Sydney Protests!

Australia’s Coptic Christians are demanding the federal government use diplomacy to pressure Egypt to better protect members of their faith.

About 4,000 Coptics and some Muslim supporters marched on Wednesday in central Sydney, calling on Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd to address the issue, after a bomb blast killed 21 people during a New Year’s Eve Coptic church service in Alexandria, Egypt.

The bombing sparked fears around the world, bringing a heavy police presence to Australian Coptic churches on January 6, when Coptics celebrated Christmas Eve.

Federal and state MPs from both sides of politics attended and spoke at the rally, which kicked off around 11.30am (AEDT) at Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD.


The congregation then marched a short distance to the Sydney offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) to deliver a letter addressed to Mr Rudd.

An Australian Coptic Movement Association (ACMA) spokeswoman said top politicians have yet to enter the debate over the human rights of Egyptian Coptics.

“We understand that Mr Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have not personally issued statements of condemnation,” said the spokeswoman, who asked not to be named for safety reasons.

“We don’t understand why they’re silent and other leaders aren’t.”

The woman said the issue is not a battle between religions.

Egyptian Coptics deserve basic human rights, she said, and should be protected by their government against persecution.

“Too many Christians have died, too many girls have been raped, too many houses have burnt – we really can’t tolerate it anymore,” the spokeswoman said.

“At the end of the day, this isn’t about religion.

“We know plenty of decent Muslims and a lot them were actually here at the rally today.”

Father Suriel from St Antonious and St Paul Coptic Orthodox Church in Guildford, in Sydney’s west, said the Egyptian government is not doing enough.

“So we are asking the Australian government to voice the hurts and the sufferings of other human beings in our motherland Egypt,” Father Suriel told AAP at the rally.


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