Today, the House of Representatives honoured Australia’s commitment to religious freedom with a clear endorsement of a historic private member’s bill addressing the ongoing persecution of the Coptic Christians of Egypt.
On 19 September, Mr Craig Kelly MP, Liberal Federal Member for Hughes moved the following:
That this House:
(1) recognises that Coptic Christians in Egypt are suffering ongoing and increasing persecution;
(2) condemns the recent attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt;
(3) expresses its sympathy for Coptic Christians who have been victims of recent attacks in Egypt; and
(4) calls on the Government to:
(a) issue a public statement condemning the ongoing attacks against the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt;
(b) make immediate representations to the United Nations to end the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt; and
(c) strongly urge the Egyptian Government to provide equal rights and protection for all Egyptian citizens regardless of race or religion.
Speaking to his private member’s bill, Mr Kelly noted that Egypt “is currently experiencing a period of unprecedented transition, the success of which hinges on full respect for the rule of law and compliance with international human rights standards including freedom of religion”.
At 10:00am today, Mr Kelly’s motion was passed by all members of the House.
With approximately 30 Coptic Christians observing proceedings from the Gallery, Mr Kelly acknowledged the presence of His Grace Bishop Suriel, Rev. Father Johnathan Isaac, Rev. Father Gabriel Yassa and former Sutherland Shire Councillor Magdi Mikhail.
In his statement to the House, following the passing of his motion, Mr Kelly referred to the brutal military violence against Coptic Christian demonstrators on 9 October 2011, which left at least 24 dead and at least 270 injured. He stated the motion just passed could not have been more timely. He was right.
Mr Kelly urged members of the House to view videos demonstrating armoured military vehicles ploughing into unarmed Christian protestors, “although graphic and horrific.. to understand the gravity of the situation.”
In an emotional recount of a young Christian woman’s testimony, the House heard of how Miss Vivian Magi, tried to protect her dead fiancé’s body from soldiers after he was run-over an armoured vehicle. She told Egyptian TV:
“His body was in the middle of the wheels. His legs were torn. His head hit the pavement, breaking his skull. Soldiers gathered around us and started to beat him up. I begged them to leave him.. Then a soldier with a red cap came, shouting, cursing and hitting me with a stick then tried to beat him up. I threw my body on him (her fiance) … and the soldier said to me: ‘You infidel, why are you here?’”
Mr Kelly condemned the violence of the military, the very body that was meant to be protecting its civilians. He said that on that fateful day, the army had committed “mass murder” in Cairo. He also referred to the role that Egyptian State television played by instigating the violence, calling on so-called “honest Egyptians” to rush to the defence of the military who were under the attack of Coptic protestors, when in reality, it was the Copts who were being gunned down and beaten.
He spoke to the role of the international community, stating:
“Now is not the time for silence or appeasement from the international community, for as the Copts go so may go the entire Middle East. If a Christian minority cannot live in a country with a Muslim majority population without suffering persecution and institutionalised discrimination our future looks bleak.
…The moderate voices in Egypt must be put on notice in the strongest terms to root out any anti-Christian element in the army and to give equal rights to all Coptic Christians and to ensure their protection.”
The Australian Coptic Movement (ACM) thanks Mr Kelly for voicing the concerns of Australian Coptic Christians and for bringing the plight of the persecuted Christian minority of Egypt to the attention of the Australian Government. After attending a protest held by the ACM earlier this year, Mr Kelly did more than appreciate the extent of ongoing persecution that the Coptic Christians have suffered for decades. He did more than just offer words of sympathy. It is because of his tireless efforts that the result of today’s vote in that Chamber went the way it did.
The ACM also thanks each member of the House of Representatives today for doing the right thing by passing the motion.
The House of Representative’s endorsement of Mr Kelly’s motion sends a clear message to the Egyptian caretaker Government and indeed the world, that Australia does not and will not stand by in silence, whilst innocent Christians are being persecuted for their faith.
The Australian Coptic Movement