Wanderlust…

The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Archive for the ‘Coptic’ Category

Rolling Out the Red Carpet: Arab Gulf States Embrace Egypt’s Coup

Posted by vmsalama on July 11, 2013

by Vivian Salama

Vocativ

A year ago, as stragglers in the streets of Cairo continued to celebrate Mohamed Morsi’s presidential inauguration, Dubai’s Chief of Police, Dahi Khalfan, lashed out at Egypt’s president and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters, calling them “thugs” who had threatened his life.

“The number of phone threats I have received demonstrates that we are facing a criminal organization,” Khalfan tweeted, claiming in separate posts that he had received as many as 2,000 calls over a 72-hour period. “[Morsi] will come crawling to the Gulf, and we will not receive him on a red carpet.”

Fast forward to the present, and roughly a week after the Egyptian military deposed Morsi in a controversial coup that was precipitated by mass protests, both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have, figuratively at least, rolled out the red carpet for the new Egyptian government. This week, as the military engaged in a bloody face off with thousands of Morsi supporters looking to reinstate the fallen leader, the U.A.E pledged to give $3 billion in grants and loans to the cash-strapped country, while Saudi Arabia committed $2 billion in central bank deposits, $2 billion in energy products, and $1 billion in cash—a significant jump from the $2 billion promised last year when Morsi was elected president.

“The U.A.E. intended to send a…signal that it will not accommodate the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, be it at home or abroad,” said Ayham Kamel, Persian Gulf analyst for the Eurasia Group, a New York-based research and consulting firm.

The reasons go well beyond the alleged threats made to Khalfan. The rocky relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the two Gulf states dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, when Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser cracked down on political dissent, forcing a number of Islamists to flee. Many settled in Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., where they found jobs and assimilated, but along the way, imparted their religious ideologies on the surrounding community. (click here to read more)

Female supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans as they rally at the Raba El-Adwyia square where they are camping in Cairo

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Posted in Abu Dhabi, Al Jazeera, al-Sisi, Arab, Arab League, Bahrain, Constitution, Coptic, corruption, Coup, dictatorship, Dubai, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Human Rights, Islam, Kuwait, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, North Africa, Oman, Protests, Qatar, Religion, Salafi, Saudi Arabia, State of Emergency, Terrorism, United Arab Emirates, United States, Washington | Leave a Comment »

Egypt To President Morsi: No Dictators Allowed

Posted by vmsalama on December 3, 2012

Newsweek International (click here for original link)

by Vivian Salama

December 3, 2012

Amr Darrag is on a call when a second phone in his Cairo office begins to ring. He’s been awake since 6 a.m., and the stack of papers on his desk swells with every passing minute. A leader in Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Darrag is also part of the 100-member committee scrambling to draft the country’s new constitution—a pending document that has hit every possible bump in the road since Egyptians toppled President Hosni Mubarak last year.

“We have a couple more days until we finish our mission,” says Darrag, secretary-general of the Constituent Assembly. “Those who are not interested in stability in Egypt or want to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of the scene are trying to stop us from issuing the constitution. The courts want to dismantle the assembly. The president had to stop these tricks or the country would fall into chaos.”

On Nov. 22, as Americans sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, Egypt’s first post-revolution president, Mohamed Morsi, issued a decree exempting all of his decisions from legal challenge. The move was a stunning power grab that quickly earned him the nickname “Egypt’s new pharaoh”—a title once bestowed upon his defunct predecessor. Hundreds of thousands of disbelieving Egyptians flooded city streets from Alexandria to Aswan with a familiar cry: “The people want the fall of the regime!” Tahrir Square came alive once again with tents and bullhorns and a howl so loud—so impassioned—that it was dubbed the “19th Day” of last year’s revolution. Angry female protesters returned in masses to Tahrir, resilient after months of deteriorating security that included repeated incidents of harassment and sexual assault.

tahrir lights

Morsi also declared that the courts cannot dissolve the Assembly, which many say is unfairly dominated by his fellow Islamists. As tensions built nationwide, the Assembly slammed together the first finalized draft of the constitution last week—a text that could set the course for Egypt’s future and that few have been privy to see.

