August 16, 2013 6:30 pm

Egypt’s Coptic Christians facing renewed attacks following crackdown

A picture taken on August 14, 2013, shows the facade of the Prince Tadros Coptic church after being torched by unknown assailants in the central Egyptian city of Minya. Egypt's Christians are living in fear after a string of attacks against churches, businesses and homes they say were carried out by angry supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

AFP/Getty Images

Mixed in with the chaos and violence unfolding in Egypt over the past few days, the country’s Coptic Christians say they have come under attack from supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

As the death toll rises from crackdowns on protesters supporting deposed President Mohammed Morsi (approaching 700 people on Friday, according to the interim government), Coptic churches have reportedly been destroyed or damaged.

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Read more: Clashes erupt as Morsi supporters take to Egypt streets

The number of churches burned varies depending on reports. The Guardian reported Thursday night there were 20 churches attacked, while Al-Jazeera reported Friday there were 30 churches hit by arson attacks so far this week.

But Mina Thabet, a member of the Cairo-based Coptic Christian group Maspero Youth Union, said the number is much higher.

Thabe said in a phone interview with Global News that he is aware of 52 churches across Egypt that have been destroyed or partially burned in the weeks since the military overthrew the Morsi government on July 3. He also says several businesses and homes belonging to Copts have come under attack.

That number has not been independently verified.

Thabe did not have numbers on how many people may have been injured or killed in the recent attacks.

Thabe supported the overthrow of Morsi, as many Coptic Christians did, and the interim government’s crackdown on the camps. He believes the protesters were not as peaceful as Morsi supporters portrayed.

Read more: Former Morsi-government adviser in Canada, calls Egypt violence ‘genocide’

He said Egyptians were unhappy with how Morsi’s elected government led the country and demanded a change, adding “the people” had to step in and “defend their country [and] defend the dream of a civilized country.”

“From my point of view… they’re trying to just blame Coptics for their failures,” he said. “[The Muslim Brotherhood] did not achieve what the people want[ed].

“They’re just trying to make it look like Christians hate Islam and hate the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

Violence against Coptic Christians has increased in the past two and a half years since the revolution in Egypt began, and Thabe said life under Morsi’s rule was worse than before former ruler Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office.

Read more: Key events in Egypt’s revolution and upheaval

There have been a string of clashes between Copts and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a number of deadly attacks on Coptic churches.

Canada’s Federal Employment Minister Jason Kenney (formerly Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) expressed alarm at the attacks on Coptic and other Christian places of worship.

Kenney, speaking in Calgary, said dozens of Christian churches have been bombed and destroyed over the past three days and it was unclear how many Christians had been massacred, according to The Canadian Press.

He said the persecution of Christians in Egypt isn’t new and the minority group has been persecuted for years.

But Kenney said the group, which makes up only 10 per cent of the Egyptian population, is a non-violent, non-political force.

Although Thabe said Mubarak was not a great leader, he said Egypt was a better place for Christians.

“When Mubarak was head of the country it was a state… It was a country and we had an association in the country,” he said. “Under Morsi, it was chaos.”

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

© Shaw Media, 2013

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