Rudd challenged over Copts

Scott Morrison, the federal shadow immigration minister, told a Sydney meeting of about 3000 Coptic Christian Australians that the plight of the Copts in Egypt should be brought before the United Nations and before the Australian parliament. 

Morrison was joined on the speakers’ platform in Martin Place by a number of other prominent politicans.

Liberal Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells brought a personal message of support for the Copts from Liberal leader Tony Abbott. David Clarke, parliamentary secretary for Justice in the newly-elected Liberal State government of NSW, and Marie Ficarra, parliamentary secretary to the NSW State Premier Barry O’Farrell, were others to deliver powerful addresses in the Coptic cause.

Clarke led the crowd in chants of ‘no more Christian blood!’ and lambasted the Egyptian government for looking away from the serial kidnappings and forced conversions of Christian girls to Islam. Ficarra, a frequent visitor to Egypt, spoke with deep emotion about ‘the murders, the rapes, the enforced religious conversions’ of young Coptic women in Egypt in recent times.

The presence of State Labor MP Greg Donnelly and Christian Democrat Peter Madden on the speakers’ slate almost made it an all-party gathering (the Greens being the unsurprising absentees).

Yet remarkably, a week after the event (held on Saturday, May 21), no Australian media organization has reported the presence there of any politician, let alone such a broadly representative show of political support. Both the ABC and SBS did briefly note that a Coptic protest had taken place in Sydney, but curiously omitted any reference to the prominent politicians who took part.    

Ever since the fall of Mubarak in early February, the Copts in Egypt have been subject to levels of murder, mayhem and property destruction by rampaging Muslim mobs – passively observed by the Egyptian military – that are unprecedented in modern Egyptian history. 

Morrison called on foreign minister Kevin Rudd to report to parliament on what the Australian government is doing to help the Copts. He also reiterated pledges that an Abbott government would reinstate a program of the last Liberal government to give refuge to Copts who are fleeing persecution in Egypt. Under the Labor government, this program appears to have lapsed. 

The upsurge of religious violence in Egypt is the culmination of 40 years of growing anti-Coptic hostility, accompanying the resurgence of Islamism over that period.

Australian Coptic Association president Peter Tadros told the meeting that the UN should institute programs to bring aid to the Coptic victims of persecution in Egypt. Thousands of Copts had been forced by violent Muslim mobs to flee their homes in towns and villages. Tadros  said that many are now forced to live on garbage dumps in Cairo.

 The Copts, descendants of the ancient Pharaonic Egyptians and predominantly Christian since around the third century AD, number by most estimates around 8 million people (or 10 per cent of the total Egyptian population). That population is more than double the number of Palestinians in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza. But there is no Christian equivalent of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference – the 57-nation Islamic power bloc –– to impose a ‘Coptic issue’ on the agenda of the United Nations and its legions of affiliated NGOs.

Nor are there any UN agencies spending millions of dollars on increasing ‘media awareness‘ of the plight of the Copts , even though they are an indigenous people treated like hostile aliens in their own homeland. 

Tadros pointed out that western governments, led by the United States, are well aware of the Egyptian government’s tolerance of anti-Coptic violence, yet offer only muted protests while continuing to provide the Egyptian government with billions of dollars in official aid.

Ficarra told the Copts that Australians would ‘stand together’ on the Coptic issue, and pledged that ‘we will make our voices heard internationally’.

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