Australia’s Coptics: grieving for Egypt

Story: Margine Arriola --- Editing: Sue Stephenson

The front of St Mary's and Saint Mina's Church in Bexley, Sydney (Photo: Andrew Saad)

Australia has one of the largest Coptic populations outside Egypt. Many have left their homeland because the current government supports the extremist political party, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Recent attacks against the Christian minority in Egypt have left the Australian Coptic community devastated. Many reeled in shock after the Palm Sunday bombings on April 9, which claimed the lives of 44 people in two Coptic churches in Tanta, Alexandria. Just weeks later, 30 Coptic Christians were killed when their bus was ambushed on its way to a monastery, south of Cairo.

Tanta is the birth town of Father Shenouda Mansour of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Sydney.

Fr Shenouda is also a parish priest at St Mary’s and St Mina’s Church in Bexley. He says members of the congregation lost loved ones in the Palm Sunday attacks.

Fr Shenouda Mansour holds a wooden cross – a symbol of hope and unity. (Interview: Margine Arriola)

Father Shenouda says families have tried to be forgiving because ‘Christ taught us to forgive the enemy’. He says this is ‘what [brings] the community together and strong in faith.’

Most definitely the first thing we do is have special prayers and special masses… when one is affected, we all feel for them. We collect money and donations and we send it back to them.

Michael Ebeid (AO) is the CEO and Managing Director of SBS. He is also an Egyptian-born Australian. He describes the recent attacks as ‘incredibly tragic, senseless acts’.

SBS CEO and Managing Director, Michael Ebeid (AO) (With permission of Mr Ebeid.)

As a multicultural broadcaster, SBS carried significant coverage of the bombings and the bus attack. “Certainly at SBS we try and cover all those major things,” Mr Ebeid says. “When the Palm Sunday and the [subsequent] bus attack happened, they were our big lead story that evening … and they ran for days”.

He believes one of the reasons there is not enough coverage of these attacks on mainstream media is because of what he calls ‘Middle East fatigue’. “A lot of the commercial networks think that a lot goes on there daily,” he says. “It’s hard to cover it every day.”

While Mr Ebeid points out that terror attacks are not something unique to Egypt, he agrees Coptic Egyptians have a right to feel persecuted.

Andrew Saad is the Youth Leader at St Mary’s and Saint Mina’s Coptic Church. He says that even though Coptic Christians are a religious minority, it’s likely the attacks will continue until negotiations in Egypt lead to government help and support.

Andrew Saad, Coptic Youth Leader (Interview: Margine Arriola)

Acknowledgements 

Margine would like to thank Fr Shenoud Mansour, Mr Michael Ebeid, and Mr Andrew Saad for giving up their time and for allowing interviews to be conducted in the church and in the Coptic youth studio.

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