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Christian denominations join for ecumenical prayer service for the victims of the church bombings in Egypt

This Friday 7th January 2011 at 1pm, Australian Church leaders from all Christian denominations and notable dignitaries will gather at St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne at an Ecumenical Prayer Service for the victims of Egypt’s New Year’s Eve church bombings which took place in the Northern City of Alexandria and claimed 23 lives and wounded over 80 Coptic Christians.

His Grace, Bishop Suriel, Head of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions, has offered an open invitation to attend the Ecumenical Prayer Service, praying for peace within the church and for an end to the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt and in the Middle East.

Along with Melbourne families of the victims, the congregation will together mourn the loss of life and pray for the injured.

“Over the past few years, religious persecution of Christians in the Middle East has reached extreme forms of human degradation with constant attacks not only on the minority Copts of Egypt, but all Christians throughout the region,” Bishop Anba Suriel said.

“This is an issue that has also affected families among the Coptic community here in Melbourne who have lost loved ones in this tragedy.

This latest slaughter follows a long and shameful list of heinous crimes committed against the Copts in the past decade.

The pattern is very clear and amounts to what can only be described as genocide against a peaceful community.

We deplore the loss of innocent lives during what should have been a joyful time, celebrating the New Year, and extend our deepest sympathies to all those affected by this tragedy,” he concluded.

The incident has sparked condemnation from global leaders including the United Nations Secretary General and Pope Benedict XVI, who, on Saturday, urged world leaders to defend Christians in attacks such as the New Year’s Day bomb attack in a Coptic church in Egypt.

US President Barack Obama denounced the bombing as "outrageous".

"The perpetrators of this attack were clearly targeting Christian worshippers, and have no respect for human life and dignity.

They must be brought to justice for this barbaric and heinous act," Obama stressed.

The Australian Government have also condemned the attack against worshippers leaving the Coptic Christian church after the New Year’s mass and have called for the perpetrators to be swiftly brought to justice.

It is expected that many thousands of people will attend the service at St. Paul’s Cathedral to celebrate Christmas day on the Coptic Calendar.

At the conclusion of the service 23 doves will be released on the steps of the Cathedral marking the 23 lives lost before heading across the road to Federation Square for speeches and a full press conference.