“He shot himself in the foot,” says Steven A. Cook, the Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Perhaps ‘new pharaoh’ is an overstatement, even though Morsi is no democrat. Somewhere within the councils of the Muslim Brotherhood, someone thought this decree would play well in Tahrir.”

Play well it didn’t. As antagonized protesters violently clashed with pro-Morsi demonstrators, the president defended his decision, insisting it is temporary and geared toward eliminating the bureaucratic hurdles obstructing Egypt’s unraveling transition. The comment inspired the snarky headline in independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm: “Morsi is a ‘temporary’ dictator.” The Brotherhood brushed off the protests as merely “politics,” distinguishing it from the 2011 revolution, when “united Egyptians revolted against autocracy.” The organization warned, via Twitter, that a revolution without the Muslim Brotherhood is no revolution.

But that was a tough sell to make to those who descended on Tahrir, driven by lingering memories from 30 years of Hosni Mubarak’s chokehold. Less than two years after Egyptians earned their first taste of democracy, the country once again has a president with near-absolute power and no constitution to dictate otherwise (the decree was ironically introduced as a “constitutional declaration”). There is no Parliament, since the military generals dissolved it in June. Then the generals were replaced by Brotherhood loyalists—as were the heads of most state-run media organizations.

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Cairo University, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Inflation, International Monetary Fund, Islam, Israel, Journalism, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Newsweek, Politics, Protests, Religion, Salafi, United States | Leave a Comment »

Terry Jones’ Latest Insult? U.S. Embassy Protested Over Anti-Islam Film Promoted by Terry Jones

Posted by vmsalama on September 11, 2012

Chanting protesters attacked the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Tuesday, enraged over a film that purportedly insults the Prophet Muhammad—and linked to U.S. pastor Terry Jones. Vivian Salama reports.

by  | September 11, 2012

The Daily Beast (click here for original link)
As Americans commemorated the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Tuesday, protesters in Cairo shredded and burned the American flag and scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy.

At least 2,000 demonstrators, enraged over Innocence of Muslims, a little-known film produced in the United States that allegedly insults the Prophet Muhammad, shouted, “We will sacrifice ourselves for you, Allah’s messenger!” A group of men managed to mount the embassy’s walls waving a black flag with the words “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Many of those gathered did not know the name of the film, nor did they know the details of their grievance against the U.S. pastor linked to it, Terry Jones, whose 2010 threats to burn the Qurantriggered deadly riots in Afghanistan. Similar attacks were reported on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where an American was killed and part of the consulate burned, according to Al Jazeera.

Al-Azhar, one of the Arab world’s most elite centers for higher Islamic learning, reportedly condemned the film on Tuesday, citing a scene in which a character based on the Prophet Muhammad goes on trial. The Wall Street Journal reportedthat Innocence of Muslims’ writer, editor, and producer is a 52-year-old American, Sam Bacile. Jones is promoting the film, whose new 14-minute Arabic-dubbed trailer on YouTube depicts the Prophet as a deranged womanizer calling for massacres.

The organization standupamericanow.orgran a live stream on Tuesday of a press conference featuring Jones in what he dubbed “International Judge Muhammad Day,” during which he listed reasons why, in his opinion, the Prophet should be put on hypothetical trial.

Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet, be it in an illustration or film, to be a violation of Islamic belief. Similar protests were staged outside the Danish Embassy in Cairo and across the Muslim world in 2005 after the daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet. (click here to read more…)

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Bahrain, Censorship, Christian, Christianity, Clinton, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Egypt, Employment, Film, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Islam, Lebanon, Libya, Media, Middle East, military, Mohamed Morsi, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Qaddafi, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Terrorism, Tunisia, United States | Leave a Comment »

Egypt’s Second Revolution: Purging the Mubarak Regime’s Legacy

Posted by vmsalama on June 20, 2012

by 

Jun 20, 2012

Daily Beast (click here to read original story)

As Mubarak reportedly clings to life, thousands of protesters flooded Tahrir Square to denounce the military’s powers. Vivian Salama on the ticked-off Egyptians fighting for democracy—again.

