Coptic Christians run inside the main cathedral in Cairo as police fire tear gas during clashes with Muslims in this April 7, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)
Churches and Christian institutions as well as property owned by Copts have come under attack since the crackdown on supporters of Mohamed Morsi left hundreds dead, say Coptic leaders.
Churches in Egypt reportedly set ablaze Wednesday included St. George Church in Sohag, a city south of Cairo on the Nile River.
These attacks have been blamed by some on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group once led by more recently deposed President Mohamed Morsy.
U.S. President Obama announced Thursday the cancellation of a joint military maneuver with Egypt that was scheduled for mid-September, because Wednesday’s violence has claimed at least 500 lives and injured over 3,000. United States has been aiding Egypt with roughly $1.3 billion a year.
Pope Francis expressed his grief at the “painful news” of more than 500 deaths and numerous attacks on Christian churches in a recent wave of violence in Egypt.
“I wish to ensure my prayers for all the victims and their families, the injured and all those who are suffering,” the Pope said before the Angelus prayer Aug. 15. “Let us pray together for peace, dialogue and reconciliation in that dear nation and throughout the world.”
A Bible Society of Egypt statement posted online Wednesday reported the "complete burning and destruction" of its bookshops in the cities of Assiut and Minia, in southern Egypt.
"Fortunately we were closed today, fearing such an attack, so none of our staff were injured," said the statement by Ramez Atallah, the society's general director. "The attackers demolished the metal doors protecting the bookshops, broke the store windows behind them and set the bookshops on fire."
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.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's population, or well over eight million people.
The Christian minority has been the target of a number of attacks in recent years. The bombing of a major church in Alexandria in January 2011 killed 21 people and sparked worldwide condemnation.
Christian leaders are worried that Egypt’s new rulers will continue to be more focused on dealing with challenges to their own power than protecting the people and churches of a religious minority.