SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT !!!
First Coptic Orthodox Theological College to be accredited in the modern world!
It is with great delight that I can announce St Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College has been accredited as a recognised teaching institution (RTI) of the MCD University of Divinity!
This is a wonderful achievement for our Theological College which was established through Papal Decree number 21/29 just under 11 years ago and is the culmination of several years of hard work by many dedicated individuals.
Through the tireless work of the SACOTC Academic Board and Council, SACOTC embarked on a journey of nearly four years to achieve this endorsement, and realise the aspirations of the College community to become a recognised teaching institution of the MCD University of Divinity.
This recognition means SACOTC is officially the first Coptic Orthodox Theological College to be accredited in the modern world! More importantly, we have been accredited through an organisation who just recently in their own right were approved to become the first 'Specialist University' in Australia!
To be recognised as one of the member teaching institution of the MCD University of Divinity will add significant credibility to SACOTC, giving our awards wide recognition and allowing our students to go on and do further theological studies to obtain Masters and PhD's if they wish.
The MCD is an old and very well respected academic teaching body, having celebrated its centenary in 2010. Since its inception, it has been committed to providing Theological education, and represents the standard by which theological education in Australia is judged.
In its own right, SACOTC is an important Orthodox Theological institution that is dedicated to promoting the traditions of the Coptic Orthodox School of Alexandria and in many ways is unique to Australia.
SACOTC has much to offer in the field of theological education in Australia, and this official recognition now allows us to offer interested students the opportunity to study and appreciate theology from a Coptic Orthodox point of view and undertake units of study that are unique in their rich Christian heritage. SACOTC is blessed to have an extremely well qualified and dedicated faculty, who have inspired their students through their own example, and instilled in them a love for learning about theology and divinity.
We are thrilled about this very significant achievement, as this marks the beginning of an exciting new phase for SACOTC. We will begin by offering a Diploma in Theology in 2012, online courses in 2013 and in the future expand to offer higher awards such as Bachelors, Masters and even PhD's God willing.
Our newly accredited Diploma in Theology will begin on February 27th, 2012 with God's grace. Semester 1 timetable, and dates for the Open Day and Orientation day will be published in Epsajee in the coming weeks.
By ABC's Greg Wilesmith Greg Wilesmith is a Foreign Correspondent producer and former ABC Middle East Correspondent.
Nothing can be preparation for the experience of entering a room of wailing, shrieking people desperate to display the source of their grief; of literally being pulled through a heaving crowd towards the refrigerated cabinets in the corner of the room, of trays pulled out and seeing bloodied bodies within.
And then being urged to film yet more bodies on the floor, some lying alone, others arranged head to toe with placards of Christ laid on their chests. Some faces were grotesquely distorted; others seemed extraordinarily calm and untouched. One man held up two bullets as if to confirm what had caused the killing. Against a wall a man was standing, weeping, his face smeared with blood. He bent to kiss one of the dead and the source of the blood became obvious.
We counted 17 bodies while the noise of an ever-growing mob trying to enter the morgue grew more deafening. It was a claustrophic hell; the urge to get out was powerful.
The rest of the hospital was gripped by pandemonium: stretcher bearers running in corridors, patients flung into unoccupied beds, doctors and nurses overwhelmed by the needs of the wounded and the clamour of family and friends.
We witnessed this horror, Ben Knight, Geoffrey Lye, Youssef Taha and I, at the Coptic Hospital in Cairo earlier this month while filming a report for Foreign Correspondent on what has happened to Egypt since the February revolution.
It was a Sunday night and what had started as a peaceful march by Coptic Christians, and some Muslim allies, on the Maspero, the government television building, had spiralled into a confrontation with thugs, riot police and soldiers. It was the worst violence since the revolution and a prime marker of how the revolution has failed the people.
We'd been contemplating a quiet night at our hotel half a kilometre away down the Nile. Then sirens blared across the city and media began reporting trouble at the TV station. We'd been there just a few nights before, filming a demonstration by Copts who were complaining about the destruction of part of the Mar Girgis (St George) church at Marinab, near Aswan, in southern Egypt – just the latest example, they claimed, of a campaign of sectarian violence by extremist Muslims. The protest had been noisy and the helmeted, black-clad riot police were tensing for action. When a gaggle of senior officers tried to seize Geoff Lye's camera, we made a fast strategic withdrawal.
