Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (18:28): Recently, during a visit of my mobile office to Woodcroft, I was approached by a number of community members from the Australian and Egyptian Coptic seniors, including Mr Wadi Botros from Hebersham, Samir Hanna from the Universal Peace Federation’s Australian peace embassy and Kamal Iskandar. They related stories to me of friends and loved ones suffering in fear of religious persecution in Egypt. While we have obviously been moved by the vision of everyday Egyptians taking such courageous steps to bring democracy to the lives of the many who have sought it, there have been disturbing stories emerging which, to a great degree, cast a shadow on the events we have witnessed. I, like many others, was stunned by the New Year’s Day attacks on the Al-Qiddissin Church, the Church of the Two Saints, in Alexandria, Egypt. Courage and tenacity has driven the Egyptians in their fight for democratic rights, but with this fight there must be an equal determination to honour the right to freedom of religion and culture. I wish to place on record my dismay and opposition to the persecution of Egyptian Copts. They deserve what we all enjoy: freedom, peace, security and the right to practice their religion free from persecution.
At a local level, I want to acknowledge the efforts of our Australian Coptic Christian Orthodox community. Approximately 63 per cent of Coptics live in Sydney and one of 14 Coptic churches in the archdiocese of Sydney is in the electorate of Chifley—Archangel Michael and St Bishoy located in Mt Druitt. We are also blessed by the presence of the St Bishoy Coptic Orthodox College, along with many active youth groups and organisations. A special mention goes to the great work of the Coptic Orthodox Youth Association, formerly the Coptic Youth Centre. I acknowledge and commend their local work and seek to reassure them of my abiding commitment to represent their concerns to the Australian government.