CAIRO — Islamist mobs have torched schools and businesses owned by Christians, looted churches and even paraded captive nuns through the streets of a city south of Cairo in a display of rage unseen in Egypt’s recent history.
The campaign of killing and arson is retaliation for the tiny Christian community’s support of the military coup that ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government.
“The Muslim Brotherhood were the ones who called for aggression [against Christians]. They are responsible,” said the Rev. Khalil Fawzi, a pastor at Kasr El Dubarrah Evangelical Church, the largest evangelical congregation in the Middle East. “Either they are in control or they burn Egypt.”
Most of the attacks were in regions south of Cairo. In the capital, police and neighborhood watch groups protected many churches and Christian-owned shops.
At least six Christians and one Muslim working at a Christian-owned shop have been killed since Mr. Morsi was removed July 3, human rights activists said. Nearly 900 people in all have died in clashes between security forces and Morsi supporters.
Coptic Christians make up about 9 percent of Egypt’s population of 85 million, and other Christian denominations about 1 percent. The vast majority of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims.
Mob assaults nuns
The most shocking assault against Christians occurred at a Roman Catholic school in the Bani Suef province south of Cairo when Islamists captured three nuns and several school employees. The extremists “paraded us like prisoners of war,” said Sister Manal, the school principal.
After six hours of abuse, they escaped from the mob after a Muslim woman who taught at the school sheltered them in her home.
In another attack in Beni Suef, a volunteer for the Coptic Orphans international adoption agency was hospitalized after more than a dozen people assaulted him as he was trying to rescue his sister and nephew. The organization, which has been active in Egypt since 1998, called the rise in violence against Copts “unprecedented.”
Islamists have been assaulting Coptic Christians since the 2011 revolution that overthrew the autocratic Hosni Mubarak, but the attacks have intensified since the ouster of Mr. Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II stood beside Egypt’s leading Sunni imam, Sheik Ahmed El Tayeb, and Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as the military leader announced the overthrow and detention of Mr. Morsi. Millions of protesters demanded Mr. Morsi’s removal in June after he imposed increasingly harsh Islamic laws and failed to revive a crippled economy.
Egypt’s Coptic Church last week said it backed the military’s move against “armed violent groups and black terrorism.”
The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups have denounced Christians at public events, over social media and on pro-Morsi TV channels. However, the Muslim Brotherhood and the radical Islamist group Gamaa Islameya have denied responsibility for the attacks.