Sep 11, 2017

Consecration of St Mina & St Marina Coptic Church Speech – 11 Sept 2017

I rise today to speak of a very special event, a very special community, and a towering figure who graced my electorate with his presence on Friday morning, with over 1,000 people in attendance. Last Friday, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, 118th and current Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of St Mark and leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, consecrated the St Mina and St Marina Church, which is located in Hallam. Gathered amongst his enormous flock, he blessed this inspirational church, which is truly an iconic religious site in the City of Casey.

St Mina and St Marina Church, in Hallam, was established in 1991 and the new church built in 2012. The current church clergy is headed by my good friend Father Abanoub Attalla. The church seats up to 1,200 people and has dedicated classrooms for Sunday school services. As I said to His Holiness, this marvellous building can be seen from the Princes Highway and many parts of my electorate. To me, this place of Christian worship has always inspired two emotions—and, I suspect, in the Coptic Christians in my area—faith and hope, two emotions that I suspect have sustained the Coptic Christian community in spite of ongoing persecution, systematic harassment and murder of its members. In the past five years they have had to endure horrific suicide bombings that have killed and injured many Copts. In fact, His Holiness himself was targeted in attacks earlier this year. That he was present in my electorate to consecrate this lovely Coptic place of worship meant so much to the Coptic community and to the many leaders who attended this service. It is an unfortunate fact that evildoers are still intent on silencing this great spiritual leader, so this meant intense scrutiny by Victoria Police and the AFP during that day. I would like to thank all of the serving officers who kept us safe during the service.

To say there was an air of wild excitement would be to understate the impact of the presence of His Holiness at the church. I was honoured to present him with an Australian flag that was flown in Parliament House on that day. I spoke about the persecution of his ancient faith and the slaughter of innocents—now called martyrs—by the cold-blooded killers who want to extinguish Christianity in the Middle East. To them I say now: you will fail. Remember this: nations rise and nations fall, people are born and people die, but faith endures. It has endured for millennia, and it will endure now. You will not extinguish this faith, particularly when there are great spiritual leaders like His Holiness Pope Tawadros. He is the rock of his church against the waves of hopelessness and despair. So, do what you will, but that faith will endure. It will prosper and, particularly given great spiritual leaders like His Holiness, it will continue into the future.


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