Three Years Later: Revisiting the Muslim Brotherhood's 2013 Terror Spree Against Christians

Three years ago today, Muslim Brotherhood supporters began a systematic campaign targeting Egypt's Christian community. They destroyed dozens of churches, monasteries, Christian businesses, and homes across Egypt.

Attacks on this scale had not occurred here for several centuries.

Even today, many of the churches and monasteries that were looted and torched during August 2013 remain in disrepair. Attacks on Christians continue in certain areas of Egypt.

Several months after the Muslim Brotherhood carved this path of destruction through the Egyptian Christian community, I had the opportunity to visit some of these sites and to meet with Coptic church leaders to discuss the Muslim Brotherhood's role in these attacks.

The Coptic Christian community in Egypt is significant not only because it is one of the oldest and largest Christian communities in the Middle East, but because the Coptic Christians make up more than half of the Christians still remaining in the Middle East.

Escorted by Father Anthony Hanna of St. Mary and St. Mina Coptic Church in Concord, California, in April 2014 we traveled deep into Upper Egypt, where many of the attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood occurred.

Muslim Brotherhood church attacks August 2013

The first indications of how tense the situation remained even months after the attacks were the levels of security we had to pass through to attend the Easter service at St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral.

Our driver was not even allowed close to the cathedral entrance, so we were dropped off about a quarter mile away. As we passed through the gates, we were checked for our passports and the passes to attend the service. This would be the first of seven ID checks we had to go through to enter the cathedral on the holiest holiday for Christians around the world.

There was good reason for concern about security. A year earlier, the cathedral had been attacked during a funeral by Muslim mobs without any intervention by police under the government of then-President Mohamed Morsi, a top Muslim Brotherhood leader.

Several days later we had lunch with Father Hanna, where he introduced us to a young Coptic man, "George," who had been been kidnapped for eight days in January 2013. The son of a prominent Coptic businessman, he was held until his family paid a $100,000 ransom.

"George" described his captivity at the hands of his Islamist captors. Initially he was beaten, and subjected to anti-Christian taunts throughout his captivity. When his captors had obtained the ransom, but before he was released, "George" was blindfolded and a gun held to his head. He was told that if he didn't renounce his Christian faith and accept Islam, he would be killed. Unable to get him to renounce his faith and with their ransom secured, "George" was released.

Sadly, the kidnapping of Christians in Egypt is still a regular occurrence.

Later that evening, Father Hanna, my Unconstrained Analytics colleague Stephen Coughlin, and I received a personal audience with Pope Tawadros II at his office and residence in the St. Mark's Cathedral compound. Again, we had to pass through layers of security, including armored vehicles stationed at the cathedral gates.

Steve Coughlin, Fr. Anthony Hanna meeting with Pope Tawadros II (Photo credit: Patrick Poole) Steve Coughlin, Fr. Anthony Hanna meeting with Pope Tawadros II (Photo credit: Patrick Poole)

Armored vehicle protecting St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Abbassia, Cairo, Egypt (Photo credit: Patrick Poole) Armored vehicle protecting St. Mark's Coptic Cathedral in Abbassia, Cairo, Egypt (Photo credit: Patrick Poole)

During our audience, Pope Tawadros detailed the ongoing fallout of the Muslim Brotherhood attacks in August 2013, and his reasons for backing Morsi's ouster following the massive June 30 protests.

Two of the things he specifically cited: the April 2013 attacks on the cathedral, which he noted was without precedent in Coptic history and which a Morsi aide had blamed Christians for; and the torture of Christian protesters in March 2013 by Muslim Brotherhood cadres at a mosque following protests against the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi.

Pope Tawadros had been praised for speaking out during the Muslim Brotherhood's August 2013 "Reign of Terror" for discouraging attempts to save the churches and the monasteries. "We could replace the buildings, we couldn't replace the people," he told us.

Several days later, Father Hanna and I set out for Upper Egypt with arrangements made by Pope Tawadros' staff. Here is a video of Father Hanna discussing our trip into Upper Egypt with CBN News.

Murder in Minya

Our first stop in Upper Egypt was in Minya, one of the largest cities in Upper Egypt, about 140 miles south of Cairo. A majority of Egypt's Christian community lives in Upper Egypt, and considerable destruction occurred in the Minya region.

We initially met with Bishop Makarios, who had survived an assassination attempt just months before. Bishop Makarios noted that Christian homes and businesses in Minya had been marked with an "X" by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in the days prior to the attacks, much as ISIS did with Christian homes in Mosul, Iraq two years later.

During their "Reign of Terror," the Muslim Brotherhood had openly encouraged the attacks. This justification for retaliation was posted on the Facebook page of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in Helwan:

FJP-Helwan attack on Copts - screen-shot-2013-08-16-at-4-21-28-am

One of the first places we visited was a shipyard on the Nile, where the burned-out remnants of the Coptic-owned Mermaid restaurant ship was moored.

When the mobs arrived at the shipyard, which was owned by a local Coptic businessman, the boats with Coptic owners were targeted, the Muslim manager of the shipyard told us. One of those was the Mermaid, where two watchmen, one Muslim and one Christian, took refuge in the ship's bathroom.

The ship was set afire, and the two men were found dead embracing each other still inside the bathroom.

In the photo below, the shipyard manager points out the direction that the mob came from with the remains of the Mermaid in the background.

Mermaid restaurant boat torched by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Minya, Egypt (Photo credit: Patrick Poole) Mermaid restaurant boat torched by Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Minya, Egypt (Photo credit: Patrick Poole)