modern Egyptian nor Coptic values. Looking after the outcast (Christian or not), something it is claimed she did, is also not something I note in modern Coptic behavior. In any event my cheap point was that its not an uncharacteristic Egyptian behavior to exaggerate the truth and claim credit or responsibility for something that does not belong to you. The bald fact about her, hidden from Coptic view, is that she was a Roman Internationalist - not just an ethnic Upper Egyptian. It is also not irrrelevant that, as a woman, she is a bit of an 'embarrassment' to the Copts.
Last edited by Hafiz on Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by newcastle » Tue Dec 12, 2017 3:00 pm

its not an uncharacteristic Egyptian behavior to exaggerate the truth and claim credit or responsibility for something that does not belong to you
What can I say? :lol:

And not just the Copts.

I obviously need to take a fresh look at the supposed origins of Christianity in Egypt....I will revert to the matter if necessary :wi

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by newcastle » Tue Dec 12, 2017 4:26 pm

The briefest of trawls through the internet support what you say Hafiz. There is no credible evidence that Mark ever went to Egypt or founded a church in Alexandria.

It's "tradition" ....masquerading as fact.

I won't press the point with my Coptic Egyptian friends :)

I decided on the same attitude after researching the origins of Islam and the Qur'an ......

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by Who2 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 7:56 pm

Hope you don't forget my mate George....
The Church of St. George is a Greek Orthodox church in Coptic Cairo..... 8)
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Re: Local Saints.

Post by Major Thom » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:56 am

Amen, Amen, Amen!!!!

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by Dusak » Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:03 am

A few months back I came to the rescue of a friend that needed a quick favor. She said thanks Mr. D, your a saint, so Luxor has a Saint Dusak. :up .... :tk that may explain my so called 'holier than thou' attitude I'm sometimes labeled with. :lol:
Life is your's to do with as you wish- do not let other's try to control it for you. Count Dusak- 1345.

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by carrie » Wed Dec 13, 2017 2:56 pm

Well this post was started Saturday and it is now Wednesday and I am still waiting for my name to appear :(

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by newcastle » Wed Dec 13, 2017 4:06 pm

carrie wrote:Well this post was started Saturday and it is now Wednesday and I am still waiting for my name to appear :(
I thought you had to be dead to be a saint?

And then have someone bear witness to at least two miracles associated with you.

And then be beatified....and subsequently canonised.... by the Pope.

Is it different on the West Bank? ;)

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by Dusak » Wed Dec 13, 2017 6:46 pm

There are quite a few walking dead on the WB, so anything is possible. :lol:
Life is your's to do with as you wish- do not let other's try to control it for you. Count Dusak- 1345.

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Re: Local Saints.

Post by carrie » Wed Dec 13, 2017 8:26 pm

Yes that's the rule Newcastle but there is always the exception. :!:

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