Under siege: Christian churches burn across Egypt

Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William of Assiut told Vatican Radio Aug. 15 that the government action and the reaction of the Muslim Brotherhood were not unexpected “because Egypt won’t accept an Islamic state.” The majority, he said, “wants to separate religion from the state.” 

Morsi supporters were “shouting slogans against the government, against the police and against the Christians because they are persuaded that all three are the cause of the fall of Morsi’s regime.”

The demonstrators “burned various churches, including one of ours, the one belonging to the Franciscan convent in Assiut,” he said. They climbed the wall and entered the compound, burning the cars that were in the courtyard, setting on fire a souvenir stand, and then setting afire the church “after having profaned it by throwing the tabernacle on the ground.”

They also burned an Orthodox church and a Seventh-day Adventist church in the city, the bishop said.

In el-Qusiya, Bishop William said, the demonstrators started going toward a convent of nuns, “but then some wise people, including Muslims — said to them, ‘What have they done wrong? They’ve been doing good here for 70 years.’ And they chased them off.”

–        “Catholic spokesman defends Egyptian army crackdown against protesters,” Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service


For 67 years, the Virgin Mary Church has been a peaceful refuge for Shenouda El Sayeh, much like the Giza province village of Kafr Hakim where it rests and where he has lived all those years.

But, as he swept its floors on Thursday, it was painfully obvious things had changed.

The night before, a mob — chanting against Coptic Christians such as El Sayeh and calling for Egypt to become an “Islamic state” — had torched and looted the Virgin Mary Church.

“I didn’t expect this to happen,” El Sayeh said.

He’s not alone. Christians all around Egypt are cleaning up in the aftermath of a spate of attacks, which came on the country’s deadliest day since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

Bishop Angaelos, the Cairo-born head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said he was told by colleagues in Egypt that 52 churches were attacked in a 24-hour span that started Wednesday, as well as numerous Christians’ homes and businesses.

Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told CNN he had confirmed attacks on at least 30 churches so far, in addition to the targeting of church-related facilities, including schools and cultural centers.

–        “‘Horrible’: Christian churches across Egypt stormed, torched,” Sarah Sirgany and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN


“Unfortunately, painful news has come from Egypt. I wish to ensure my prayers for all the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering. Let us pray together for peace, dialogue and reconciliation in that dear nation and throughout the world. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us. Let’s all say it, Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.”

–        Pope Francis’ Angelus address for Wednesday, August 15, 2013, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.