“A Ruthless Campaign of Religious Cleansing in Egypt’

Arab swordsIt’s about Islamic purification, and it’s about time for world leaders and media to address it.

Humanitarian and human rights advocate Nina Shea says it, full stop.

Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, and joined by various other Islamist groups, some hoisting al-Qaeda flags, a ruthless campaign of religious cleansing, of Islamic “purification,” is well underway in Egypt. As jihad has come to the Arab world’s largest country, our foreign-policy leaders and press ignore this turn of events at our peril.

But as she noted in an earlier piece, the US has been indifferent. And Coptic Church leaders have called out media that are either indifferent to the devolving reality in Egypt or worse.

Egypt’s Orthodox Coptic Church lashed out at Western media coverage of the recent violence in its country, saying “read objectively the facts of events and [don’t] give international and political cover to these terrorist and bloody groups.”

But they are, and the violence has grown to historic proportions.


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.

Or longer. The AP:

Egyptian scholar Samuel Tadros says Islamists enraged by the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi have attacked more than 50 churches, destroying at least 20 and setting many of them on fire.

Tadros, a Research Fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, says Wednesday appears to have been the worst single day of violence against Egypt’s Coptic church since the 14th century.

Catholic World Report personalizes the outrages.

For the first time in 1,600 years, Sunday prayers were canceled at the Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram in Degla, south of Minya, because the three churches there were destroyed by the mob. In Cairo, Franciscan nuns watched as the cross over the gate to their school was torn down and replaced by an al-Qaeda flag and the school itself torched; Sister Manal, the principal, reported that three nuns were then marched through the streets as prisoners of war, as neighborhood mobs “hurled abuse” at them along the way.

Christians became the target of violence and vandalism in Egypt this last week, with dozens of churches being sacked and torched by Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi. Today the Associated Press carried this report from Hamza Hendawi:

After torching a Franciscan school, Islamists paraded three nuns on the streets like “prisoners of war” before a Muslim woman offered them refuge. Two other women working at the school were sexually harassed and abused as they fought their way through a mob. …

Sister Manal [the principal of the Franciscan school in Bani Suef] recalled being told a week earlier by the policeman father of one pupil that her school was targeted by hard-line Islamists convinced that it was giving an inappropriate education to Muslim children. She paid no attention, comfortable in the belief that a school that had an equal number of Muslim and Christian pupils could not be targeted by Muslim extremists. She was wrong…

“We are nuns. We rely on God and the angels to protect us,” she said. “At the end, they paraded us like prisoners of war and hurled abuse at us as they led us from one alley to another without telling us where they were taking us,” she said. A Muslim woman who once taught at the school spotted Manal and the two other nuns as they walked past her home, attracting a crowd of curious onlookers.

“I remembered her, her name is Saadiyah. She offered to take us in and said she can protect us since her son-in-law was a policeman. We accepted her offer,” she said. Two Christian women employed by the school, siblings Wardah and Bedour, had to fight their way out of the mob, while groped, hit and insulted by the extremists. “I looked at that and it was very nasty,” said Manal.

The incident at the Franciscan school was repeated at Minya where a Catholic school was razed to the ground by an arson attack and a Christian orphanage was also torched.

This toll is already a few days old, and growing.

Nina Shea updates as of Monday.

The litany of attacks is long: St. George Church, St. Mary’s Church, Good Shepherd’s Church, the Pentecostal Church, in Minya; St. Therese Church, Church of the Reformation, Church of the Apostle, Holy Revival Church, St. John’s Church, in Assiut; Church of the Virgin Mary in Cairo, St. Damiana Church, the Evangelical Church, and Joseph’s Church, in Fayoum; Church of the Archangel Michael, St. Saviors Anglican Church, the Greek Orthodox and Franciscan churches, in Suez; Fr. Maximus Church and St. George’s Church, in Alexandria. . .

As of Sunday night, some 58 churches, as well as several convents, monasteries, and schools, dozens of Christian homes and businesses, even the YMCA, have been documented as looted and burned or subject to other destruction by Islamist rioters. The Coptic Pope remains in hiding and many Sunday services did not take place as Christian worshipers stayed home, fearing for their lives. A dozen or so Christians have been attacked and killed for being Christian so far.

Sam Tadros noted the historic level of violence happening here. Nina Shea confirms it.

For the first time in 1,600 years, Sunday prayers were canceled at the Orthodox Monastery of the Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram in Degla, south of Minya, because the three churches there were destroyed by the mob. In Cairo, Franciscan nuns watched as the cross over the gate to their school was torn down and replaced by an al-Qaeda flag and the school itself torched; Sister Manal, the principal, reported that three nuns were then marched through the streets as prisoners of war, as neighborhood mobs “hurled abuse” at them along the way.

Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman of Egypt’s Catholic Bishops reported to the Vatican news agency Fides that of the destroyed churches, 14 are Catholic, while the rest belong to the Coptic Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant communities. While the anti-Christian attacks are occurring throughout Egypt, they are concentrated especially in the areas of Al Minya and Assiut, “because it is there that we find the headquarters of the jihadists,” according to Fr. Greiche.

Groups of the Left, of women, of students, of intellectuals, of businesspersons, of secularists, not to mention the military, all participated in the Tamarrud movement that supported the military’s ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated President Morsi. But it is Egypt’s Christian community, who number 10 percent of the population, that is bearing the brunt of the Islamist anger.

Pope Francis is speaking out, frankly and clearly. “Faith and violence are incompatible,” he said. That should be stating the obvious. But it no longer is.

