NSW Parliament: Rev Hon Fred Nile speech on Coptic Persecution

Fred Nile speech Copts March 2016

The Rev. Hon Fred Nile MLC of The Christian Democratic Party has highlighted concerns regarding ongoing difficulties faced by Coptic Christians in Egypt despite a Coptic-Friendly president. Rev Nile recently celebrated his 35th year anniversary in NSW Parliament. The event was attended by many members of the Coptic Church and Coptic community. We thank Rev Nile for his ongoing support to our community including his involvement in saving the historic Coptic Church at Sydenham from demolition

Speakers Nile Reverend The Hon Fred
Business Adjournment, ADJ
House Legislative Council (Upper House)
Date 22 March 2016

PERSECUTION OF COPTIC CHRISTIANS

Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [10.46 p.m.]: Tonight I will speak about Islamic terrorism and persecution. The world was shocked by the attacks in Paris last year for the complete absence of mercy and ruthless murder of civilians in wheelchairs. The main ringleader was captured after he fled to Brussels, Belgium. During the gunfight prior to his capture he was wounded in the foot. Tonight in Brussels bombs have exploded in the airport and at a railway station. Is this payback? Originally the media reported that one person was dead, but that number has increased to 25 dead, with no final figures yet released. Europe is now fearful of who will be next.

I am particularly concerned about what I call the human face of terrorism and persecution, the Christians who make up the Coptic Church in Egypt. The Christians in Egypt are facing a new wave of persecution at the hands of Muslim extremists. Human rights groups say the situation in Egypt is on the brink of exploding. While the attacks on Egypt’s Christian community are not on the scale of persecution faced by those in Syria or Iraq, the Coptic Christians are facing renewed persecution and isolation in their own country. A Coptic activist and leader of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms stated:
We are the weaker element in society so if anything happens we will be the first victims.

Further he stated:
You are the target of extremists when no-one is supporting you.

He was referring to the sluggish protection the Christian community receives from the police. While Egyptian President el-Sisi has taken steps to protect the Coptic Christians and has made calls for national unity, many of the latest incidents have occurred not very far from the capital, Cairo. The mix of poverty and limited job prospects there is typical of the social conditions and could trigger the sort of unrest in which the country’s Christians, comprising Orthodox, Catholic and some Protestant members of the faith, become central targets, just as Jews were historically targeted during pogroms.

Not all the people would blame the Copts but many Egyptians have strong negative thoughts towards the Coptic community. A recent incident saw Muslim mobs in the Minya village of Nasreya descend on the homes of five Coptic students, shouting that they had insulted Islam in a video that was circulating among the young people showing the youths praying with their Coptic teacher. In fact, the students had been making fun of ISIS, according to Coptic activists. While police arrested the teacher and detained him for questioning over four days, the Muslim mobs threw rocks at the homes of the youths in a bid to force their parents to hand over their children to the authorities.

Blasphemy is a crime in Egypt, but human rights activists say the authorities have traditionally used the law to persecute minorities, among them Coptic Christians. Often children are detained by the authorities, as are other Christians who have been victims of Muslim assaults. For example, five Coptic children were charged with blasphemy and insulting Islam. There are still open cases where Christians are charged with inciting violence as if they were the perpetrators when they were, in fact, the victims.

It is also reported that a Muslim mob attacked Christians in a Minya village, which had been the home of 13 of the 21 Christians whose murder by ISIS in February was captured in a gruesome video showing them being beheaded on a Libyan beach. The Christians wanted to build a church to honour these 21 martyrs but the Muslim mobs in that area have forced them not to build that church. Let us remember these Coptic Christians in our prayers.

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