The Coptic Flag, Meanings and Colors
Few days ago, a number of Coptic activists from both Egypt and the Diaspora have adopted the design of a Coptic flag that underlines the Egyptian and Christian identities of the Copts. Yet, before certain people embark on accusing us of causing sectarian tensions, or of being the mouthpieces of Zionism, Imperialism, Crusaders, and all these meaningless accusations, we have decided to make our dear readers aware of the meaning of this flag and of the motive behind it.
Flags and Emblems:
It is well known that any group has the right to create an emblem or a flag that represents it and which would be its window on the world. Examples of such in the Middle East include the emblem of the Muslim Brotherhood (two swords surrounding the Koran), and the flag of the Lebanese phalanges (a red circle surrounding a green cedar tree). Furthermore, there is the flag of the Lebanese Hezbollah or the flag of the Assyrian minority, which flies side by side with the Iraqi flag at the Assyrian churches. It is thus noteworthy that flags do not call for isolation from their surrounding entities, but rather represent certain components of these surroundings. Therefore, in view of the above examples, the suspicion of national betrayal or sectarian isolation that some might raise as we talk about the Coptic flag would be groundless, particularly in light of the fact that the number of Copts worldwide (more than ten millions) surpasses that of entire countries.
The Motive behind the Coptic Flag:
It is indubitable that Copts have taken too long to voice their opposition to many aspects of the Egyptian political life. One of the things that bother Copts the most is the actual Egyptian flag, and that in turn is due to many reasons. First are its colors that closely resemble those of other Arabic-speaking countries, then there is this odd insistence to add the word Arab next to Egypt’s name, as if to distinguish between an Arab Egypt and one that is not. In this respect, taking into consideration that Copts are Egyptians and not Arabs, the current Egyptian flag represents an alienation of the Egyptian Christian minority in its homeland. Nevertheless, in view of the Copts’ nationalism and their attachment to their country, and from the standpoint of respecting the opinion of the majority of the Egyptians who might consider Egypt to be an Arab country, we as Copts are called upon to respect the current flag of Egypt as a representation of our Land, in spite of our disagreement with what it represents. Therefore, we found that the best solution for this dilemma is designing a Coptic flag that represents us and highlights our non-Arab identity. This flag would be used by the Copts alongside the official Egyptian flag. In that way we would have reconciled our pride of our Coptic identity, our allegiance to our beloved Egypt, and our respect for the opinion of the majority of our Egyptian Muslim brothers.
The Coptic Flag:
The Coptic Flag consists of two main components: a blue cross and a colorful coat of arms.
1. The cross represents Christianity, the religion of the Copts. The blue color of he cross stems from the blueness of the Egyptian sky and water. It also reminds the Copts of their persecution, when the Arab rulers and tyrants forced their ancestors to wear heavy crosses around their necks until their neck bones became blue.
2. The top of the coat of arms is decorated with some crosses, which refer to the Christianity of the Copts, intertwined with lotus flowers, which refer to their Egyptian identity. The three main crosses are Coptic crosses, for they are made of four arms equal in length, each of which is crossed by a shorter arm. Those crosses are different in that respect from the more conventional crosses that possess three short arms on top of one longer arm. The lotus flower, also known as the Egyptian White Water Lily Nymphaea lotus, is one of Ancient Egypt’s most famous flowers. It used to represent creation and resurrection, for it closes during the night and disappears under water, then resurfaces and opens at dawn. A creation myth from Ancient Egypt states that the first thing to have been born from the watery chaos of the beginning of time was a giant lotus flower, which, on the first day of creation, gave birth to the sun. The black background behind the ornaments is a symbol of Kimi or Kemet, the Egyptian name of Egypt, which means the black land. Ancient Egyptians gave their country this name since the waters of the Nile used to bring black African soil during the inundation season and deposit it on the banks of the Nile, thus fertilizing them. The contrast between the yellow and the black is a symbol of the Copts’ Christian faith and Egyptian identity that still shine amid the darkness of the persecutions they have been suffering over the centuries. Beneath these ornaments is a green line in the Middle of the coat of arms, which represents the Nile Valley. Around it are two yellow lines that symbolize the Eastern and Western Deserts of Egypt. These two lines are in turn flanked by two blue lines that represent the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea that surround Egypt. Finally, these lines are separated by red lines symbolizing the Coptic blood, which has been shed all over Egypt since Egyptians adopted Christianity and until today.