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My dear brothers and sisters of the peace loving cities of Victoria, Tasmania, The ACT, South Australia, and Western Australia, I'm sure you were all as severely shocked as I was to hear the devastating news that the beautiful city of Christchurch was rocked by another, even larger, earthquake than the one that happened on September 4, 2010.

As you know, in the September quake the Coptic Church of St Mary and St Athanasius was damaged beyond repair and had to be ultimately demolished. I cannot tell you how heartbreaking it is to see one of our churches flattened to the ground.

I visited Christchurch just days after the second quake on 22 February, 2011 and what I saw was devastating. The destruction and damage to the city was like nothing I have ever seen.

For the Coptic families in Christchurch this is a catastrophe they were not prepared for, and one that has had far reaching consequences. Just as our congregation were preparing to find another site to rebuild, they are having to deal with severe setbacks resulting from the second quake. Land in the damaged city is hard to find and funds are tight as many of our brothers and sisters have lost their jobs because the companies they worked for have closed indefinitely.

More important is the sadness and loss of their morale. You see a church is not the building that we pray in only, it is far more significant than this. It is where people gather together in fellowship to celebrate with each other, to support each other through hard times, and for people who have newly arrived in country with no other relatives, it is their home and their mother.

Please help the congregation of St Mary and St Athanasius rebuild their church and indeed their lives, by giving generously to this Coptic Relief appeal.

May the Lord reward you generously for your gift of love.

 

Bishop Suriel

Bishop of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions

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