THE head of Australia’s 70,000 Coptic Christians, Bishop Suriel, yesterday urged Canberra to expel the Egyptian ambassador following the massacre of 24 Copts in Cairo.
The leader of 50 Australian churches said the bright hopes for the Arab Spring had turned sour as the 12 million-strong Coptic community in Egypt suffered increasing attacks.
“On Sunday, peaceful demonstrators were crushed by the tanks of the army that is supposed to protect them,” he said in Melbourne, flanked by 15 priests.
He said that as news of the killings broke, he received dozens of phone calls “from people feeling very vulnerable, asking me to do something about the plight of our brothers and sisters in Egypt”.
The bishop said churches had been attacked or knocked down this year in cities throughout Egypt, and Christians shot dead.
Calling for the Egyptian consuls-general in Melbourne and Sydney to be expelled as well as the ambassador, Bishop Suriel said: “They have not called once to express their sympathy, but have done the opposite. They don’t represent us any more.”
The bishop said he had earlier had a “very positive” meeting with Kevin Rudd. He hoped the Foreign Minister would now expel the Egyptian ambassador, and “make a public statement condemning the atrocity” on Sunday.
“We have come here to Australia and have been given full rights and freedom to worship. Why can’t we do that in Egypt? Why do we suffer vicious attacks?”
He said he hoped “this does not end up in sectarian strife between Copts and Muslims, or between the government and Copts”.
He said the Coptic Church’s synod was due to meet in Cairo today to consider the killings.