Mr. Speaker, as Egypt felt the warmth of the Arab spring, the Coptic Christians of that land felt an ever colder and darker winter setting in. Let us recount the recent events of the Coptic experience in Egypt.
On October 9, 2011, around 25 people were killed and more than 300 were injured at a protest against attacks on churches in Egypt. The violence appeared to include army gunfire against civilians.
On September 30, 2011, violence against Christians erupted in the village of al Marinab in the southern part of the country. After a group of thugs attempted to demolish a church, they faced protest and turned their attention to the victims, the Christians of that community. Residents then attacked local Christian-owned shops.
On March 5, 2011, a mob attacked Christian homes and set fire to the Coptic Church of St. Mina and St. George.
On January 1, 2011, at least 21 people were murdered and more than 70 were injured in a bombing in Alexandria. This happened just outside a Christian church as worshippers were leaving a New Year's service.
On January 7, 2010, seven people were killed in a drive-by shooting outside a church in the southern town of Nag Hammadi, after a Coptic Christmas eve mass.
These are but a few examples of the many odious crimes that have been systematically carried out against the Christian minority in Egypt.
Why should we care? After all, we are here and they are there. Why is it our problem? We should care because these attacks strike at the heart of the ancient liberty of freedom of religion.
As I have travelled the world and seen the experiences of other lands, I have learned the degree to which we are blessed to live in one of the freest nations on earth. For reasons unknown to us, we in this chamber and across the country were born in this land of liberty. However, liberty is not a gift to be jealously guarded for oneself, but rather to be shared with the peoples of the world near and far.
In quoting J.F.K.'s inaugural address in 1961, he said:
And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.
These rights coming from the hand of God and not from the generosity of any state are the birthright of every man and woman around the world. It follows that we who are blessed to possess them must do our best to extend them to those who are not.
What have we done? In May 2009, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration met with key civil leaders, including Coptic Pope Shenouda III in Egypt.
On January 7, 2010, Canada condemned the attacks on Coptic Christians in Nag Hammadi.
On January, 1, 2011, Canada condemned the attacks on a Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt.
On February 23, 2011, there were statements by then-minister Cannon on Egypt and the rights of Coptic Christians right here in this chamber.
On March 15, 2011, then-minister Cannon again speaks out, but this time does so in a visit to Egypt.
On May 26, 2011, at the G8 in Deauville, there is a declaration on the right to practise religious faith in safety and security without fear of violence and oppression. Fundamental freedoms and rule of law are highlighted.
On September 26, 2011, the present Minister of Foreign Affairs addresses the United Nations General Assembly making specific reference to the Egyptian Coptic Christians.
In October 2011, the same minister releases a tough statement on the situation in Egypt.
In October 2011, the House passes a motion proposed by the present Minister of Foreign Affairs condemning the vicious attacks on Egyptian Coptic Christians and their institutions.
This gift of religious freedom with which we are blessed in this country was handed down to us by visionary leaders like Macdonald and Laurier at the time of our founding when they rejected sectarianism and ethnic religious violence. Our government understands that that these gifts that were passed down to us from our ancestors but handed to our land from the hand of God, as President Kennedy put it, are gifts which we must do our best to share with the peoples of the world.
I will quote another great prime minister and former occupant of the House, the author of Canada's Bill of Rights, one of the first legislative enactments to enshrine in statute the values about which we are speaking tonight and which we hope will be extended to people around the world. The right hon. Prime Minister Diefenbaker said:
I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.