Charred benches, notebooks covered in ash, the burned-out shell of a schoolbus. The Franciscan school in the upper Egyptian city of Beni Suef looks like the aftermath of a bomb attack. Toilets and sinks are shattered into fragments. The melted blades of fans hang from the ceiling.
Bedecked in white, sister Nagaat sits beside the wreckage of an altar in a room with blackened walls. Christian services can no longer be held here. The attackers took stools, sacred images – even light switches and cables. They burned the cross on top of the building, and raised the flag of al-Qaeda in its place. “The Islamists wreaked havoc for eight hours,” says Nagaat and picks up the head of a Virgin Mary statue from the floor.
One month after the most intense religious unrest in Egypt since the revolution of January 25, 2011, the country’s Christian communities remain in shock. At least 45 churches and many other Christian facilities went up in flames on August 14. The fiercest violence raged in upper Egypt, where the number of Christians is particularly high. The attacks are thought to be retaliation for the Egyptian army’s massacre of hundreds of Islamists at a Cairo protest, when the Muslim Brotherhood accused Christians of supporting the military.
Egyptian Christians have seen themselves as the victims of discrimination for decades – professionally and in day-to-day life. But in the past few months, the number of violent attacks against them has risen markedly. Nagaat blames the fallen Islamist government of President Mohammed Morsi.
“President Hosni Mubarak put the preachers of hate behind bars,” she told DW. “Under Morsi, though, they were allowed to agitate in the mosques as much as they wanted to.” Thus, she says, the imams called for the boycott of Coptic stores in Beni Suef.