Following nearly a week of church burnings and Islamist attacks on Christian sites, the targeting of Christians in Egypt continued with reports of nuns being paraded in the streets, two Christians killed, a statue of the Virgin Mary decapitated, and two Christian female siblings being groped by a mob.
The Christian Science Monitor published a disturbing report suggesting at least some of the attacks were premeditated, with Christian homes and shops in one village being marked with red graffiti, “vowing to protect Morsi’s electoral legitimacy with ‘blood’” and mosque minarets blaring accusations that Christians were behind the Cairo killings.
Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like “prisoners of war” after they burned a Franciscan school, the Associated Press reported on Sunday. A Muslim woman offered them refuge, sparing them a more grisly fate. The AP reports that at the same location, two other female employees of the school, who are siblings, “were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob.”
In Minya, one Christian resident told the AP that Islamists had “painted a red X on Muslim stores and a black X on Christian stores.”
“You can be sure that the ones with a red X are intact” whereas Christian businesses were attacked, said 33-year-old businessman Bishoy Alfons Naguib.
In this video, two men are seen gleefully greeting each other with a handshake and kisses as a church in Minya burned. Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh writes of the images, “Shaking hands and hugging while burning a church in Menia. Classy.”
Twitchy highlighted images showing the continued onslaught including this photo of a decapitated Virgin Mary at Mallawi Catholic Church.
A photo of mass being held in a burned-out church.
Twitter user Jared Kaufman sent out the following photo which he says is of a Christian taxi driver being attacked. “Animals! RT @Jahbalon: #MB Morsi supporters killed a taxi driver who had a Christian cross on his dashboard #Egypt,” Kaufman wrote.
In Minya, Sunday mass at the Virgin Mary Monastery was canceled for the first time in 1,600 years, Al Masry Al-Youm reported.
According to the AP, more than 40 churches have been looted and attacked with Molotov cocktails, while 23 others were damaged using other means since Wednesday when Egyptian security forces broke up pro-Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, in which hundreds were killed.
However, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz puts the number at 80 churches and monasteries attacked.
Christian businesses and homes have also been target of violent attacks, during the apparent intimidation campaign.
The AP reports that two Christians were killed since Wednesday’s clashes, “including a taxi driver who strayed into a protest by Morsi supporters in Alexandria and another man who was shot to death by Islamists in the southern province of Sohag,” quoting anonymous security officials.
The news service also spoke with Sister Manal, principal of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef, who recounted the six hour ordeal in which she, sisters Abeer and Demiana and other school employees “saw a mob break into the school through the wall and windows, loot its contents, knock off the cross on the street gate and replace it with a black banner resembling the flag of al-Qaida.”
A fire raged through the 115-year-old main building plus two recent additions. Manal said that stolen property included “every computer, projector, desk and chair” along with money for a new addition. The police never showed up, even while she and her colleagues were trapped inside the burning school until Islamists allowed them to leave the building.
While battles between police and protesters raged outside, “she was overwhelmed by the toxic fumes from the fire in the library or the whiffs of tears gas used by the police outside.”
“We are nuns. We rely on God and the angels to protect us,” Manal said. “At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us.” The Muslim woman who offered to take them in once taught at the school and her son-in-law is a policeman.
She says that the female Christian siblings who work at the school, Wardah and Bedour, had to fight through the mob, while being groped by the extremists. “I looked at that and it was very nasty,” said Manal.
Christian Science Monitor Correspondent Kristen Chick writes from the village of Al Nazla that Islamists were spreading rumors that Christians were behind the mass protests which led to the July 3 ousting of Muslim Brotherhood-aligned President Mohammed Morsi.
On Wednesday, when locals heard about the killing of hundreds of Morsi supporters in Cairo, residents heard the mosque loudspeaker announce that it was Christians who were attacking the Cairo protesters. This led hundreds of village residents to converge on the Saint Virgin Mary Church in Al Nazla, breaking down the gate, shouting “Allahu akbar” and “Islam is the solution,” the Monitor quoted Christian residents as recounting.
“First they stole the valuable things, and then they torched the place,” says church congregant Sami Awad. “Whatever they couldn’t carry, they burned.”
The Monitor describes the devastation of the church whose construction was completed only in April:
Now, its elaborate dome stands above a ruined, charred interior. The walls are blackened and rubble litters the floor. A picture of Jesus is half burned, the charred edges curling where they were licked by flames.
“The religion of God is Islam,” reads graffiti sprayed in yellow on a wall of the church. Three burned out cars, one of them upside down, rest in the courtyard. Next to the gate, sprayed in black, is another phrase: “Victory or martyrdom.”
Coptic Christian attorney and human rights activist Joseph Malak told Haaretz that the he believes the nationwide arsons were orchestrated. “The object of the Muslim Brotherhood, as we see it, is to cause terror and fear and push the country into a violent, ethnic struggle. They expect the Copts to react, thus leading the country into a dark tunnel, with no apparent solution,” Malak said.
Christians comprise roughly 10 percent of Egypt’s population of 84 million.
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak – under whose rule Christians felt a greater sense of security – could be released from custody later this week, judicial officials told the AP on Monday.
He is presently on retrial for the killings of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising that led to his stepping down from power.
“The officials said there were no longer any grounds to hold the 85-year-old former autocrat because of the expiration of a two-year legal limit for holding an individual in custody pending a final verdict,” AP reported.
He has been in detention since April 2011 and was sentenced to life in prison last year for failing to stop the killing of some 900 protesters. His sentence was later overturned and is now being retried, according to AP.