On 23 October 2011, thousands of Sydney’s Coptic community gathered in a show of solidarity following the callous massacre of 25 Coptic Christian protesters by the Egyptian Military and armed “thugs” in Maspero, Egypt.
His Grace Bishop Suriel addressed the crowd challenging the leaders of the Egyptian caretaker government to “be men” and put an end to the ongoing persecution and discrimination of Christians.
A raft of politicians from both sides of politics were in attendance to show their support, along with other clergy and Church leaders from various denominations.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen extended the government’s condolences to the Coptic community. “We stand with you … we share your grief, we share your upset, we share your concerns,” Mr Bowen said. He then added, “the routing of tyranny and dictatorships in the Middle East had all too often been followed by violence and despair. Today we say: Let Egypt be different. Let Egypt shine the way forward for other countries in the Middle East. Let Egypt be a nation which gives all members of its community the right to live infreedom, regardless of their religion, regardless of their beliefs.”
Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott described the attack as an “outrage” – “It is an outrage what has happened to your community, it is an outrage which should cry out to heaven for rectification.” He continued, “May the people of Egypt come to see the tragedy the other week not just as a crime against Christians but as a crime against Islam too – no true religion can contemplate this kind of horror.” Referring to the open immigration policy of the Australian Government for Coptic Christians fleeing Egypt under the Howard Government and Mr Ruddock’s ministerial leadership, Mr Abbott said, “we did it then, we’ll do it again”.
Federal Member Craig Kelly, read out to the crowd an excerpt of his speech to the House of Representatives following the unanimous passing of his private member’s bill regarding the persecuted Copts of Egypt. A motion mirroring the same terms as Mr Kelly’s motion to the House of Representatives was also passed unanimously in the NSW State Parliament after being introduced into the NSW Legislative Council by the Rev Hon. Fred Nile.
Referring to that motion, Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, challenged the Labour Government to act on the motion they had passed, despite having voted it down when she had earlier tried to pass a similar motion in June.
Among the dignitaries included former Minister Philip Ruddock, Shadow Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, Parliamentary Secretary for Justice, David Clarke – representing the Premier Barry O’Farrell, Labour MP Ed Husic and Labour Member of the Legislative Council, Amanda Fazio. The Rev. Fred Nile, national leader of the Christian Democratic Party, was also in attendance, despite his difficult personal circumstances.
The Australian Coptic Movement (ACM) thanks all who “stood up for Egypt’s Copts” in a united stand of solidarity.
The international community cannot stand idly by, while the Egyptian Military continues to threaten and murder Coptic Christians in cold blood. The cost for Copts is far too great. Egypt is fast becoming a fundamentalist Islamic State to the exclusion of Christians, and moderate Muslims – hardly the “Revolution”, that both Christians and Muslims fought so hard for. The need for foreign intervention to end this downward spiral is the only foreseeable solution to this humanitarian disaster.
The ACM will monitor the Australian Government to ensure it implements the actions set out in the motions passed. The ACM will also continue to lobby both Australian and international bodies for the change that Egypt’s indigenous Coptic Christians desperately have been waiting (and dying) for.