Egyptian Protestors Turn Fury on Christians

August 22, 2013

Christian churches and businesses were among the casualties in the recent outbreak of violence in Egypt.

Mounting violence directed at Egypt´s Christian minority hit close to home last week when a ministry assisted by Christian Aid Mission joined the list of dozens of evangelical and Coptic institutions whose property was destroyed by angry mobs of political protestors.

Two bookshops owned by the Bible Society of Egypt were torched in the first wave of attacks August 14.

“These were both very beautiful, fully-equipped bookshops,” said Ramez Atallah, the ministry´s director. “The attackers demolished the metal doors protecting the bookshops, broke the store windows behind them and set the bookshops on fire. They did the same to many stores on those streets, as well as demolishing many parked cars.”

No one was injured in the attacks. The Bible stores, located in the cities of Minia and Assiut in southern Egypt, were closed that day to heed warnings of possible vandalism.

Violent flare-ups occur from time to time, but Atallah said this is the first time in the Bible Society´s 129 years of operation that they were victims of an attack.

Christian Aid has worked with the Society to distribute Bibles to prisoners and supply educational materials to Christian schools in Egypt.

Last week Atallah reported 15 churches and three Christian schools were heavily damaged or destroyed in the rampage. That number has now risen to over 60 churches, and scores of Christian homes, businesses, and schools were attacked throughout the country.

The official death toll rose to more than 900 people following a week of clashes between security forces and Muslim Brotherhood supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. An estimated 3,500 people have been injured.

The interim government has declared a month-long state of emergency and a night-time curfew in Cairo and ten surrounding provinces.

Violence erupted last Wednesday when the Egyptian police shut down two Muslim Brotherhood-led protest camps in Cairo. Pro-Morsi followers had been staging six weeks of sit-ins to express their vehement opposition to the new government, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Hundreds of protestors were killed in the ensuing clash with police. The crackdown allegedly prompted some Brotherhood hardliners to turn their anger on the nation´s Christian populace, who backed the removal of Morsi from office.

Christians make up about 10 percent of the 84 million people who live in Egypt. Approximately three percent are evangelicals. Coptic, Catholic, and Protestant churches alike suffered significant losses in the carnage.

“It is heartbreaking to watch on TV this bloodshed between fellow Egyptians unfolding before our eyes,” said Atallah. “It is important to underline that—while some Christian properties have been the victim of this violence—they are by no means the only ones targeted. This is an attack against the State by a violent minority in an attempt to destabilize the nation.”

Egyptian believers are encouraging their distraught brothers and sisters not to seek retaliation in the wake of the attacks. Instead, they ask for Christians in other parts of the Middle East and around the world to offer their support and prayers.

“We thank God for His protection, praise Him that none of our staff were injured, and are determined—as soon as things settle down—to rapidly restore these two bookshops to continue providing God ´s Word in those two strategic cities,” said Atallah.