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Egyptian Nuns Flee After Suez Convent Is Set Ablaze


While police moved with deadly force against pro-Morsi sit-ins yesterday, a series of other violent attacks in Christian communities erupted across the country. Government officials in Egypt say that more than half a dozen churches were damaged, but attacks on monasteries, schools and homes in Christian communities were also reported to be widespread. Human rights groups in Egypt have long expressed concern for the Christian minority in the country, which has faced increased persecution and attacks.

Some Islamists blame the largest group, Coptic Christians, for supporting the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood-backed leader Mohammed Morsi. Earlier, we spoke to Sister Angela of the Good Shepherd Convent in Cairo. Three nuns from her order fled a sister convent in Suez that was set ablaze yesterday. She described what happened.

SISTER ANGELA: We have a convent there. We have a school. We have a sort of orphanage. We also have a dispensary. And the sisters were there working, and all of a sudden they found fire. The Islamists were outside throwing something on the church. They began with the church. And then they threw something else in the dispensary. And at once, everything was ablaze and the trees around were all on fire and they couldn't put out the fire.

It was a great shock for the sisters. So they said, anyway, we can go inside and lodge in our convent. So the Islamists went and they burnt another school, which belongs to the Franciscans, and then they went back again and they threw fire on the school. We have a school around 403 kids or 500 children.

CORNISH: How many people were injured? Did everyone escape?

ANGELA: Anyway, the school children are on holiday, but everything was inside. They have their new benches, their uniforms, the files, the books, everything was burning. So it was horrible. The sisters were terribly shocked and they had to leave the convent and they went and they lodged with a family who took care of them. But everything is gone.

CORNISH: Sister Angela, can you tell me where the nuns are now?

ANGELA: This morning they went back to the convent and they collected the few things that were in their rooms. And by the end of the day, they were here. But there are other churches. They burnt 12 churches in Suez. It was a horrible, horrible day yesterday.

CORNISH: Sister Angela, do you feel that Cairo is safe for Christians?

ANGELA: All the Christians in Egypt, in Cairo, everywhere are afraid. Today, I had a call from a family and they told me all of us are united in one room and we daren't even go out to buy the necessary things. And even the non-Christians are afraid of the Islamists.

CORNISH: Sister Angela, will there be church services this Sunday in Cairo?

ANGELA: Listen, we have Mass in the convent. No problem for me. But the people outside, those who have to go church, to the parish church, are afraid to go.

CORNISH: Sister Angela, thank you so much for speaking with us.

ANGELA: You're welcome. You're welcome, dear.

CORNISH: That's Sister Angela of the Good Shepherd Convent. She spoke to us from Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.