ACM responds to enquiries regarding Martin Place event held on 22 Feb 2015

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During and following this event, the ACM received numerous enquiries from Members of Parliament, other denominations and event attendees regarding the notable absence of any representatives from the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney.

We refer to the Australian Coptic Movement Association (ACM) event honouring the 21 Coptic Martyrs of Libya – “Stand for the People of the Cross”, held at Martin Place on Sunday 22nd of February 2015. During and following this event, the ACM received numerous enquiries from Members of Parliament, other denominations and event attendees regarding the notable absence of any representatives from the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney.

To our understanding, the Diocese of Sydney had decided not to attend the event as it feared potential reprisal attacks. The Diocese also flagged the political nature of the event as a concern. These issues were communicated by the Sydney Diocese to an ACM representative during a meeting held the night before the event. This decision was contrary to the Sydney Diocese’s previous assurances to the ACM of its full blessings and support to proceed with the event. In fact, a statement from the Sydney Diocese supporting ACM’s event was circulated by email and text only hours before the meeting held on the eve of the event.

Recently, we received a copy of a letter issued by the Diocese of Sydney to all Clergy on Saturday 21 February 2015 (the night before the event) instructing them not to attend the ACM’s event (copy attached).

In that letter, the Diocese states that the reason for its prohibition of clergy attendance was due to the belief that the event “has a political connotation and is not in line with church teachings”. This is notwithstanding the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney’s open engagement in various political activities on a regular basis.

The ACM would like understand how the Diocese came to the conclusion that our peaceful and prayerful event was “not in line with Church teachings”. We note that the Coptic Church across the world has taken similar action to bring the plight of Coptic Christians to the attention of their respective Governments and media. We also note that His Holiness, Pope Tawadros II has been particularly vocal in the need for a strong stance against the evil perpetrated by ISIS.

The ACM is a not-for-profit organisation that is run by a committed group of young volunteers, whose sole objective is to be a ‘voice for the voiceless’. We were pleased that, by the Grace of God, the “Stand for the People of the Cross” was widely reported by the media, including in major news reports SBS, ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald. (Click this link for a full report of the event: (http://www.auscma.com/2015/02/stand-for-the-people-of-the-cross-acm-honours-the-21-coptic-martyrs-of-libya/). The ACM, in collaboration with COPTS Inc, was also able to raise funds to support the families of the 21 Martyrs on the day.

Whilst we were grateful for the attendance of several representatives from the Anglican, Protestant and Catholic Churches who also lead prayers on the day, we were disappointed and disheartened that our own Church leaders did not participate – and in some Churches, members of the congregation were encouraged not to attend.

We humbly request the Diocese of Sydney to clarify its reasons for prohibiting Coptic Clergy from participating in the event. We will continue respecting and praying for our leaders and we pray that the peace of our LORD will guide us all.

In Christ,

The ACM team.

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