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Australian churches rally to support Egyptian Christians

Coptic Bishop Suriel. Photo courtesy of www.melbcopts.org.au
Australian Christians from many denominations are set to rally with the country’s Coptic community against violence directed towards Christians in Egypt.

A specially-organised liturgy and demonstration is to start on 14 January at St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral in Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, process to the Egyptian consulate and then on to offices of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs.

"We want the whole world to know what is happening in Egypt to the Christian community: that every week, every month, there are continuing attacks against Christians and it’s escalating," Coptic Bishop Suriel of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions told Ecumenical News International.

The prayer service and demonstration are being held in response to the reported killing of six Coptic Christians and a Muslim security officer who were sprayed with gunfire in a drive-by attack in the southern Egyptian city of Nag Hamadi, on 6 January, the Coptic Christmas Eve.

Australia has an estimated 20 000 Coptic Christians, "and about 10 000 of them will be there" at the rally, Bishop Suriel said.

After the service, the congregation will follow six black coffins through the streets of Melbourne to the Egyptian consulate. A delegation of ecumenical leaders will call on the consul-general, "demanding that the Egyptian Government act against the persecution against Christians", Bishop Suriel said.

The bishop said he was "very shocked" at the killings, "especially as people were leaving church so happy on Christmas Eve only to be met with bullets and violence".

The Associated Press news agency reported that the attack may be to avenge the alleged rape of a 12 year old Muslim girl by a Christian man in Nag Hamadi.

Bishop Suriel described the slayings as the latest in a string of attacks on Copts, "which amounts to religious persecution and harassment – but these attacks are not taken seriously" by the Egyptian police, he said.

Leaders of Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches are planning to join the Coptic Christians at the Melbourne church service and rally in the Australian state of Victoria.

"It will be far better that justice and peace comes with integrity rather than authorities ‘turning the other way’ as if nothing was happening," the president of the Victorian Council of Churches, the Rev. Jason Kioa, told ENI.

Kioa, a leader of the protestant Uniting Church in Australia, said, "We offer our prayers for peace, justice and goodwill for all. But for that to occur, people of peace, justice and goodwill must act together, to bring these things into reality."

(c) Ecumenical News International

Photo : Coptic Bishop Suriel. Photo courtesy of www.melbcopts.org.au