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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 779


Mr GEORGANAS (1:11 PM) —Madam Deputy Speaker, I thank you for assisting me to be able to make this speech today. We have all seen the events in Egypt over the last month unfold before our eyes and on our TVs. We saw the people power of many young people, it seems, standing up for what they believe is right. This is inspirational in some ways, in no small part because of the known risk that these protesters took in challenging the established authority, the risk of beatings, imprisonment and even torture and death if they did not succeed. We have heard accounts of the protesters who knew that, if their revolution did not succeed, their lives would be in peril. If the established order continued to rule as it had, those protesters knew to expect the police force to quietly round them up, tracking them down through their communities and by other means in the months following the protests. Life and liberty were truly in the balance. As it happened, the protesters were successful in removing the old order. Those who expressed their desire to live with dignity, with their voice being heard, without fear or reprisal; those who said that oppression could not last; those who said that the abuse of civil liberties was totally unacceptable—those people have much to look forward to.

But hundreds of thousands of Coptic Orthodox Christian Egyptians who have similarly endured the absence of human rights, who have been intimidated, have been beaten, have had private property destroyed and have even been gunned down in public for no other reason than exercising their religion, may not be as optimistic as many others over the last few weeks. Those who have fought and won under the banner of democracy and human rights must honour their victory by acknowledging and actively supporting the most fundamental of modern democratic tenets, the equal status of all citizens under the law.

I have spoken before in this place on this subject. I have spoken on behalf of the fears and outrage of the Coptic Orthodox Christians living in and around my electorate of Hindmarsh and those further afield who are concerned by the persecution of Coptic Christians that has taken place in Egypt. Father Philoppos Y Boghdadi of Adelaide’s St Mary and Anba Bishoy Coptic Orthodox Church, in my electorate, and his congregation have had their representations to me echoed by media reports of almost unbelievable acts of violence upon their fellow Coptic Christians in Egypt. Any of us has been able to read of whole congregations—as we have heard previous speakers speak about—being attacked while worshipping in their churches and being put under siege by criminals hell-bent on slaughtering as many Coptic Christian Egyptians as they can. We saw during Christmas time the events that took place in Alexandria. Just before the Egyptian protests, the trial of one such murderous person had come to its conclusion. The crime in question was one of the very, very few that have gone all the way through the criminal justice system to conviction. Usually there has been no justice, there has been no application of law and there has been an absolute dearth of order.

So I would like through this motion for the parliament to acknowledge the atrocities that have taken place in Egypt against the Coptic Orthodox Christians over the years. I would like this parliament to acknowledge that Christianity within Egypt has been grounds in many Egyptians’ minds for acute discrimination and nonobservance of human rights. As I said, I hope this parliament, through this and subsequent discussions and communications, communicates its support for the democratic, peaceful change that has been instigated by protestors to continue and to apply for the benefit of all Egyptians irrespective of their ethnicity, their gender or, especially in this case, their religion. I too join with others in this House and with the government in condemning the killings that have taken place over Christmas and at other times against the Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt. We know that the Christian community in Egypt is one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. In fact, monastic life was first founded in Egypt, in St Anthony’s monastery—which still exists today. (Time expired)