Ancient Egyptians believed that every person has three souls: Ka, Ba, and Akh. When a pharaoh was dying, priests went to great lengths to preserve the body in the hopes that even in death, the soul of the pharaoh dwells on earth for eternity.

More than 16 months after Hosni Mubarak, Egypt‘s modern-day pharaoh, resigned and was imprisoned, reports of his death have once again managed to overshadow the country’s historic transition period, just days before his successor is to be announced and while protesters took to the streets to purge his legacy from the incoming administration. State-run Middle East News Agency reported late Tuesday that the defunct leader was “clinically dead,” later backtracking to say that he experienced a “fast deterioration of his health” and is on life support.

With both camps claiming victory and official results not expected until June 21, tens of thousands of people poured into Tahrir Square Tuesday night with spirits reminiscent of the 18-day demonstration that brought down the former regime. The protesters donned face veils or long, thick beards and carried campaign posters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi—the presumed winner by many. Some, young hipsters by American standards, carried red socialist flags. Others brought their children and waved red, white, and black banners that read “I love Egypt.” To many activists in Egypt, it doesn’t matter who wins the presidential election. One theme was universal across the square: the revolution continues.

Even as the last of the votes were being counted and Mubarak death rumors made the rounds yet again, demonstrators chanted in unison, denouncing the country’s current ruler—the military—following a series of recent legislations that some say amounted to a soft coup. They chanted: “We’ll finish what we started! Down, down, military rule.” Faced with the dilemma of choosing between the stalwart former Air Force commander Ahmed Shafiq and Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, many are fearful that a military clampdown is inevitable, regardless of who the president is.

“Revolution is about controlling the state, and so far this revolution has failed to do that,” said Ibrahim al-Houdaiby, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an active secular youth activist. “This is not a time for political and ideological disputes between parties because we are fighting for a country that we don’t rule. If you want to have a serious fight, one that’s meaningful, get the power in the hands of the people, then fight over it all you want.” (click here to read more…)

Here are two related stories I wrote:

Daily Beast: Mubarak Steals Election Thunder

North Africa Journal: Egypt at a Crossroads 

Posted in Arab, Arab Spring, Coptic, dictatorship, discrimination, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Hosni Mubarak, Islam, Judiciary, Media, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics, Religion | Leave a Comment »

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington

Posted by vmsalama on April 6, 2012

Look who’s visiting Washington!!

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood Woos Washington

By Vivian Salama

The Daily Beast

Click here for original story

There was once a time when U.S. officials shunned Arab Islamist parties, frowned on their election victories, and denied them U.S. visas. But times are changing.

Delegates from Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party, a group affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood, are in   Washington for their first official visit since Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year. Only days after announcing their party’s candidate in the first presidential election since the revolution, the visiting delegates have met with members of Congress and White House officials and held public discussions at Georgetown University and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Outlawed under the Mubarak regime, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and more hard-line Salafist parties have emerged, not surprisingly, as a powerful force in the Egyptian elections, thwarting the secular groups that are believed to have been the drivers of last year’s revolution. As a group that founded itself on the principles of grassroots activism, the Muslim Brotherhood has long resonated with the people of Egypt, where at many as 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, according to the United Nations.

The delegates sent to Washington were all articulate English speakers, two of whom hold doctorates from U.S. institutions. They were non-evasive, answering impassioned questions from the Georgetown audience about religious persecution and Sharia law. The message was not specifically linked to Islam. They did not criticize—or even mention—Israel. They stressed that Egypt is open for business and encouraged free trade and foreign direct investment. (more…)

Posted in Allies, American, Arab, Arab Spring, Arabic, Christian, Christianity, Coptic, dictatorship, Economy, Education, Egypt, Elections, Employment, Flip-Flops, Foreign Policy, Freedom of Speech, Gaza, Hamas, Hosni Mubarak, Human Rights, Islam, Israel, Jihad, Libya, Middle East, military, Mubarak, Muslim Brotherhood, Newsweek, Obama, Politics, Tunisia, United States | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

“The Protester”: A Photo Journal of the Egyptian Revolution

Posted by vmsalama on December 15, 2011

Thanks to TIME Magazine for recognizing the revolutionaries all over the world… I’ve been meaning to write this for quite some time but only finding the chance to do it now.

