Egypt has witnessed sectarian violence against Christians in the past, and many say the recent attacks echo the bloody sectarian strife that climaxed in Egypt in the 1990s.
The recent wave of sectarian violence swept through the country after security forces attempted to disperse two Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins being held in protest against the ouster of the Islamist former president Mohamed Mursi by the Egyptian military in early July.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with Munir Naguib, a Christian lawyer from Cairo, who said: “Radical groups have targeted around 52 Christian facilities, including churches, monasteries and service centers, in more than nine Egyptian provinces since last Wednesday.”
The way events happened “indicates that they were not random,” Naguib said, adding, “Armed protests cannot take place in more than 40 locations across the cities and villages of Egypt at the same time without being arranged in advance. . . . This is impossible and not believable.”
When the two Brotherhood camps were dispersed earlier this week, radical Islamist protesters attacked state facilities and private property along with churches in several provinces. It was reported that churches were either stormed or set ablaze in Sohag, Minya, Beni Suef, Fayium, Asyut, Alexandria, Suez and Cairo.
Marian George, a Christian human rights activist, told Asharq Al-Awsat that several attacks against Christian properties have been documented.
“Several Coptic shops and properties were intentionally targeted, particularly in Upper Egypt,” she said.
“I saw a protest by bearded gunmen who stormed and threw patrol bombs at stores and pharmacies in Minya only because they had Christian names on their shopfronts,” she added.
Nevertheless, the activist emphasized that “our Muslim neighbors are protecting our houses as much as they can.”
A Christian activist group that calls itself the Maspero Youth Federation announced that it had documented 63 attacks against Christian facilities, including churches, Coptic schools, houses, hotels and vehicles.
The group said in a statement that “the Muslim Brotherhood’s criminal and terrorist activities against the great Egyptians continue to grow day by day, particularly against the Copts.”
Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ordered the army’s engineering authority to reconstruct all churches that have been damaged in recent attacks as quickly as possible, with all expenses to be paid by the armed forces.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria has supported the ouster of the Islamist former president Mohamed Mursi. Together with Ahmed El-Tayyeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Tawadros II appeared next to Sisi when the latter read a statement announcing the removal of Mursi on July 3.