‘Promotion of Religious values integral to holistic education,’ says Coptic Bishop
His Grace Bishop Suriel, Head of the Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated Regions for the Coptic Orthodox Church has stated his opposition to the Victorian government’s plans to end special religious instruction classes during school hours.
Bishop Suriel stated, “It saddens me that on the Feast Day of the champion of religious education, St Habib Girgis, that the Victorian government would announce the cessation of SRI from state schools.”
"Understanding and learning about faith and scripture can help children discover more about themselves and how they feel about God and religion allowing them to become well adjusted to the world around them,” said Bishop Suriel. “The promotion of Christian values and morals is integral to holistic education as it helps to instil a greater moral compass in children from a younger age.”
The Church firmly believes that religious education promotes vital moral codes in children.
“By moving SRI classes to before or after school or during lunchtime, many Victorian children will no longer be able to benefit from religious studies due to many parents’ work commitments and students’ extracurricular activities,” Bishop Suriel added. “Religious education classes provide a safe place to ask life's difficult questions and can provide a child with meaning and hope when facing life’s challenges.”
Bishop Suriel is also the Dean of the St Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College and completed his PhD at Fordham University in Religious Education on St Habib Girgis, the founder of modern Christian education for children in Egypt in 1900, successfully convincing the secular government of the day to value the role of religion in society.
Habib Girgis worked to preserve the Coptic identity through Sunday schools for children and was Dean of the Coptic Theological College in Cairo.
For many Coptic families in Victoria these changes come as a great disappointment. Amal Abdelkodous, a mother of three primary school children, chose their school because it offered SRI and the costs of religious schools placed private education out of reach.
“Religion teaches my children to be respectful of everyone and how to be caring, loving and sharing, which is something currently missing in society,” Amal says. “As a migrant, I came to Australia – a Christian country – but now my children ask me why they can’t talk about God or Jesus or participate in Christmas activities.”
Coptic Orthodox Church
The Coptic Orthodox Church is the largest Christian church in Egypt and the Middle East. The Diocese of Melbourne and Affiliated regions is led by His Grace Bishop Suriel and comprises Coptic communities in Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, ACT, New Zealand and Fiji. One of the oldest Christian churches in the world, it began in 55AD when Saint Mark the Apostle arrived in Egypt. Today there are 12 million Copts worldwide. The word ‘Coptic’ means ‘Egyptian’ and is derived from the Greek word ‘Aigyptos’.