So it was with some reluctance that we ventured out, armed this time with a small camera. Clouds of tear gas enveloped the 6th of October Bridge across the Nile. It proved as close as we could get to the battleground outside the television centre. As riot police charged with batons raised, it was time to withdraw once again. Only later that night at the Coptic hospital did the scale of the slaughter become clear. The cause of some of the deaths, according to witnesses, was that armoured personnel carriers had deliberately careered into demonstrators, crushing them.
Several days later, two of the generals who have run Egypt since Mubarak's departure called a news conference. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, known as the SCAF, has not earned a reputation for accessibility, let alone transparency, during the better part of nine months governing the country. This rare opening to the media did nothing to enhance the SCAF's reputation, beginning as it did with a patronising lecture about ethics and national unity, followed by a senior officer bellowing at a reporter who had the temerity to ask a question.
The local media invested many hours and learnt very little. The generals claimed the soldiers and riot police were not equipped with "live" ammunition and therefore couldn't have shot and killed anyone; as for the armoured personnel carriers, their drivers had been trying to escape the crowds and had not deliberately crashed into them. Of course there would be an investigation but the SCAF was sure the security forces were blameless. Government radio and television faithfully trotted out the official narrative.
No real surprise, then, that the SCAF later announced that civilian prosecutors would play no role in the investigation of the Maspero massacre; it would be handled by military prosecutors. No surprise either that the international body, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has raised fears of a cover-up. HRW reports that autopsies carried out on 24 bodies suggest that eight people died of bullet wounds and 13 died of injuries and fractures inflicted by vehicles.
Perhaps the only positive to come from the killings at Maspero is that the SCAF was sufficiently embarrassed by the overreaction and incompetence of the security forces that Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, Egypt's de facto president, has had several meetings with the leader of the Coptic Church, Pope Shenouda III.
Tantawi has reportedly been conciliatory, agreeing that Copts can rebuild the church near Aswan in southern Egypt which was partially burnt down by a Muslim mob. Copts are said to number about 10 per cent of Egypt's 85 million people and have long complained about discrimination by Muslim-dominated governments at a local, city and national level. In particular they've argued that bureaucratic obstacles are frequently put in the way of communities and congregations wanting to extend or build churches. Muslim attacks on Christian communities are rarely investigated by police.
When Egyptians celebrated the fall of the Mubarak regime in mid-February, many genuinely believed that freedom was at hand and that the army could be relied upon to manage a transition to democracy. There's much less confidence now that the military has the same aspirations as the hundreds of thousands who filled Cairo's Tahrir Square in January and February and at the pro-democracy demonstrations in cities and towns around the country.
Nine months ago Foreign Correspondent framed a program on the revolution around a young activist, Salma el Tarzi who, along with her friends, spent 18 days and nights in Tahrir Square defying the might of the state to remove them.
The sheer joy of victory the night Mubarak fell was intoxicating, but Salma is deeply sceptical that the military will ultimately hand power to elected parliamentarians and to a president. "I do not expect the revolution to be over soon," she says. "We are cleaning up the mess of the past, not only of 30 years, of the past 60 years and it's not going to happen in nine months."
Last Tuesday 18 October, 2011 The Hon. Kevin Rudd MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs summoned the Egyptian Ambassador H.E. Omar Metwally for talks on the situation in Egypt and the ongoing persecution of Copts.
It was made clear to the Ambassador the Australian governments concerns with regards to the escalation of violence and persecution against Coptic Christians in Egypt and their lack of protection. Clear messages were presented to the Ambassador that there needs to be swift elections in Egypt and a stable government in place in order for stability to return to Egypt. A unified law for places of worship that would not be biased in any shape or form must be implemented. There must be a transparent and independent inquiry into the most recent attack on Copts by the military.
We thank the Australian Government and the Minister for Foreign Affairs for taking this important initiative in speaking directly with the Egyptian Ambassador concerning this grave injustice against Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Bishop of Melbourne and its Affiliated Regions
It is with heavy heart and wholehearted sympathy that we communicate with Your Beatitude – indeed, not for the first time this year! – for similar tragedies confronting our beloved and pious Coptic Christian brothers and sisters under your spiritual and pastoral protection in Egypt.
Upon hearing this painful news during our recent visit to the Holy Mountain, we hastened to invoke the intercessions of the numerous saints who have led ascetic lives in that monastic republic and to urge the ongoing prayers of the monks who currently reside there.
The remarkable and turbulent changes experienced by your entire historical continent and especially your biblical nation in recent times has proved both encouraging and costly. Nevertheless, the difficult and complicated transition in the life of all citizens of Egypt can never and should never provide any pretext or excuse acts of violence toward any targeted individuals or groups, including and especially religious communities or political factions.
