Visit by Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria to Kellyville

Tuesday, 05 September 2017

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) (16:46): I was privileged to welcome to my electorate His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, on his first visit to Australia, to open a new Coptic church, the church of St Mary and Sts Cosman and Demian, in Kellyville in north-west Sydney, a few streets away from my house. It was a great privilege to welcome the Pope and, obviously, the great Coptic community, who have formed a great part of the settlement that has happened in Sydney and Melbourne, which the Turnbull government has strongly supported, with our announcement that we will offer temporary and permanent visa solutions to those Copts who are unable to return to Egypt during the state of emergency declared by President el-Sisi in response to IS targeting of Coptic churches and Coptic parishioners. I want to record my support for the Coptic Church and Coptic Egyptians who've come to Australia and made a fantastic migrant community in all of north-west Sydney, as well as elsewhere in Sydney and Melbourne. I was well supported by Philip Ruddock and David Elliott, our state member, and by Mr Edmond Atalla, the Labor Party member for Mount Druitt, who is the first Coptic member elected to an Australian parliament.

The Coptic diaspora is spread across many countries, but in Australia it's about 100,000 people. They are followers of St Mark the Apostle and his gospel and of that passage in Isaiah talking about the Coptic faith. The Sydney diocese currently has about 41 churches, 70 priests and 70,000 people. The Pope praised and spoke about Australia's tolerance and our willingness to live together in harmony. In Australia, we are such a richly diverse nation of over 300 ancestries, but of course the fabric here is not defined by race, religion or culture, and we reject practices that undermine these values.

It's our government's approach that we'll continue to defend the right to religious freedom of all faiths and the right to practice those religious freedoms in our country. We are a beacon of that freedom for other countries to follow. We have been unwavering in our support of the Coptic Egyptians here in Australia and the Coptic Christians whose have come here seeking refuge. We are in support of them while IS deliberately and horrifically targets those parishioners with those awful bombings we saw earlier in the year. The government expresses its firm solidarity with President el-Sisi and the Egyptian government in their efforts to stop IS, to protect their Egyptian Coptic population and, of course, to last through the state of emergency that they have declared to deal with the terrorist group IS.

I'd like to thank Pope Tawadros for his visit to Australia. I know he's going to Melbourne as well to open a new Coptic centre. He's coming here to Canberra to meet with Minister Dutton and the government and members here of all sides. I think his visit was well received by the Mitchell and north-west community, and his blessing on the new church in Kellyville, I think, will be remembered by the parishioners of our community for many years to come.