A year ago when Mohammed Bouazizi, a fruit vendor in Tunisia, burned himself out of frustration from a political system that neglected him, I was en route to Beirut ahead of the Christmas holiday and writing, mainly, about the credit crunch in the Arab Gulf states and mounting concerns that the banking system would not soon recover from the blow. Days after I returned from Beirut, my host, Rania Abouzeid, came to stay with me in Dubai in a desperate attempt to fly to Tunisia, where flights were almost entirely grounded amid an uprising across the country. It was hard to imagine then that the desperate act of this young man not only set in motion a revolution in his country, but around across the region.

Jan. 27, 2011: me and Rania Abouzeid heading to Cairo (at 3am -- ughhh!!!)

On January 14, 2011, following a month of violent protests against his rule, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – Tunisia’s president since 1987 — was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia along with his wife and their three children.  A week later, Rania and I were on a flight to Cairo where calls for a revolution had begun to circulate on social media websites. They were days I will never forget, and with TIME Magazine’s 2011 Person of the Year issue being dedicated this year to The Protester, I want to share with you all a few memories and photos of the protesters I met in Cairo this year. (Click here to read some of my stories on the Arab Spring)

On January 27, two days after the protests officially begun, Internet and mobile phone service was completely cut off in Egypt and we were left guessing where crowds were gathering. After trying a few spots around town, Rania and I decided to go toward the Mohendiseen neighborhood near the Moustafa Mahmoud mosque. It was a good guess! About 500 protesters had gathered after Friday prayers where they came face to face with riot police chanting slogans like “The people want the end of the regime” and “Hosni Mubarak: illegitimate.”

We began to march, with the intention of going toward Tahrir Square. (Rania and I were quickly separated in the crowd and were each forced to continue reporting on our own). Weaving through side streets and alleys in the Cairo neighborhood, people watched us from balconies, throwing bottles of water, garlic and onions, and bottles of vinegar – all simply remedies for tear gas inhalation, because everyone knew what lie ahead.  The longer we marched, the more the crowd swelled, with protesters called on those people in their homes not to be afraid.
Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama
Jan 27: Protesters Near Moustafa Mahmoud Mosque/Photo by Vivian SalamaS

Sure enough, we were quickly confronted by tanks and soldiers firing tear gas at the crowd. I’ve never seen so much camaraderie in my life. Soldiers at a nearby military hospital threw medical masks at the protesters and pharmacists handed them out to the crowds. At one point I felt quite ill from the tear gas. A man approached from behind me and pressed a vinegar-covered mask against my mouth and nose. A nearby vendor (who probably struggles to feed his own family with the pennies he earns) emptied his refrigerator, handing out water bottles and cans of soda to the fatigued protesters.

Every where I looked, people were helping each other, helping strangers tie their masks, sharing water bottles, aiding those who were most affected by the gas.

There was one point, marching with the crowd from Mohendiseen, when we approached a major intersection and I heard roaring cheers. I jumped up on a car to see what had happened and was personally overcome by emotion. From three different directions, massive groups of protesters were approaching the intersection – the other groups coming from as far as Giza and the Nasr City. They did this without Internet or mobile phones.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Groups of young men pushed to the front of the crowd and began to battle riot police, taking over their vehicles and chasing them away. Our group, now numbered in the hundreds of thousands, pushed slowly across the historic Qasr El Nil bridge in an attempt to move into Tahrir. There were moments when I worried that an attack by the military would trigger a stampede – we were stuffed tightly onto the bridge. But every time protesters began to push back, the young men in the crowd would grab the women in the crowd and push them against the bridge railing so to protect them from being knocked down.

photo by Vivian Salama

Some were more prepared than others!! Cairo Jan. 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

