Coptic Christians went on the march after one of their churches was destroyed by the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters in southern Egypt.
Islamists are marking Christian homes and businesses with red paint before they are attacked.
Before the violence that shook this small village last week, there were warning signs.
On June 30, when millions of Egyptians took to the streets to protest against now ousted President Mohamed Morsi, residents of Al Nazla marked Christian homes and shops with red graffiti, vowing to protect Morsi’s electoral legitimacy with “blood.”
Relations between Christians and Muslims in the village, which had worsened since Morsi’s election in 2012, grew even more tense as Islamists spread rumors that it was Christians who were behind the protests against Morsi and his ouster by the military on July 3.
Finally, on the morning of Aug. 14, the tension erupted. In Cairo, the police attacked two protest camps full of Morsi supporters, using live ammunition and killing hundreds. When the news reached Al Nazla, a local mosque broadcast through its loudspeakers that Christians were attacking the protesters, say residents. Hundreds of villagers marched on the Saint Virgin Mary Church. They broke down the gate and flooded the compound, shouting “Allahu akbar” and “Islam is the solution,” according to Christian neighbors…
…The Saint Virgin Mary church in Al Nazla is one of 47 churches and monasteries that have been burned, robbed, or attacked since Aug. 14 in a wave of violence against Christians since the brutal police crackdown on the former president’s supporters, according to Ishak Ibrahim of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. He adds that dozens of Christian schools, other religious buildings, homes and shops have also been attacked and burned, and seven Christians killed. Police have done little to stop the attacks.
The victims say the attackers are Morsi supporters angered by the deaths in Cairo, and spurred on by Islamist rhetoric blaming Christians for Morsi’s ouster. The attacks are a realization of the long-held fears of many Christians and have prompted deep worry about widening religious violence in Egypt.
Al Nazla – about 60 miles southwest of Cairo near the oasis of Fayoum – is a small village that looks like many other rural Egyptian towns. Narrow and pitted dirt roads winding between brick buildings are clogged by three-wheeled tok-toks, animals, and villagers on foot. The red graffiti marking Christian homes and shops is still visible. “Yes to legitimacy, no to Sisi” reads the message scrawled on one shop, referring to Army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah El Sisi, who ousted Morsi.