Australian Copts voice hope for brighter future as Pope Tawadros II continues outreach

At a Coptic Christian church service in Sydney, the parishioners follow the same liturgy they have for centuries.

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One of the world’s most ancient churches, Coptic Christianity broke from other branches of Christianity in 451 AD, with differing beliefs about the nature of Christ.

“We say that his divinity never parted from his humanity for a single moment, or a twinkling of an eye, actually acknowledging both natures exist in Christ,” Coptic priest Father Joshua said.

The Pope describes his church as a church of martyrs, but its priests admit there is also growing fear.

Nehad Kelada lived through that fear.

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Back home in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, she was an accountant – until the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power in 2013.

“I couldn’t live my life freely, even at work I couldn’t live freely,” she said. “I was scared for my life.”

She says followers of the Brotherhood still pose a threat in Eygpt – and now there is also the threat from IS.

Members of Coptic congregations at churches say they feel safe here in Australia, but many also say they worry about family and friends back home.

Australian Coptic Christians at a church service in Sydney (SBS)SBS

Former immigration minister Philip Ruddock has been embraced by Australia’s Coptic Christian community.

He was behind the first programme for their migration to Australia in 1997.

“The problems are more dynamic now, particularly when you’ve had the firebombing of churches and some of the terrorist acts that have occurred,” he said.

“And one of the difficulties Egypt has had to deal with is containing that sort of violence. Not all of Copts – 10 million out of 90 million – are going to be able to be resettled around the world.”

Over the coming days, Pope Tawadros II will travel to Wollongong, Melbourne and Canberra, where he will meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.