On 14 August supporters of toppled president Mohamed Morsi torched at least 50 churches, Christian-owned schools and businesses across Egypt. Eyewitnesses stated that the attacks were perpetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters in areas which lacked a police presence and protection. Attackers threw Molotov cocktails at churches as well as firebombs.
According to the website nilerevolt.wordpress.com, there was one church burnt in Alexandria, one in Arish, eight in Assiut, two in Beni Suef, one in Cairo, six in Fayoum, one in Gharbiya, two in Giza, around 12 in Minya, one in Qena, five in Sohag, and five in Suez. One of Egypt’s oldest churches, the Virgin Mary in Minya was engulfed in flames. The church goes back to the fourth century. Among more churches burnt were St Mina, Baptist church status of Bani Mazar, Saint Mark, Jesuit Fathers, the Greek church and Franciscan fathers, Saint Maximus, Saint Mark, Virgin and Anba Abram, Saint George, Virgin Lady, and Prince Taodharos Elchatbi.
This is in addition to at least 11 Christian institutions in Cairo, Fayoum, Assiut and Minya.
Many Copts were also injured. It was reported that at least 15 worshipers were seriously injured while praying in churches.
Nuns and priests fled to neighbouring rooftops after their churches were torched. Smoke and flames rose while the screams of nuns filled the air. Citizens banded together in front of churches all over Egypt’s governorates to protect them against attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many Coptic political analysts believe that Christians are being scapegoated for the toppling of Morsi. Emad Gad, political analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic and Political Research, said the severity of the attacks against Copts has never happened before. “Police and armed forces must exert more efforts to protect Christian entities and Copts as well. There have throughout the past decades been minor attacks against Copts; this time is the fiercest. Copts are being slaughtered and massive churches are being burnt down and security forces are doing nothing to protect innocent people and their houses of worship,” said Gad.
Gad believes that the security silence over what is happening to Copts is disturbing. “Muslims and Copts do not want the dominance of one faction over the other in society. But Islamists either want everything under their control or will destroy the country,” Gad explained. “Islamists have a natural aggression against Copts. During the rule of Morsi, Copts were suppressed. Most were excluded from almost all important posts in the country. The Muslim Brotherhood who wanted to Islamise the country and its different entities as if Muslims are the only ones who are living in Egypt.”
After the escalating sectarian violence against Copts, Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II called on Egyptians to stop the bloodshed and violence. “I ask every Egyptian to preserve Egyptian blood and exercise self-restraint and stop any assault against anyone,” said Tawadros.
In the same context, the pope cancelled his weekly sermon for the third successive week due to the escalating violence against Copts since the ousting of Morsi on 3 July.
Some analysts blamed the media for ignoring attacks on Copts and churches. They said the media focused too much on the evacuation of Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda sit-ins by Islamist supporters of Morsi and neglected other incidents in society caused by the Muslim Brotherhood. “The media should not be bias. All calamities should be covered by the media equally,” said Gad.
Muslims have been seen helping in putting out fires in churches. Muslims along with Copts were reported defending churches and Christian-owned businesses and schools.
Former MP Georgette Qullini denounced the attacks against churches, Copts, their homes and businesses. Qullini said what happened was an attempt to disrupt the country’s unity. “Egypt is witnessing a bloody phase in the country’s history at the hands of Islamist terrorist militias. There is an organised scheme against the country’s unity and people as well,” said Qullini.
Qullini blamed leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood for encouraging their followers to launch violent attacks against innocent citizens and unarmed Christians. “They want to keep power and maintain it by force. They do not listen to the people. What they did instead is gain the public’s hatred,” she said.
“Egypt is going through a critical phase. They are risking the country’s stability. Police and armed forces should intervene in order to end this farce.”