It was a long night with protesters burning the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters and battling with soldiers in Tahrir. Riot police trucks were set on fire (and the Semiramis Hotel, where many journalists took refuge) was partially on fire for part of the evening. I was trapped in Tahrir for the night and forced to take a last minute room at the Semiramis. I woke up early the next morning to a different Cairo, where charred military tanks stood in the middle of Tahrir Square and smoke billowed from the NDP headquarters and, sadly, from the adjacent National Museum. It would take another two weeks (only!) to overthrow Hosni Mubarak but that first Friday was by far the most memorable. There is an Arabic expression that often refers to the Egyptian people as being “light blooded” (light hearted/good senses of humor). They definitely showed their spirit throughout the frustrating 19 days (and 30 years) it took to shake up their political system.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

Photo by Vivian Salama

Tahrir Square, January 28, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

me in Tahrir (late January 2011)

I visited Bahrain in the weeks that followed and I spent a lot of time covering the uprisings in Yemen and, less so, the ongoing crisis in Syria. After years of battling misguided stereotypes of terrorism and violence, these protesters have showed the world that they desire freedom and a decent standard of living and they have the right to demand it just as those in Europe and the US demand of their governments.

The Tunisians, Egyptians and all the other citizens around the world fighting for democracy have a very long and bumpy road ahead.  The TIME Magazine Person of the Year issue questions whether there is a global tipping point for frustration. I believe what happened this year is, in large part, because of overpopulation and because of the global economic slowdown touched societies rich and poor – but toppled those that were already on the brink before markets crash. The world is smaller than ever thanks to the Internet and various technologies that allow us to share experiences with people on opposite corners of the world. As we continue to get closer, and the world, smaller, it will become impossible to distance ourselves from even the most seemingly remote events.

Photo by Vivian Salama

Cairo, January 27, 2011/Photo by Vivian Salama

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The Love Network: New Coptic TV Channel ‘Aghapy’ Hits the Airwaves

Posted by vmsalama on June 9, 2005

TBS Journal – June 2005
By Vivian Salama

An elderly man lays bedridden in his lower middle-class home in Shoubra, a largely Christian neighborhood near the heart of Cairo. Paralyzed for some 14 years following an injury to his spine, the man rarely leaves his home, as doing so has become an unbearable hassle. Until recently, this misfortunate Egyptian has been isolated from many of the experiences in life he once cherished: going to work, driving a car, praying at church. Then, he received word that his dreams would soon be realized.


Father Bishoy El-Antony with an
Aghapy TV microphone.

“My prayers have been answered,” the man wrote in a letter sent to Father Bishoy El-Antony, director of the new Aghapy Coptic television network, which launched in October 2005. “For the first time in years, I will see my church, hear its liturgy, feel its blessing–everything but smell the incense.”

For millions of Coptic Christians around the world, their own television network represents a major milestone. Copts, considered the largest religious minority in Egypt, make up approximately 12.5 percent of the country’s 72 million inhabitants. Another two million live in diaspora throughout the world. Two new Coptic channels will target both of these groups, marking an important step for a minority denomination which prides itself on its orthodox ways.

“We need to identify ourselves,” El-Antony explains. “We need to spread our feeling, to identify the problems of the country, our problems as Copts. We have to have a voice.”

Currently broadcasting out of Egypt on secondary satellite networks are a number of Islamic programs, which generally revolve around the teachings of the Qu’ran, stories about the Prophet Mohammed as well as programs teaching youth the ways of Islam. There also are Christian based networks, the majority of which broadcast from outside Egypt.“We are witnessing and living in a television culture,” explains Ibrahim Saleh, a media expert and journalism professor at the American University in Cairo. “Morality is the name of the game — identifying this greater aura about the religion and trying to reach out to followers of this religion.”“We have a motto that if we are not on air, we are not on earth,” adds Bishop Moussa, who presides over the church’s youth affairs. “This is the language of this age.”

Coptic officials say that for some 15 years now, church patriarch Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria, Egypt, and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, has tried to contact the Egyptian Ministry of Information in hopes of establishing a network for his followers. The attempts were ignored.

Currently, NileSat, the primary satellite provider in Egypt and across the Arab world, broadcasts one Coptic mass a week on its government-run cultural events channel, but Coptic leaders say it is not enough. They need their own channel.“We take a stand on a number of issues but they are not declared around the world in the best way,” says Moussa. “This channel is a way to declare our stand on certain issues and educate our people everywhere in the world. You can reach them in their homes all over the world.”Pope Shenouda decided the time was right to establish such a channel as a private network and in early 2005, the groundwork was laid for not one, but two Coptic networks, each through completely different sources.

