CHRISTIANS in Egypt, still in shock after the wave of attacks on
churches and other property over the past week, say that they
remain confident of their future in the country. They live side by
side with the majority of Muslims who, they say, do not share the
aims of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The attacks were carried out by supporters of the Brotherhood
and other Islamists, in reaction to the brutal break-up of two
protest camps in Cairo populated by supporters of the deposed
President, Mohammed Morsi.
The Cairo-based President-Bishop of the Episcopal Church in
Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, said on
Tuesday that Egyptians had lived through "a traumatic week".
"We witnessed bloodshed on our streets, vandalism, and the
deliberate destruction of churches and government buildings in
lawless acts of revenge by the Muslim Brotherhood and their
The anger felt by Christians at the attacks on their property is
matched by dismay at what they regard as the West's reluctance to
condemn either the Brotherhood's failure in government or the use
of violence by its supporters since Mr Morsi's dismissal and
Bishop Anis said that the military's removal of the Muslim
Brotherhood from power was morally justifiable: it had the backing
of more than 30 million people, who had taken to the streets to
demand it. He was surprised and disappointed that the US and
European governments had "criticised the Egyptian authorities for
confronting the subsequent pro-Morsi demonstrations, which they
wrongly described as peaceful".
The Bishop questioned "what any developed country would do if a
group of people cut off a piece of a city and controlled it the way
the Brotherhood controlled two sections of Cairo". Bishop Anis
added that the Muslim Brotherhood had rejected all pleas from the
government to disperse peacefully.
The general secretary of the Bible Society of Egypt, Ramez
Atallah, echoing the Bishop's sentiments, told the Church
Times on Tuesday that Egyptians "don't understand why the West
has been so duped by the Muslim Brotherhood. . . It's very
frustrating that the West believes that the Brotherhood is a
peaceful organisation. It seems that their PR apparatus mesmerised
Two Bible Society shops in southern Egypt, in Assiut and Minia,
were destroyed by fire last week. Mr Atallah said that the violence
was premeditated: "The Muslim Brotherhood had put marks on the
shops and other Christian buildings. When they heard that the
pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo had been dispersed, they carried out
Mr Atallah has appealed to Bible Societies around the world
to raise £77,000 to rebuild the bookshops.
Egyptian Christians are also keen to make the world understand
that there is a fundamental difference between the Muslim
Brotherhood and the rest of the country's Muslims. "The very vast
majority of Muslims are peace-loving people who want the Christians
to continue living as co-citizens in Egypt," Mr Atallah said. "This
war is not between Christians and Muslims, but [between] the Muslim
Brotherhood and the Egyptian people."
Mr Atallah said that the Brotherhood and their supporters had
picked soft targets to attack - churches, shops, and museums. But
on many occasions Muslims had joined Christians in trying to
"As Christians, we feel very safe in the kind of Egypt we saw
when many millions, Christians and Muslims, took to the streets to
demand the end of Brotherhood rule. The Muslim Brotherhood want an
Islamic state. The majority of Egyptians don't: they are against
The leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Pope Tawadros II,
publicly backed the army's move against President Morsi's
administration. The Coptic Church issued a statement last weekend
saying that it stood by the army and the police in their fight
against "the armed, violent groups and black terrorism".
While Egypt looks certain to endure several weeks, if not
months, of instability, the clear aim of the country's military
leadership is to crush the Muslim Brotherhood as a political power
by arresting and imprisoning its leaders. The group's spiritual
guide, Mohammed Badie, was detained on Tuesday. While it is
impossible to assess how much backing the military has for its
moves, it is clear that many Egyptians see this as the only way
forward, given the impossibility of a mediated end to the
Although Egypt appears to be in a state of chaos, there is
little likelihood of its following the paths of either Libya or
Syria. In the former, there is no effective central government; and
in the latter, the central authorities are under siege from
elements of their own army, among others. The Egyptian army and
security forces, by contrast, have held together and enjoy
substantial public support.
As Coptic Bishop Youhanna Golta of Alexandria told the online
Arab West Report: "Civil war is when a part of the country turns
against the other part. This is not the case in Egypt."
Christians in Egypt will, nevertheless, need time to recover
from the trauma of the past week. The principal of a Franciscan
school in the southern town of Bani Suef, Sister Manal, along with
other nuns and members of staff, were trapped in the building for
six hours while it came under attack. By the time the Islamists
allowed them to leave, the 115-year-old building was on fire. Money
saved for a new school had disappeared, as had all the computers
and other equipment.