It is, therefore, in the strongest possible expression of solidarity and condolence that we deplore the unacceptable persecution and unjustifiable execution of all humble and law-abiding citizens, particularly belonging to Christian or other faith minorities, whether in Egypt or the entire Middle East.
The struggle for peace and democracy can never come at the expense of religious liberty and human rights.
Finally, Your Beatitude, we would like to assure you and your faithful that we always stand prayerfully beside you as we continue to journey on the difficult paths of our respective Churches. May God give rest to the souls of the departed and strength to the families that survive them.
At the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 17th day of October 2011
Your Beatitude’s beloved brother in Christ,
Archbishop of Constantinople-
New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch
The Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church under the leadership of Pope Shenouda III met with seventy in attendance on Monday October 10, 2011 in the Papal residence in Cairo, Egypt to discuss the events of the prior day in front of Maspiro where at least 24 of our beloved children have been killed and at least 200 have been injured.
We ascertain that our Christian faith doesn’t allow us to use violence of any kind. But we also know that strangers implanted themselves among our children and committed acts that are more suited to their morals. Coptic Christians feel that their problems are always being repeated without accountability and without the due justice of the law.
The Holy Synod invites all Coptic Christians to fast and pray for three days beginning Tuesday October 11, 2011 that God may bring his peace to our beloved country of Egypt.
To: His Holiness SHENOUDA III Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the Throne of St. Mark in All Africa and the Middle East
It has deeply grieved me to learn about the new attacks against Christians in Egypt and the bloody clashes in Cairo which have left several scores of people dead and over three hundred of people injured.
The Russian Orthodox Church knows not from hearsay what discrimination and persecution of believers are. The carcases of defiled churches still remaining in our land remind us to this day of the terrible years of persecution. That is why we feel so strongly for the suffering of our brothers in faith in Egypt. At an hour of trial, we turn to Almighty God with prayer asking Him to reinforce the spiritual resources of Egyptian Christians in their efforts to stand for their faith and to preserve their Christian identity.
We have repeatedly called upon all the major world powers and religious leaders to condemn the persecution of Christians and called the Egyptian authorities to do all that is necessary to ensure real freedom of religion and security for all citizens regardless of their religious or ethnic background.
I pray for the repose of those who died and for a speedy recovery of those who were injured. May the All-Merciful Lard give peace and prosperity to the old Egyptian land, to all its people and to the flock of the Coptic Church.
With love in Christ,
The head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Australia has called for the immediate expulsion of the Egyptian Ambassador and two Egyptian Consuls-General.
The outcry from Bishop Suriel follows the deaths of at least 24 people, mostly Coptic Christians, in clashes with security forces in Egypt's capital on Sunday.
The Bishop says he believes the officials no longer represent the Coptic community and has sent messages to Prime Minister Gillard and Foreign Minister Rudd's offices demanding the expulsion of the ambassador.
He said the sacking would be a symbolic gesture on the Australian Government's behalf and would send "a very strong message to Egypt that Australia... [is] saying this is enough of discrimination and persecution against the 12 million Copts in Egypt".
Bishop Suriel told SBS he had been inundated with phone calls from Australian Copts distressed by the violence in central Cairo.
"Hundreds of people have been calling me and the clergy have been calling me," Bishop Suriel said.
"They're very distraught and they feel very vulnerable that they can't do anything to assist their brothers and sisters in Egypt and they're crying out to me to do something and to make the voice of the voiceless in Egypt, the Copts, heard in the international community."
Bishop Suriel said the Egyptian Ambassador should have at least contacted the community to show his sympathies and publicly condemn the attacks.
The clashes in Cairo broke out on Sunday after Coptic Christians took to the streets in protest against the burning of a church in Egypt's south.
He is also calling for the head of the Egyptian Army to resign.
A total of 174 people were injured during the protest with at least 24 killed.
Sectarian clashes are frequent in the Arab nation where the largest Coptic minority has often been the target of attack and repeatedly accuses the authorities of systematic discrimination.
Fifteen people died in clashes on May 7 after Muslim protesters attacked two churches because they believed the Christians were detaining a Muslim convert.
Copts make up roughly 10 percent of the country's 80 million people and they complain of state-sanctioned discrimination, including a law that requires presidential permission for church construction.
Melbourne’s Anglican Archbishop, Dr Philip Freier, today called for international efforts to assist Egypt’s transition to a stable democracy.
Archbishop Freier expressed prayerful support for the Egyptian people and for Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt and Australia.