“I’m not surprised it has taken so long,” admits Saleh. “Part of it is a matter of financing and arrangement, starting something that could work. This is a liberal modernized approach to religion.”

Aghapy TV

Copt-Sat

The first, CoptSat, directed by Bishop Marcos, developed through efforts by the Coptic Council of Bishops to establish programming for its followers around the world. Financed exclusively through private donations and church contributions, CoptSat has begun developing programs addressing the core issues facing the Coptic community, both in their spiritual and private lives. “Programming needs money and time,” says Marcos. “I cannot have something baring the name of the Coptic Church that turns out weak.” The only way to raise money, the Bishops concurred, was to begin their broadcasting–not in Egypt–but via cable providers in the United States. Marcos estimates that with a target audience of at least 100 thousand families in the United States, CoptSat would charge a monthly service fee of USD$10. This adds up to some $1 million per month. The monthly fees to the cable provider will cost approximately $50,000. The rest goes to programming–four hours worth, to be exact–employee salaries, equipment, maintenance, and eventually, to international broadcasting. In Egypt, broadcasts would air on Sat7, a channel already airing a number of Lebanese Christian programs, such as Al-Hayat (Life), and Moagiza (Miracle).

“To move on from America to Egypt and all the other countries in the world, I will pay $30,000 more,” says Marcos, who offered no approximate timeline for when CoptSat would officially take to the airwaves. “I want to encourage the people and tell them, anyone who wishes to watch the network should pay EGP 1 per month. And we will ask churches to pitch in and pay EGP 10, monthly. It is for the channel, the people should have a wish to make it better.”

Aghapy Network

Meanwhile, a separate, completely private effort was underway to establish another Coptic network. Under the auspices and private funding of Bishop Botrous, and with the help of Father Bishoy El-Antony, the Aghapy network, which derives its name from the Coptic word for “love,” began transmitting promotions for their up-and-coming network. With sophisticated, graphics-heavy promos depicting images of Coptic life in Egypt already on the airwaves, editors rushed to complete some 80 hours of programming in anticipation of Aghapy’s kickoff on November 14.

For decades, the Copts in Egypt have established themselves through print media. Kerazza magazine, which is distributed to Copts worldwide, serves as a newsletter on spiritual life and church affairs.Watany newspaper, which circulates in Egypt, focuses on more political issues, but does touch heavily upon Coptic affairs. As for the Coptic networks, church officials say their focus will be on reinforcing the faith of the church’s followers, and not converting or criticizing those of other religions.

“We’re not going to be involved in Anti-Islamic subjects or in political items,” explains Moussa. “This is a religious, pastoral, educational, expression of our views, of Coptic life. It’s not the goal to convert others to our religion. We want to maintain good relations with everyone.”

Like CoptSat, Aghapy also will begin its run by broadcasting exclusively to American audiences in English and Arabic, with the hope of going international within a few months. According to Father Bishoy, the channel will use low-budget production methods: Talk shows, on topics like women and the family will be taped from the living rooms of church members and staff members will then edit the programs, adding graphics and music. Then, according to Bishoy, the tapes will either be mailed or hand delivered to the TeleStar broadcasting center in the United States. TeleStar, an American satellite company, will then air previously taped programs shot and edited by Aghapy’s mostly volunteer staff.

Aghapy programming includes liturgies from Coptic churches around the world, Bible studies, Coptic language classes, biblical cartoons and programs for children and discussion groups. Father Bishoy does not concern himself too much with costs, saying private donations–both monetary and equipment–have covered the channel’s minimal expenses.

“We didn’t change anything; we didn’t change our prayers, our liturgy,” explains Father Bishoy. “So like any other faith, our followers need to be cared for, and we want to give them this care through our channel. If we wait any longer than we have, all the other channels will take over what should be our viewers.”

Posted in Arabic, Coptic, Egypt, Television | 1 Comment »