E&OE…

Well, thank you.

Can I start by adding my acknowledgment of country.

Your Holiness, please let me echo those speakers that had warmly welcomed you to Australia.

I was greatly honoured to meet your predecessor Pope Shenouda, a great friend of Australia.

Can I also acknowledge the Premier, the Leader of the Opposition, my Federal Ministerial colleague Zed Seselja, my many State and Federal colleagues who are here this evening, Bishop Daniel and the distinguished faith leaders who are here this evening, Ambassador Khairat, ladies and gentlemen.

I am very pleased to be here this evening to represent the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, who regrets, Your Holiness, he is unable to join us but looks forward to welcoming you to Canberra as part of your official visit.

Many of you here will recall our Prime Minister spoke of his deep passion for the history of Alexandria, and of the early Church, at St Mark’s cathedral in Sydney earlier this year.

The Prime Minister also spoke of the value he places on diversity and the central role that diversity has played in the story of Australia.

Your Holiness, Australia is a place where cultural diversity and religious diversity are hallmarks of our contemporary society.

We are one of the most culturally diverse yet socially cohesive nations on earth.

About half of us were either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.

Ours is a proud history of more than 300 different ethnic communities, with a broad range of cultural and religious practices thriving peacefully alongside each other.

Faith is an important part of the lives of many Australians, providing direction and purpose.

We take great pride in the respect and cohesion that exists between our faith communities.

The great confluence of beliefs and experiences in modern Australia has helped us build our national ethos that we have today.

As such, I would like to take the opportunity this evening to recognise the contribution that the Australian Coptic community and our broader Egyptian-Australian community have made to the rich tapestry of Australian life.

You have come in your thousands to build a better life for yourselves and your children. 

You believe in the family as the bedrock institution of our society. 

You have embraced our values of respect, of hard work and a fair go.

These Australian values bind us together, that give us the common cause that is crucial today in combating extremism and providing a framework for national unity.

Our diversity is our great strength.  We are determined to ensure that extremist activities will not be allowed to undermine that diversity.

Your Holiness, we have been very saddened by the terrorist attacks in Egypt over recent years. 

That is why the work of the Coptic Church in Egypt with Islamic Leaders to promote unity and tolerance is vitally important, particularly amidst increasing sectarianism in the broader region. 

Egypt has a unique and important role to counter violent extremism and Australia stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt in this regard.

Attacks against places of worship, attacks against peaceful practice of faith, are an affront to all our values.
The people of Australia stand with you in resolute advocacy for tolerance, for religious expression and against violence.

As the Prime Minister said earlier this year, terrorist attacks in the Middle East are one of the greatest tragedies of our time.

We also applaud the efforts being undertaken by the El-Sisi Government to address the threat of Daesh in the Middle East.

Australia too is fighting the evil scourge around the world and we share your Government’s resolve to stamp out this evil ideology.

Together, we know our values of peace and tolerance will triumph over evil.

Your Holiness, I wish you all the best for the remainder of your trip to Australia and that you enjoy your time here amongst so many of your congregation.

I am sure that the very hard working Bishop Daniel has in no doubt prepared a very, very busy schedule for you to follow during your stay!

Again, on behalf of Australia, welcome to Australia.

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