Peter Khalil: I rise to welcome last night’s announcement by the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection that the government will be reviewing all previously rejected protection visa applications made by Coptic Christians. I welcome the government’s reversal of their decision to forcibly send a cohort of 20 families back to Egypt and also welcome their acknowledgement of the escalating threat over the past 12 months faced by the Copts in Egypt, who have been under siege from Islamic State and their affiliates. I also want to thank the many Liberal MPs on the other side whom I have lobbied and harassed over the past seven months to make representations to the minister on this point, particularly the members for Menzies and Deakin. I especially want to thank our shadow immigration minister, Shayne Neumann, whose representations to the minister were of great importance and help to the government in reversing this decision. Of course, I received great support from the shadow foreign minister, Senator Penny Wong, and the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten. We all know that a small but good thing has actually happened for these people. Their lives have changed.
Islamic State is an evil cult. Since it emerged seven years ago, it has wrought destruction and death across the Middle East and Africa. They have killed thousands of Sunni Muslims who would not fight for them, Shiite Muslims and Kurds. Minorities such as the Yazidis and the Assyrian and Chaldean Christians in Iraq and Syria have felt the full force of Islamic State’s bloodlust and lust for death, and of course in the past 12 months in Egypt the Coptic Christians have become their primary target. Over 100 Copts have been massacred in their places of worship during Christmas and Easter services, and just recently on 26 May we know that 28 people were relentlessly gunned down on a bus on its way to the Monastery of Saint Samuel. Some of the survivors have told their story. When the gunmen came onto the bus, they tried to force these people to convert. They asked them to recite the shahada and to deny their faith. The men said no, that they are not going to deny their faith, and they were gunned down mercilessly. The women said no, that they would not deny their faith, and they were gunned down mercilessly. And the children said no. Some of them, Sunday school kids, started to recite the Lord’s Prayer and were gunned down mercilessly. These IS gunmen, down the barrel of a gun, tried to force these people, at risk of death, to deny their own faith, but they refused.
For us in the West this kind of courage is inexplicable, but it is not unusual for the Copts because their whole church has been built on this article of faith. In fact, the Coptic calendar started on the day of the death of the first martyr and the whole church has been built on martyrdom and this very deep and strong faith. This is something that IS gunmen and Islamic State will never understand, because of their thirst for blood and their thirst for death. They will never understand the true courage of what real faith is about, because true faith comes from the heart and the spirit, not down the barrel of a gun.