While media attention has focused on Cairo, other Egyptian cities are also in tumult. Fayoum, southwest of Cairo and home to 1.5 million Egyptians and many ancient monuments, has had a death toll of between 17 and 54 this year, depending on who you believe, and seen attacks on up to six churches and other Christian-owned buildings.
Hany Naguib—a board member of the Bible Friends Society (BFS) and the Bible Society of Egypt, the largest Arabic Bible publisher in the world—described for me what happened to the BFS’s four-story Fayoum building, which included a hall for religious meetings and Bible study, a theater, a library, and classrooms. The BFS “offered a lot of services to either Christians or Muslims for many tens of years,” Naguib explained. Local Christians, most of them poor, donated money for years to fund the building.
The BFS building was an easy target for vandals when violence erupted this summer. Naguib said “hundreds” of protestors supporting Egypt’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, went to the property after police dispersed their sit-in. Some had guns, grenades, or fire bombs. No one was injured since Christians stayed indoors that week due to rising tension, but the mob threw combustibles and set the BFS ablaze, Naguib said.
The building was symbolic for some Fayoum Christians, Naguib said: “The best of our memories were in this place; others declared that they knew God through this place.” For now, the military has offered to help the organization rebuild. But not knowing if or when that will occur, local Christians are again offering contributions. Naguib joins other Christian Egyptians in keeping a faithful and conciliatory view, “hoping that the Lord may dispose all these matters as [He] deemed fit.”