At least 200,000 Christians have left Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak left office in February 2011, according to the Catholic agency Aid to the Church in Need, Independent Catholic News reports.
The UK head of Aid to the Church in Need is calling on people to pray for peace in Egypt after a sudden spike in attacks on Copts in the wake of President Mohammed Morsi’s dramatic downfall.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, whose fact-finding trip to Egypt coincided with the demonstrations that preceded President Morsi’s fall from power, spoke of his concern about a 'specific and targeted assault' on Christians across the country since the change of regime.He said: 'At this critical time in Egypt – as reports come in of recent attacks on churches in the regions – it is very important to pray for peace in Egypt for Christians and all peoples. Sporadic acts of violence and intimidation have taken place in the past, but what we have seen in recent days is a specific and targeted assault on the Christian presence in the country.'
Mr Kyrke-Smith, who described being in Egypt as 'protests and violence kicked off', highlighted reports just in of nine Christians being killed nationwide.
Mr Kyrke-Smith described travelling in and around Luxor, close to the village of Dabaaya, where four Christian men were murdered and 23 houses were burnt down on 5 July. Two other killings, both in the Sinai peninsula, include a priest – Abouna Aboud Sharween – killed on 6 July by unknown gunmen, and Magdy Lamei, a Christian salesman, whose body was found on 11 July, a few days after he was kidnapped and held for a ransom reportedly equivalent to more thna $60,000.
More than a dozen churches have been attacked, according to other reports. Coptic-owned businesses have been daubed with graffiti and anti-Christian fliers have been widely distributed.
Mr Kyrke-Smith said: 'Aid to the Church in Need is committed to standing with our suffering brothers and sisters in prayer and with practical help.' Stressing how many of the Christians he met were afraid of the future, he paid tribute to their faith and courage and that of the bishops he met there.
He said it would 'take a long time' to build respect for Christians and other minorities, and went on to report how Coptic Catholic Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor told him: 'We are a missionary Church, laying down rocks for the future, for our people.'
But, with immediate prospects for Christians looking bleak, Coptic leaders have said that 200,000 faithful had fled the country since President Hosni Mubarak left office in February 2011. The full figure could be much higher.
Egypt: ACN director appeals for peace after sudden increase in attacks on Christians (Independent Catholic News)