Copts march through Sydney to protest at Egyptian deaths
Members of Australia's Coptic Christian community march through Sydney to protest at the deaths of six Copts in Egypt. Photo: Ramon A Williams
Members of Australia's Coptic Christian community have marched through Sydney to protest at the deaths of six Copts in Egypt this month.
The marchers numbered more than 5000, Father Gabriel Yassa of the Coptic Orthodox Church said.
Coptic deacons dressed in white robes and priests in long black frocks led the march at noon today from Hyde Park to NSW Parliament House and then on to Martin Place.
Young men carried six cardboard black coffins in memory of the victims of the drive-by shooting of six people emerging from a Coptic Orthodox Christmas Eve mass in the southern Egyptian town of Nag Hamadi on January 7.
The attack has been blamed on sectarian violence in the mostly Muslim nation.
During the march, hymns and prayers rang out as the crowd including families followed the clergy, carrying ornate crosses, placards and graphic pictures of murdered Copts.
The placards read "Religious freedom for Christians in Egypt", "Justice for Copts on Egypt" and "Stop Ethnic Cleansing of Egyptian Christians".
Australian Coptic Association president Samir Habashy said the march was a demonstration of "our anger and sadness" at the treatment of the minority Coptic community in Egypt.
"We want people to know the Copts of Egypt are suffering and they are asking for help," he said during the march.
"As Australians, we are worried about our families and we want Australians to share our agony.
"We are asking the Australian Government to carry our protest to the Egyptian Government."
Sydney resident Ounas Gerges, 50, says he is worried about his family living in the Egyptian city of Alexandria.
"It is not safe. Anything could happen to them," he said.
"The way security is [in Egypt] there is no justice when it comes to Copts. I fear for their safety everyday especially when I hear of incidents like this."
Christina Wasef, a 19-year-old pharmacy student, was one of many young people who took part in the march.
"Our religion plays a major role in our lives and this is the least I can do," she said.
The Sydney Coptic Church ran a full-page advertisement in some Sydney media on Tuesday in an effort to build awareness about sectarian problems in Egypt.
The Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, making up 10 per cent of Egypt's 80-million population.