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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with Bishop Suriel on SBS News Radio

Egyptian Ambassador should be sacked, says bishop

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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The Bishop says he believes the officials no longer represent the Coptic community and has sent messages to Prime Minister Gillard and Foreign Minister Rudd's offices demanding the expulsion of the ambassador.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.

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