What are world leaders doing about this? What are the world’s media doing to call attention to it? What is our responsibility in this, and the violence in Syria, North Korea, the Central African Republic? First, be informed.


image: shutterstock

Sheila Liaugminas


Sheila Gribben Liaugminas, of Chicago, is a member of the Voices editorial board, and was host of The Right Questions on Relevant Radio and Issues and Answers news show. She and her husband have two sons, one a seminarian and the other a college student. Follow updates on this story (and contact Sheila) at www.inforumblog.com.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • Tom Dundee

    This is the Evil that is Islam. This is the story that has been Islam since the days of the Prophet, whose Farewell Address included, “I have been made victorious through terror”.
    In the latter 1800s UK Prime Ministers Gladstone and Churchill warned against the dangers of an increasingly aggressive Wahhabi Islam. I910, saw the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh discussing how to halt the spread of Islam south of the 10th parallel. Roman Catholics were not invited to the Edinburgh Conference. In 1920, Churchill again warned Parliament about the increasing danger of Islam. 1938, Hillaire Belloc wrote, “Our grandchildren and great grandchildren will be once again fighting an aggressive Islam”.

    It seems like today’s world leaders have chosen to forget what was plainly obvious to world leaders as recently as the early 2d half of the 20th Century. Why?

  • Tom Dundee

    The only time that Islam has behaved itself since 624 is following massive and catastrophic defeats in which they were unable to continue their aggression. Tours in 732, Vienna 1529 & 1683, Lepanto 1571, Toloosa (Spain) and several more.
    The Koran prohibits peace with the infidel and allows for a truce only to prevent defeat.
    In the early 1700s, the Wahhab family allied itself to the House of Saud and began preparing the way for renewed aggression. It began with the training of clerics and more clerics and then the masses. By the mid-1800s it was obvious to anyone who was paying attention. By the 1920s, the armies were on the move again.

  • Bill

    It seems that the only group that Islam hates more than Christians and Jews is itself.

  • Jonwards

    / Greets, Sheila. Found the following on the web, for what it may be worth. /


    (Each human is part of this “River.” Are you an “oxbow lake”?)

    Islam, part of the Living River of History, affected even the 2012 US election!
    The “headwaters” of this River was Adam, according to Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc.

    In the OT (Deut. 28), “tributaries” wanting to join the River are
    blessed while “distributaries” wanting to flow away from it are cursed.
    Those wishing to totally separate from the fresh Living River become
    polluted, dying “oxbow lakes.”
    In the OT we see Israelites
    repeatedly flowing away from God, then repenting and returning to Him;
    we also see heathen “oxbow lakes” creating their own little “gods” and
    being allowed by God to plunder and kill the erring Israelites.
    Then, at the right time, the Living River took on new life with the arrival of the Promised One who offers “living water.”

    In the 7th century Islam, drawing from both OT and NT, chose to be a
    distributary away from this River. Many scholars have viewed it as the
    final Antichrist: note “scourge” (Isa. 28), “Assyrian” (Mic. 5),
    “Euphrates” (Rev. 9) etc. (Google “Prof. F. N. Lee’s ISLAM IN THE BIBLE
    [PDF].” Dr. Lee, BTW, has nine (!) earned doctorates in various fields.)

    God will allow this “scourge” to temporarily persecute and kill
    apostate Jews (JINOs) and Christians (CINOs). Jews, especially in
    “entertainment,” seem more expert in apostasy than Christians since Jews
    have been at it 2000 years longer than Christians have (Google
    “jewishfaces.com/porn.html”) – but Christians apparently want to catch
    up to the Jews!
    It’s apparent that others will join Islam in its
    end-time inquisition; its great oil wealth can captivate many leaders
    and already we’re seeing apostate American leaders being bribed into
    turning against true American patriots.
    Those who ignore (or try
    to dilute or destroy) the God-ordained Living River of History will be
    swept down it to an ocean made by their own never-ending tears of agony
    and despair.
    The good news is that American JINOs & CINOs
    can overcome the “scourge” discussed above. The secret is found by
    checking out “II Chronicles 7:14” & “John 3:16” on the web.

    There’s still time – and freedom – to Google or MSN “Obama Promotes
    Public Sex,” “Obama a Black-Slavery Avenger?,” “Dangerous Radicals of
    the Religious Right,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Mikey Weinstein,
    Jesus-Basher,” “Christ’s return is NOT imminent,” “Pretrib Rapture
    Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” “Pretrib Rapture Pride,” and
    (for dessert) “Pretrib Rapture Stealth.”
    In light of Matthew
    7:2, if we tolerate Christian leaders who lie to us and steal from us,
    we shouldn’t be surprised if God allows us to have political leaders who
    lie to us and steal from us!

    A Kansas Patriot (who won FIRST PLACE over 2200 entrants in a nationwide Americanism essay contest)

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    I am currently reading the book “Crucified Again” subtitled: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians: by Raymond Ibraham. Ibraham’s parents are Coptic (Egyptian) Christians who fled to the U.S. and is where Raymond was born. He knows Arabic and English so is able to use Arabic sources most American journalists cannot translate.
    After reading this well-researched book it is impossible to conceive of anyone calling Islam a “religion of peace.”
    In fact, Ibraham makes a strong case that the persecution of Christians around the world wherever Moslems are in the majority is the clear result of themes in the Koran, in Islamic theology, in Sharia law, and in Islamic culture.
    Also clear is how the liberal western media refuses to inform the public of the possible peril we face.
    And yes, there are a few Moslem majority countries where there are few or no reports of Moslem violence against Christians. But that is because in places like North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula Christians have been almost completely “cleansed” from those areas.

  • I know there are a minority of Islamic movements which are really peaceful.

    But the Arab spring showed us that as soon as they get some power, they are driven out by Islamist who impose a theocracy to the entire population.

    Sadly, secular Arab dictators seem to be the only ones able to keep Islamism at bay.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son