I have been podcasting for 10 years. Through my podcast community, I have met Coptic university students in the US who struggle spiritually. They stopped attending liturgy and withdrew from the community as a whole. They often felt anxious and pressured due to the cultural differences between the Church and US society more broadly. But they still believed in Our Lord Jesus Christ.
I felt that God wanted me to help them and introduced them to me for a reason. The probability of me meeting these Copts was incredibly slim. I listened to their troubles and prayed with them every Sunday. Their concerns and their detachment from the Coptic community was largely due to the fact that they did not feel included. Some did not like how the liturgy contained little English and that it primarily catered to their first-generation Egyptian Parents. Others said it was because they did not enjoy speaking to clergy out of a fear of being judged, especially if the topic was ‘taboo’ and not widely spoken about in the Coptic Community.
One Sunday, after liturgy, I was approached by a servant to teach Sunday School. I felt inadequate and unworthy to teach the next generation of Copts, so I prayed about it. During one of my weekly online check-ins with these American Copts, one of the lads asked: “You are a podcaster, right? Why don’t you start a Coptic podcast?”
After a lot of research on the Coptic podcast scene, I noticed that, while there were many, they did not focus on the issues that youth wanted to discuss. These podcasts mainly consisted of Sunday sermons (mostly in Arabic). Originally, the Copt Cast was designed to be a supplement to Sunday School programming for students who missed a lesson. I designed the podcast in such a way that it may receive approval from my church and Diocese. However, I found that the people I was in conversation with did not go to Sunday School nor attend church. I had to find a way to cater to them. Back to the drawing board I went. I had to find a simpler and more inclusive solution.
I revisited a podcast that I had put together in 2010, which focused on giving spiritual advice while remaining rooted in secular concerns. I decided to take it apart and re-work it into Copt Cast. My primary concern was that many of the topics I wanted to cover, and that youth wanted to discuss, may be viewed as inappropriate by their parents. These topics included: dating, depression and suicide.
I continued to research and analyzed existing Coptic media production, often comparing them to popular Christian Podcasts in the EU and North America. I was blessed to find a podcast run by Jonathan Adly for the non-profit Coptic Voice. I reached out to them for advice and they responded with a provocative question: “What do you want from this podcast?”
I wanted people to listen. Especially, I sought to target members of the Church in the West who may feel disconnected from the community. I created this podcast for Copts who have problems that they hesitate to discuss with their parish priests or families, and who feel ashamed or are concerned that no one will understand what they are going through.
This is what drives the Copt Cast. But what’s up with that weird logo and the selection of music in the background of each episode?
Most Coptic podcasts have hymnology in the background. I, however, did not want this podcast to feel as if we were in the middle of Tasbeha (Praise). Hymns would be rather jarring, especially given the range of topics to be discussed on the podcast.
I named the podcast Copt Cast because I happen to be Coptic and episodes focus on issues important to Coptic youth. I welcome listeners of other denominations as well and feel that many of the topics are relatable to most people, Christian or otherwise. In all, I sought to be inclusive.
I designed the logo for a similar reason. I live in the UK, where the main religion is Christianity and the dominant denomination is Anglican (Church of England/Church of Scotland). However, many are becoming more secular, and if you ever have the pleasure of speaking to us Brits, I recommend avoiding politics, religion and income. Religion especially is a sore topic and quite divisive.
When designing the Logo, I looked to avoid exclusive imagery and took a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture. Having worked with a lot of Japanese companies, I have grown to appreciate their language, culture and history. I was particularly inspired by the Kakure Christians, a group of hidden Christians who continued to practice their faith underground and in secret, away from the governing Tokugawa Shogunate (Edo Period, 1600-1868). To disguise themselves, they created statues of the Virgin Mary that resembled the Buddhist Deity Kannon and adapted their prayers to sound similar to Buddhist chants. I love a good history lesson! The Copt Cast logo aims for inclusivity by similarly adapting. It is designed in a way to welcome all and not be only a Christian Podcast.
The Copt Cast is five to ten minutes and is published weekly. It focuses on what youth want to discuss and I want to talk about. Sometimes I focus on my own life experiences because I owe it to the listeners to be forthright and honest. Telling my story and struggles may also help listeners grow with me. The way I see it, we are all human and imperfect. If I can share my experiences in a way that can potentially help or inspire someone, then I am all in.
I also bring a lot of my own interests into the podcast. As I release more episodes in the coming weeks, you will see that more and more. In some episodes, I will use analogies to Japanese art forms to support a point I’m making or refer to a certain Anime, discussing the Christian themes and what we may learn. Fun fact: there are a lot of us Anime fans in Coptic communities!
The podcast is just starting out and much is still in development. I can’t really say what the future holds. However, hopefully we can build this podcast together. Let’s get more people listening! I take a personal approach and encourage all to have difficult conversations about every topic in a safe space with their loved ones.
If I haven’t bored you to death, consider subscribing to Copt Cast for FREE on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. I also like reading emails! Please fill out the contact form with a suggested topic and I will aim to cover it in an episode.
The CCHP is always looking for people to contribute to our digital initiatives. Please contact theCCHP@gmail.com if you would like to support the Project.
Bishoy Fakhouri, friendly neigbourhood Podcaster and Founder of Copt Cast.