Kafr Hakim, Egypt (CNN) — For 67 years, the Virgin Mary Church has been a peaceful refuge for Shenouda El Sayeh, much like the Giza province village of Kafr Hakim where it rests and where he has lived all those years.
But, as he swept its floors on Thursday, it was painfully obvious things had changed.
The night before, a mob — chanting against Coptic Christians such as El Sayeh and calling for Egypt to become an “Islamic state” — had torched and looted the Virgin Mary Church.
“I didn’t expect this to happen,” El Sayeh said.
He’s not alone. Christians all around Egypt are cleaning up in the aftermath of a spate of attacks, which came on the country’s deadliest day since the 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
Bishop Angaelos, the Cairo-born head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, said he was told by colleagues in Egypt that 52 churches were attacked in a 24-hour span that started Wednesday, as well as numerous Christians’ homes and businesses.
Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, told CNN he had confirmed attacks on at least 30 churches so far, in addition to the targeting of church-related facilities, including schools and cultural centers.