POLITICIANS of all shades gathered yesterday, united in their hope that the Arab Spring that brought freedom and liberty to swaths of the Middle East does not yield a winter of savagery and persecution for Egypt’s minority Copts.Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Chris Bowen received rousing cheers from supporters who gathered in a central Sydney park yesterday.
Along with opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, former minister Philip Ruddock, Labor MP Ed Husic and a host of state politicians, the Opposition Leader and Mr Bowen joined protesters in condemning the killing of 24 Coptic Christians following a clash with Egyptian security forces earlier this month.
“We stand with you not as Labor or Liberal politicians, but as Australians,” Mr Bowen told the crowd. “We share your grief today.”
Mr Bowen said 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 in freedom, regardless of their religion, regardless of their beliefs.”Mr Abbott said he was honoured to share the grief of Australia’s 100,000-strong Coptic community and “to speak out loud and clear and strong for the universal decencies of mankind”.
“It is an outrage what has happened to your community,” he said. “It is an outrage which should cry out to heaven for rectification.”
Mr Abbott called on the government to set aside a set number of places each year in Australia’s humanitarian program for Copts fleeing persecution, as the Howard government had done.