Claremont Graduate University Hosts 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies: July 25-July 30

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200 scholars from six continents will converge on the campus of Claremont Graduate University (CGU) for an event honoring the scholarly contributions of one of the oldest civilizations in existence

“The last time the Congress was held in America was in 1992 in Washington, D.C. Having the Congress here with us marks a wonderful milestone for our university’s long relationship with the Coptic community and its scholars.” -- S. Michael Saad

Some 200 scholars from six continents will converge on the campus of Claremont Graduate University (CGU) for the 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies from July 25 through July 30­­ — an event honoring the scholarly contributions of one of the oldest civilizations in existence. Today, the Copts­­ — Christian Egyptians — comprise the largest Christian community in the Middle East, with more than 9 million Copts living in Egypt, and another million estimated to be practicing their faith in the United States and countries including Canada, Australia, France, Germany, and Africa.

“This is a tremendous honor for CGU,” said S. Michael Saad, chair of the university’s Council for Coptic Studies and managing editor of the digitized Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia. “The last time the Congress was held in America was in 1992 in Washington, DC. Having the Congress here with us marks a wonderful milestone for our university’s long relationship with the Coptic community and its scholars.”

The week-long 11th Congress has been organized by the International Association for Coptic Studies and co-hosted by CGU with the St. Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society (SSACS). Held every four years in major cities around the world, the Congress brings together leading scholars for a series of panel discussions and presentations related to Gnostic texts, artwork, and other Coptic contributions to our understanding of early Christianity.

Plans for the current Congress also include a combined exhibit of manuscripts and artifacts from the Museum of the Bible (MOTB) collection (formerly known as the Green Collection of Oklahoma City), as well as medieval Egyptian manuscripts, both Coptic and Christian Arabic, from the SSACS collection. A tribute to the pioneers of Coptic Studies at CGU — Professor James Robinson and the late Ernest Tune — also has been set.

The Coptic Church is based on the teachings of Saint Mark, who brought Christianity to Egypt during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century. While Christianity disappeared completely in some regions, it has survived for more than 19 centuries in Egypt under Islamic dynasties. Its ancient roots put it on par with Chinese or Indian civilizations, and makes Coptic culture vital for understanding the ancient world, or any of the modern institutions it has influenced.

CGU has served as a home for Coptic studies for nearly 50 years, providing substantial resources including:

  • A world center for the translation of Coptic manuscripts and codices.
  • An expansion of its Coptic Studies program to encompass language, literature, art, history, Bible, liturgy, monasticism, and diaspora.
  • Publication rights to the digital Coptic Encyclopedia, with the online Claremont Coptic Encyclopedia now receiving an average of 50,000 article views per month, ranking CGU among the few universities to support an active Coptic website of such historical significance.

CGU’s relationship with the Coptic Orthodox Church includes visits and lectures of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III in 1977 and 1989, Bishop Serapion in 2008, and Bishop Yousef in 2009.

In October 2015, CGU welcomed His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, to Claremont to celebrate a new partnership between the university and the Saint Athanasius and Saint Cyril Coptic Orthodox Theological School (ACTS). The partnership enables CGU and ACTS to share academic resources and collaborate on events. It also extends educational opportunities at CGU for ACTS students and graduates.

CGU’s Department of Religion is a home for the rigorous academic study of the Coptic religion and culture. ACTS aims to train both Coptic Orthodox clergy and scholars of Coptic Orthodox tradition.

For a listing of CGU courses in Coptic studies, visit: http://cgu.edu/pages/6860.asp

For more information on the 11th International Congress of Coptic Studies, visit: http://www.cgu.edu/pages/11831.asp

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Nicholas Owchar
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