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Australian Coptic Egyptians build solidarity after ISIS attacks

Last month, the terrorist organisation ISIS claimed responsibility for two bomb blasts that hit Coptic Churches in Egypt. The attack killed at least forty-seven people as the community celebrated Palm Sunday.

A sombre celebration period 

The Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, announced that Egypt is currently in state of emergency.

Monica Tawadros, a representative from the Australian Coptic Movement told The Point Magazine the Australian Coptic community is still reeling from the attacks.

“The mood during the Easter celebrations this year was particularly sombre and I think the Coptic community locally is growing increasingly frustrated that these attacks continue to occur, unabated, and that the plight of these peaceful people is not adequately portrayed in the world media.”

The Coptic Christians, known as Copts, are the largest ethno-religious minority in Egypt, making roughly 10 per cent of the country's 95 million people. Although most Copts reside in Egypt, there are large Coptic communities in neighbouring countries such as Sudan and Libya. As a denomination, Coptic Egyptians originated in the city of Alexandria, one of the holiest and respected cities during the Apostolic Period.

A strategic target

Historically, and more recently, Coptic Christians have been severely persecuted, particularly in the Middle East. The Copts have also been strategically targeted by ISIS, who have labelled Coptic Egyptians as disbelievers, in the hopes of destabilising the country, as they have in Iraq. Here in Australia, almost 100,000 people identify as Coptic Orthodox according to the 2006 census.  

Christian and Muslim youth have reached out to each other, to stand against the recent waves of terrorism in Egypt. This reflects the solidarity shown by our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters in Egypt."

– Monica Tawadros

“Coptic Christians are well integrated in Australian society, with many contributing directly to the wider community. For example, former Deputy Police Commissioner Nick Kaldas, a well decorated veteran of the force, is one such example. I would encourage Australians to learn more about these peaceful people, who have suffered greatly over the last 2000 years,” said Tawadros.

Tawadros said despite the attacks, a sense of humanity and brotherhood remains strong between the Coptic Christian and Muslim communities.

“The majority of Egyptians have mourned the recent attacks against Coptic Christians along with the Christian community – these attacks have also been condemned by our Muslim brothers and sisters and it is encouraging to read of stories where Muslim communities have come together to support those Christians who have suffered at the hands of terrorists in Egypt, whether it’s by Muslims lining up to donate blood following the Church bombings, or offering Christian refugees fleeing North Sinai some assistance with fleeing their homes.  I really do believe that although evil exists in the world, the love of humanity is a force that can never be overpowered,” said Tawadros. 

Mass in Coptic Church Image: Chaoyue Pan

A catalyst for community building 

Community member and freelance journalist and educator, Nadyt El Gawdy told The Point Magazine that the current events in Egypt have been a catalyst for positive community building.

“Christian and Muslim youth have reached out to each other, to stand against the recent waves of terrorism in Egypt. This reflects the solidarity shown by our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters in Egypt, where for example Christians and Muslims have stood side-by-side, creating human shields to protect churches from being burned by pro-Muslim Brotherhood mobs. Recent marches around Australia have also seen Christians and Muslims unite, marching for true democracy in their beloved Egypt and for the preservation of its true identity,” she said.

Tawadros said although the community is still mourning, the resilience displayed by her community gives her hope.

“We have also been encouraged to hear of the strength and resilience of the Coptic people in Egypt today, despite all that they have gone through.  There have been images circulating on social media of the packed-out Easter services in Egypt with Copts swarming in their numbers recently – these images serve as a reminder to the entire community locally that the Coptic people are strong and resolute in their faith and will not be scared away by such cowardly acts of terrorism.”

Tawadros urged Australia to do more to assist Coptic Christians and families of victims.

The Point

Last month, the terrorist organisation ISIS claimed responsibility for two bomb blasts that hit Coptic Churches in Egypt. The attack killed at least forty-seven people as the community celebrated Palm Sunday.

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