Egypt's Coptic Christians pay price of political tumult

Khamis had no other choice than to
leave his house in the village of
Dalga, near the central Egyptian city
of Minya. After an arson attack on his
cousin's house and the fatal shooting
of another relative, he fled into hiding
with his wife and six children.
He said they had been singled out for no
other reason than being Christians.
"It was a terrible night," recalled Khamis,
who agreed to talk to us but did not
want to be identified. Khamis is not his
real name.
Khamis recounted what happened on the
night of 3 July, when the army deposed
Islamist former President Mohammed
Morsi.
"Angry mobs and thugs rampaged
through houses owned by Christians.
They started with the house of my
cousin, looting and setting it on fire. We
weren't taking any chances - we fled the
village."
'You are doomed'
Since Mr Morsi was forced from office,
there has been a string of attacks on
Christians in different provinces.
Local Copts say they have been singled
out by radical Islamists, for campaigning
against the former president and his
Muslim Brotherhood movement.
On 6 July, a priest was shot dead by
gunmen in an outdoor market in
northern Sinai.
Five days later, the body of a beheaded
Christian man was found in the same
area, where Islamist militants have
launched a string of attacks on security
and military posts since Mr Morsi's
overthrow.
Arson attacks on Christian houses and
shops have also been reported in remote
southern villages, where Islamist
hardliners hold sway.
The violence included a church in Dalga,
350km (220 miles) south of Cairo.
We visited the site and found a burned-
out shell, ransacked and blackened by
fire.
The church's priest, Father Ayoub
Youssef, told us what happened the night
Mr Morsi was removed from power.
"They were many people, about 500," he
said.
The new Coptic pope, Tawadros II, openly
criticised Mr Morsi and blessed his removal
from office
"They stormed the church chanting
slogans accusing Christians of
campaigning against Morsi like 'Shame on
you Christians! You traitors conspired
against the president. You are doomed!'
"They looted everything - benches, ceiling
fans, windows and even toilets. They
smashed a statue of the Virgin Mary,
before setting the whole building on
fire."
Father Ayoub was grateful to Muslim
neighbours for saving his life.
"They helped me escape from the roof to
their house. Had it not been for them, I
would have been lynched," he said.
Egypt's Christian minority, estimated at
around 10% of the 85 million
population, has felt vulnerable for
decades.
For a long time they steered clear of
politics. But with the recent dramatic
changes to the political scene, they have
become more active.
The new Coptic Pope, Tawadros II,
openly criticised the ousted president,
calling him a divisive figure who had set
Egyptians against one another.
He blessed the president's removal and
was in attendance when General Abdul
Fattah al-Sisi, the defence minister,
announced Mr Morsi's removal from
office.
Father Ayoub said being politically active
or associated with opponents of the
former president was not an excuse to
take innocent lives.
"If you are attacked because of your
political affiliations, I really don't know
what the world is coming to," he said.