Violent aggression by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists, including those sympathetic to al-Qaeda, continues to be directed at one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, following the military’s break up last week of Brotherhood sit-ins. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has been inciting the anti-Christian pogroms on its web and Facebook pages. One such page, posted on August 14, lists a bill of particulars against the Christian Coptic minority, blaming it, and only it, for the military’s crackdown against the Brotherhood, alleging that the Church has declared a “war against Islam and Muslims.” It concludes with the threat, “For every action there is a reaction.” This builds on statements in the article “The Military Republic of [Coptic Pope] Tawadros,” carried on the MB website in July, about the Coptic Church wanting to “humiliate” Muslims and eradicate Islam.
The litany of attacks is long: St. George Church, St. Mary’s Church, Good Shepherd’s Church, the Pentecostal Church, in Minya; St. Therese Church, Church of the Reformation, Church of the Apostle, Holy Revival Church, St. John’s Church, in Assiut; Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo, St. Damiana Church, the Evangelical Church, and Joseph’s Church, in Fayoum; Church of the Archangel Michael, St. Saviors Anglican Church, the Greek Orthodox and Franciscan churches, in Suez; Fr. Maximus Church and St. George’s Church, in Alexandria. . .
As of Sunday night, some 58 churches, as well as several convents, monasteries, and schools, dozens of Christian homes and businesses, even the YMCA, have been documented as looted and burned or subject to other destruction by Islamist rioters. The Coptic Pope remains in hiding and many Sunday services did not take place as Christian worshipers stayed home, fearing for their lives. A dozen or so Christians have been attacked and killed for being Christian so far.
For the first time in 1,600 years, Sunday prayers were canceled at the Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram in Degla, south of Minya, because the three churches there were destroyed by the mob. In Cairo, Franciscan nuns watched as the cross over the gate to their school was torn down and replaced by an al-Qaeda flag and the school itself torched; Sister Manal, the principal, reported that three nuns were then marched through the streets as prisoners of war, as neighborhood mobs “hurled abuse” at them along the way.
Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman of Egypt’s Catholic Bishops reported to the Vatican news agency Fides that of the destroyed churches, 14 are Catholic, while the rest belong to the Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant communities. While the anti-Christian attacks are occurring throughout Egypt, they are concentrated especially in the areas of Al Minya and Assiut, “because it is there that we find the headquarters of the jihadists,” according to Fr. Greiche.
Groups of the Left, of women, of students, of intellectuals, of businesspersons, of secularists, not to mention the military, all participated in the Tamarrud movement that supported the military’s ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated President Morsi. But it is Egypt’s Christian community, who number 10 percent of the population, that is bearing the brunt of the Islamist anger. Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and joined by various other Islamist groups, some hoisting al-Qaeda flags, a ruthless campaign of religious cleansing, of Islamic “purification,” is well underway in Egypt. As jihad has come to the Arab world’s largest country, our foreign-policy leaders and press ignore this turn of events at our peril.
— Nina Shea is director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom and co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians.