Egypt: Supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi turn on Christians in angry backlash

Scores killed and many wounded as Coptic churches and properties are hit by violent mobs

Cairo

As hundreds of Islamists were being gunned down on the streets of Cairo during Wednesday’s bloodbath, the ugly consequences began to ripple hundreds of miles down river to the towns and cities along Egypt’s Nile Valley.

Outraged supporters of toppled President Mohamed Morsi, reacting to the ferocious crackdown launched against protesters camped out in Cairo, started attacking police stations and government institutions in several provinces. Scores were killed and many more wounded. But in a development which does not bode well for an already fractured society, it was the nation’s Coptics which bore the brunt of some of the worst violence.

Christians account for an estimated 10 per cent of the country’s 85 million population. A former Coptic Pope, Kyrillos VI, once claimed that Egypt’s Muslims and Christians were a single people “ worshipping the same God in two different ways.”

Yet following Wednesday’s nationwide violence, when churches, Christian-owned businesses and property were attacked by angry mobs, Egypt’s Copts appear to be feeling increasingly vulnerable.

“I’m expecting a period of heavy assaults against Christians,” said Kamel Saleh, a member of the Coptic church’s senior lay committee. Mr Saleh added that ever since 30 June, when huge crowds of protesters began calling for the resignation of Mohamed Morsi, church leaders had been engaged in contingency planning to decide how Christians could respond to expected attacks. “The churches themselves are just buildings and can be repaired,” said Mr Saleh. “ What worries me is the unprecedented level of violence which will be difficult to climb down from.”

Following the decision by Pope Tawadros, the Coptic Patriarch, to give his blessing to the 3 July coup, officials were expecting the worst. But inflammatory speeches from Cairo’s tent encampments were enough to convince some Christians that Islamists harboured violent intentions. Safwat Hegazy was among those who spoke to pro-Morsi protesters during the Cairo sit-ins. Hegazy, a television imam, has made fiery declamations “There is no doubt in my mind that the Muslim Brotherhood are able to influence the violent groups who attacked Christians,” Mr Saleh said.

According to Ishak Ibrahim, a Cairo-based human rights researcher focusing on religious issues, a total of 23 churches across the country were torched by angry mobs following Wednesday’s operation by the security services. At least seven were completely destroyed, he said. Two monasteries were also attacked.

In the city of Sohag, the Bishop of Mar Girgis Church reported that the building had been set alight by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. There were no police present – a common feature in many of the attacks, according to witnesses.

Mr Ibrahim said the recent violence has the potential to become much more serious. “It will become a big problem,” he said.

Video: Travellers can still go to Red Sea resorts

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own