Commemoration of the fourth anniversary of Maspero

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Today we remember the 4th anniversary of this great crime, the martyrs, the injured and their families. It is a painful anniversary for up to 500 people who were injured and the families of the 27 Coptic Christians (all males) who were massacred. We will never forget the Maspero Massacre and we hope that this case may be seriously addressed.

On 9 October 2011, a tragic and regrettable incident took place in Egypt. Coptic Christians exercising their inalienable and fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association were the subject of brutality by renegade armed forces and rogue police officers who were supposed to defend and protect them. The sordid images of army tanks attempting to run over beleaguered and unarmed peaceful protestors sent shockwaves through the Coptic diaspora. Those images remain burned in the memory and consciousness of Coptic Christians.

In the aftermath of that infamous incident, the Coptic community in Egypt was gripped with anxiety about its uncertain future. The relationship between the State and the Coptic Christian minority deteriorated under the former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The State’s incapacity to protect the Cathedral of St Mark in Cairo, the most sacred place in Coptic Christianity, from attack while a funeral procession took place exemplified the cascading relationship between the Egyptian State and the largest ethno-religious minority in the Middle East and North Africa.

Fortunately, the Coptic Christian community in Egypt has seen demonstrable improvements in its relationship with the State since the election of President al-Sisi. The Egyptian President has stressed the unity of Egyptians and has been steadfast in his opposition to fundamentalists who seek to divide Egypt. In an unprecedented and historic event, the Egyptian President visited the Cathedral of St Mark during Coptic Christmas celebrations in 2015 to offer his well-wishes to the Coptic community. Following the barbaric beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by ISIL in Libya this year, the Egyptian President denounced the savagery of ISIL, labelled the incident an attack on all Egyptians, declared a seven-day mourning period, and swiftly retaliated.

Those events are illustrative of the improved relationship between the State and the Coptic Christian minority. Notwithstanding this commendable progress, there still remains much to be done. The case of Mariam Malak demonstrates this. The Egyptian authorities’ position that Mariam Malak scored zero in all her final exams belies the fact that history unequivocally illustrates that Mariam Malak is an exceptional and conscientious student. The Egyptian authorities’ basis for their position is unconvincing and simply beggars belief. The Australian Coptic Movement Association hopes that this blatant injustice is rectified swiftly and that Egyptians who are in a similar position to Mariam receive justice, regardless of their creed.

The Australian Coptic Movement Association hopes that the relationship between the Egyptian State and the Coptic community continues to improve and that the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance pervades the Egyptian nation. We believe that Egypt has enormous potential. However, this potential can only be realised when Egyptians are united not divided, individuals are given the opportunity to develop and harness their talents, and Egypt embraces an economic system that encourages and rewards human enterprise, innovation and ingenuity. In that respect, the Egypt Economic Development Conference held earlier this year in Sharm-el-Shiekh is promising. Of course, the desirable objective is to see Egypt blossom into a prosperous democratic nation that is built on the core values of the rule of law and the observance of fundamental human rights. We hope that one day this will materialise. However, this objective can only feasibly be achieved through incremental and gradual progress over time.

At present, the Middle East and North Africa is going through a tumultuous period. It is heartbreaking to see that, in various areas in this region, ethno-religious minorities and others have been forcibly driven out of their homeland for hundreds of years. It is soul-destroying to hear of nightmarish stories of people, regardless of ethnicity or creed, dying or having their bodily integrity violated in the cruelest of ways. It is gut-wrenching to see the large-scale humanitarian crisis ravaging this region, which is affecting individuals regardless of ethnicity or creed. In that respect, the Australian Coptic Movement Association commends the Australian Government’s policy, announced under former Prime Minister Abbott and which continues under Prime Minister Turnbull, of increasing its humanitarian intake to take 12,000 Syrian refugees in fulfillment of its international law obligations.

Notwithstanding, it behoves members of the international community to work together for the common good and find a solution, lest the humanitarian crisis becomes intractable and the incessant violence inexorable. Further delays in arriving at a solution will exacerbate an already damning situation. To adopt a time-immemorial expression, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. The people hardest hit by the turmoil engulfing certain regions of the Middle East and North Africa cannot afford any more delays. Time is of the essence.

The Australian Coptic Movement Association

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