The Archbishop and his assistant bishops offered prayers today for those who have suffered and died in Egypt recently.
“Our hearts go out to their family and friends. We empathise, too, with Bishop Suriel and the local Coptic Orthodox Church in their anguish,” Archbishop Freier said.
“We urge consideration be given to a UN Peacekeeping Force to assist Egypt’s transition to a stable democracy.
“We invite our Australian Foreign Minister to offer any diplomatic and emergency assistance to support the people of Egypt, especially as they confront risks to their hard-won pursuit of freedom, including religious freedom for minority groups like the Coptic Orthodox,” Archbishop Freier said.
Bishop Philip Huggins, Bishop of the Northern and Western Region of the Melbourne Diocese and Chair of the Diocesan Social Responsibilities Committee
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, today encouraged Egyptian nationals in Australia affected by recent events in their home country to contact the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
Mr Bowen said visa assistance was available if required to those affected by the unrest in Egypt and their cases would be treated sympathetically.
“In light of the unfolding situation in Egypt, I want to assure Egyptians in Australia that my department will take the circumstances in their home country into account when dealing with requests for visa extensions,” Mr Bowen said.
“I encourage all Egyptian nationals in Australia who are unable to fly home or are on temporary visas to contact DIAC on 131 881 as soon as possible.”
DIAC will consider on a case-by-case basis the options for Egyptians in Australia whose visas to remain here are about to expire.
The team who assisted me throughout my journey into the Patriarchal Archives.
Yes, it has been a while since I have been active on my blog. I will try and be more active in this field.
I propose to do two things:
1. To offer a daily short spiritual message that I will also post on Twitter.
2. To occasionally update you on my research on Archdeacon Habib Jirjis as I know that some of you are interested to know more about him and his work.
I will begin today with something that I am very excited about and that is the Patriarchal Archives in Cairo.
When I was in Cairo at the end of last year I spent a few short hours at the Patriarchal archives. I was searching for any possible material on Habib Jirjis or on education etc. I found a few files with some documents that I digitised. I did not hold much hope that there is any more beneficial material there and left disappointed. During this trip to Egypt I asked myself, "does it make sense that there is no more information in the archives on Habib Jirjis?" I set myself the task of discovering if there is anything more substantial on this subject.
I am very grateful to His Holiness Pope Shenouda III who gave me access to the archives and I am indebted to him for his support and spiritual guidance. I am also thankful to His Grace Bishop Youannes for facilitating the process of such an access.
From my previous visit I had seen hand written bound minutes and decrees of The Lay Millet Council (Majlis Milli). I knew that Habib Jirjis was a member of this council for several terms and that it is inevitable that issues on Coptic education would have been discussed. These bound minutes and decrees were organised into annual volumes. I thought to myself if there is useful information in these volumes and nothing else it would be useful to copy them. I did not hold hope of finding anything else.
So, I set out the first morning with a dear friend Ezzat Bushra who is a professional translator and headed for the archives. We went through the volumes and chose those that are relevant to digitise. The next morning I organised with a photographer to digitise those volumes. It was going to be a few days of work. On the third day we were nearly finished with the digitisation of those volumes and yet something inside me was telling me, "Could this be it? Habib Jirjis who seemed to me to be so organised did not leave anything else about his work for future generations to study? There must be more, this could not be all that is in this huge archives."
So, we asked the question again, "What do these archives consist of? What else can be found here?" Then the archivist said, "Oh there is a section here on schools." It was at that moment that I could not believe what was just said. I responded by saying, "Did you just say schools???" He replied, "Yes, here is a section concerning schools." At that point in a very humble way, I felt like Howard Carter when he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. A rush of excitement and joy overcame me as I felt I am about to discover a wealth of material that would be pertinent to my dissertation. Were these files of any use? Did these boxes really have any relevant material? What was actually in these boxes that had not been opened for over sixty years? Stay tuned for the next blog in which I will discuss my findings.
"5The LORDisyour keeper; The LORDisyour shade at your right hand. 6The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night. 7The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. 8The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore." (Psalm 121:5-8)
I hope that those on the East Coast of the USA are safe after Hurricane Irene. I am currently in New Jersey and this has been certainly a difficult week. On Tuesday I was at Fordham University in the Bronx, NY when the 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit. I did not feel it at all, and thank God that damage was at a minimum. Then last night and this morning and throughout all of Sunday we have been hit with Hurricane Irene. It was a very restless night not knowing when the eye of the hurricane will hit exactly. Everyone was nervously waiting and praying that it will pass without too much damage.
