On Saturday, 21 February 2015, I was honoured to attend a requiem mass conducted by His Grace Bishop Suriel and Father Abanoub Attalla at the beautiful St Mina and St Marina Coptic Church in Hallam. I, along with the Consul-General of Egypt, leaders within the Coptic community, such as City of Casey Councillor Sam Aziz, many hundreds of local members of the Coptic community and other faith leaders stood and prayed together in solidarity and resolve to condemn the despicable and cowardly mass murder and beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya, after a video was released on 15 February by ISIL-affiliated terrorists. I wish to offer, on behalf of the Australian parliament, my deepest condolences to the families of the victims. I also want to specifically reassure the local Coptic community that this act of barbarism has been unequivocally condemned by the Australian government and the federal opposition.
ISIL or Daesh’s barbarity, as we know, knows no bounds. It is unconstrained by faith, sect or ethnicity. This killing of 21 innocents is just the most recent of many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai. Most of the Egyptian Coptic Christians, however, who were murdered hailed from poor villages and went to Libya to work as labourers to send money to families back at home. They died a gruesome death in horrific circumstances at the hands of murderers who filmed this in order to humiliate and remove any vestige of humanity from these 21 victims at the moments of their deaths. But what these murderers have done is strengthen our resolve.
On Saturday, 21 February 2015 we came together with our Coptic brothers and sisters and resolved to stand firm collectively against this suicide cult. The perpetrators of these evil acts must know that they have merely strengthened our resolve to ensure that their suicide cult is destroyed—destroyed through military means, economic means, ideological means and religious means, but they will be destroyed. Those who perpetrated this heinous mass murder must know this: the world community will not rest until you are brought to justice and to account. You will be found and, when you are found, you will meet justice.
This most recent act of barbarism against the Egyptian Coptic Christians has had a profound effect on that community. I have at a local level 2,000 Copts from about 600 families, and many of those attended the mass last month. After the mass, members of the Coptic community conveyed their concerns about the ongoing persecution of Egyptian Coptic Christians. One of the things that struck me most in the course of the service was the incredible discipline and restraint particularly preached by His Grace Bishop Suriel, a man who is well known to politicians in Canberra as a great and powerful voice for the Coptic community in this country. In his sermon and in his service, he spoke about forgiveness and the fact that he would look at this murderous act with love and forgiveness. I said at that service and I say now that I will leave that act of forgiveness to great men of God like Bishop Suriel; but our job as legislators is to ensure at a secular level that we wipe the scourge of ISIL, or Daesh, off the face of the earth.
I commend the Prime Minister for the actions he has taken on behalf of the Australian people and the Australian parliament in dealing with this menace. Be under no misapprehension: I have followed the debate about whether or not this cult is relevant to this country. You would know, Madam Speaker, that we had a terrorist event occur in my electorate. A young man attacked two police officers; and, without their heroism and bravery, there would have been many more casualties. They dealt with that act of terrorism, which was ISIL inspired. We see terrorist acts ranging from the absolutely atrocious mass beheadings in Libya to those on our shores, and that threat will continue.
But I want to reassure the Coptic community that, here today and in the future, we stand with you. We will not allow you to be persecuted. This act of barbarism, this mass murder, has strengthened our resolve to deal with this death cult once and for all.