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Orthodox Christian leader urges Copts in Australia to oppose legalization of gay marriage

(Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)Pope Tawadros II, pope of the Coptic Orthodox church, shows off his ink-stained finger as he casts his vote in a referendum on the new Egyptian constitution at a polling station in Cairo January 14, 2014.

Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II has urged young Coptic Christians in Australia to "fight for what is right" and vote against the legalization of same-sex marriage in the country's upcoming referendum.

Tawadros arrived in Sydney, Australia on Aug. 29 to visit the Coptic Christians who had fled from their homes in Egypt to avoid persecution.

During a rally at the International Convention Centre in Sydney Harbour on Friday, the Coptic pope told 1,000 young people that "family equals 'father and mother.'"

"According to the Holy Bible, when you read either in the Old Testament or the New Testament, there is no – at all – same-sex marriage," the Coptic leader said after arriving in Australia, according to Christian Today. "Therefore, this marriage is completely refused from the Christian faith," he added.

According to Daily News Egypt, more than 1,200 Coptic Christians celebrated Tawadros' visit to Australia. The visit grabbed the attention of Australian media, which welcomed the Coptic leader, who is visiting the country for the first time since his ordination in 2012. During his visit, the Coptic leader urged the Australian government to support Egypt.

"The Egyptian government protects churches and the Church has good ties with the president, government, parliament, and the whole society," Tawadros said.

"Egypt is the heart of the Middle East and stability of Egypt means stability of the entire region, stressing that the terror attacks target Egypt's national unity," he went on to say.

Beginning this month, a voluntary postal survey will be conducted in Australia to determine public opinion on same-sex marriage. The government is expected to introduce a bill legalizing gay marriage if the postal ballots show a "Yes" majority, and a challenge is expected from LGBT activists if the ballots return a majority of "No" votes.

A poll commissioned by same-sex marriage advocates have indicated that a majority of Christians are inclined to vote "yes" in the upcoming referendum.

The survey, conducted by Jim Reed of Newgate Research last month, found that 58 percent of people of faith are in favor of legalizing gay marriage in Australia.

Catholics were among religious groups who are most supportive of the campaign, with as many as two-thirds indicating that they would vote "yes" in the upcoming postal survey. For Anglicans, 59 percent of members of Uniting Church and Church of England were in favor of gay marriage.

The Muslim community is reportedly reluctant to join the debate on same-sex marriage for fear of being labelled extremists, including by Christians who share their opposition to the move.

Despite the concerns of the community, the Council of Imams Queensland president, Yusuf Peer, has publicly spoken out against gay marriage and the Australian National Imams Council issued a statement declaring that marriage is between a man and a woman.

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