There has been flooding in many areas and over 11 deaths and over 3 million people left without power. The mass transit system was shut down in New York on Saturday as well as the airports. Thousands of flights were cancelled and there will be a huge backlog of people trying to board flights starting tomorrow. Even the Holland Tunnel was flooded and shut down.
Thanks be to the Lord Who is indeed our Keeper and protector at all times. Thanks to the Lord that I was able to keep safe at the Archdiocese in New Jersey. Stay safe and may the Lord protect you always.
Today, Thursday the 26th of May 2011, with the blessing of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of St. Mark, His Grace Bishop Suriel, Bishop of Melbourne and affiliated regions appointed Rev. Fr. Moses Curley a Hegumen in the Coptic Orthodox Church, Diocese of Melbourne. The appointment ceremony was conducted during the prayers of the Divine Liturgy at Archangel Michael & St. Anthony’s Church in Oakleigh. Fr Moses was a Serbian Orthodox Priest.
Protest and Religion Part 1: Egypt - Perspectives on the Revolution.
The Christian population of Egypt numbers about ten per cent - but eighty per cent of Egyptian emigrants are Christian, and Australia is home to 80,000 Coptic Christians from Egypt. What roles did Christians play in the revolution, and what are their hopes and fears for the future?
On this week’s Rush Hour, Jason investigates the worsening persecution of Christians around the globe, highlighted by the recent atrocities committed against Coptic Orthodox Christians in Egypt and terror threats received by four Coptic Churches in Sydney.
Join Jason as he meets a fascinating range of people who shed light on this saddening story:
* A priest at one of Sydney’s targeted Churches.
* The inspiring Coptic Orthodox bishop of Melbourne.
* A young organiser the massive rally in Sydney last Wednesday.
* A Catholic priest who has helped publish a comprehensive report on religious freedom.
* A Chaldean priest who was kidnapped and tortured for two weeks in Baghdad, and amazingly survived.
Christian persecution is a subject that all the faithful need to be informed about. Listen to this week’s show to get up to speed on this worrying phenomenon.
Dear Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of Melbourne,
Over the past two weeks we have been mourning and in pain due to the massacre of 23 Copts and the injury of 80 more in the bomb attack in Alexandria and also the criminal attack against innocent Copts in a train in Minya that killed a 71 year old Copt and injured 5 more by an Egyptian deputy police officer. Despite our suffering, we also feel and understand the suffering that our fellow Australians in Queensland and NSW are passing through due to the natural disaster that has befallen them.
In the past week Queensland in particular and also NSW have faced an enormous natural disaster and the worst floods to hit Australia in the past 118 years. Due to these floods 15 Australians have lost their lives and 55 others are still missing. These floods have also caused horrific damage that will cost over $16 billion to repair.
On behalf of the Coptic Orthodox community of the Diocese of Melbourne and its affiliated regions, I wish to extend my heartfelt sympathy and prayers for those who have lost loved ones and for all of the thousands of Australians whose homes and businesses have been destroyed.
The generosity of Australians is needed at this time to support flood-affected communities in Queensland and NSW. Hence I call upon Coptic Australians in our Diocese to donate what they can to assist in alleviating some of the pain and suffering that our fellow Australians are facing.
I request from all the parishes within the diocese to make a special collection for the flood victims over the next two Sundays. May the Lord reward you all for your generosity and deep love for those who are suffering. As Saint Paul teaches us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
Donations can be deposited in the following account and marked “Flood Assistance”:
An unidentified gunman on Tuesday boarded a northbound train in Upper Egypt and opened fire on passengers, killing one Christian man and injuring five others, security and medical officials said.
The motive for the shooting was not immediately known, although the incident comes less than two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 23 Christians and wounded scores of others outside a church in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, some 250 kilometers north of the capital Cairo.
Officials said the gunman had boarded the Cairo-bound train at the town of Samalout in Egypt's Minya province, roughly 260 km south of Cairo.
Police arrested the gunman as he attempted to flee the scene, according to security officials.
Egypt's state news agency has confirmed the incident, reporting that police were currently questioning the assailant.
A security source told Al-Masry Al-Youm that police had identified the victim as Fathy Ghattas, 71, from Cairo's middle-class Zeitoun neighborhood.
Sources said the assailant had checked passengers for the green cross traditionally tattooed on the wrists of Coptic Christians in Egypt. After identifying several Copts, the culprit killed one of them and injured five others.
The same sources said that investigators were looking into the possibility that the assailant was a policeman, but this remains unconfirmed.