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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1014

Mr CRAIG KELLY (4:26 PM) —On 7 January this year I attended a very sombre church service. What should have been a time of celebration had become a time of mourning. The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney, in place of their Christmas celebrations, held a condolence service to honour the innocent victims of a terrorist atrocity in their homeland in Egypt. On New Year’s Eve at least 23 people were killed in this attack on the Coptic people, this time targeting the Saints church in Alexandria, Egypt. Many, many more were left injured.

The Sydney service was led by Father Tadros Simon of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese and was attended by representatives of all Coptic parishes in Sydney, as well as the broader Christian community, including Canon David Claydon of St Andrew’s Cathedral, the Reverend John Nammour of the Arabic Baptist Church of Guildford and representatives of the Uniting, Maronite and Armenian churches, the National Council of Churches and many others. Never before had I attended a church service under such tight security, requiring police protection. To have to attend a church service in our country under police guard is not the Australian way of life and underscores the terrorist threat that the Copts face in Egypt and around the world—and apparently now also here in Australia.

The horrific incident that led to this service was unfortunately not an isolated attack on the Copts. Indeed, this attack has taken place within a pattern of continued violence towards and persecution of Egypt’s Christian minority. My experience of the condolence service at St Mary’s and St Mina’s Cathedral was that, beyond the deep sorrow felt by the Coptic community and all those in attendance, there was a deep resentment towards the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs for their failure to personally condemn the attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority.

The events of this year followed a similar tragic pattern to 2010, when my friend the member for Cook made the following statement on 11 March after the Christmas Eve shooting at the Nag Hammadi cathedral in Egypt. He said:

We also call upon the Australian government to end their silence and join the calls of the international community in expressing our concern as Australians over the recent violence and continued repression of religious freedom in Egypt …

By once again failing to act, Australia finds itself out of step with international opinion, with the likes of President Obama, Pope Benedict, the European parliament and many others immediately condemning these recent attacks of terrorism against the Coptic people. While our parliament seems set to condemn the attack, the failure of our Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs to do so leaves me wondering why. (Time expired)