The ongoing political violence in Egypt has led to unprecedented attacks on the country's Coptic Christian minority, the worst in their history. Copts, who make up roughly 10 percent of the Egyptian population, were the target of revenge by Muslim mobs this summer after Egypt's first Islamist president was overthrown in a military coup. Over 40 Christian churches all over Egypt were gutted by arson and looted -- some over a thousand years old and full of priceless relics. Copts have also been murdered in ongoing sectarian violence. Bob Simon reports from Egypt on the Copts, in a story to be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. on the CBS Television Network.
Human rights groups say the attacks were reprisals carried out by Islamist supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. When Egypt's military removed Morsi, supporters protested the move with speeches and sit-ins that led to a brutal crackdown by the Egyptian military that resulted in the deaths of up to a 1,000 people. Copts and their churches became targets, after their leader, Pope Tawadros II, appeared in public with the new military leadership. This "dangerous" tableau created an explosive perception, fueling angry mobs, says Heba Morayef, who heads Human Rights Watch in Egypt. "Accusations that Christians were responsible for the coup. Chants that would call Christians 'the pope's dogs,'" could be heard at demonstrations, she tells Simon.
Simon interviewed the caretaker of one Coptic Church located outside Cairo in Kerdasa. A mob, he says, broke down the gate and entered the church. "They looted everything, from chairs to pews," says Redha Girgis. "They stole anything that could be carried, what they couldn't carry, they destroyed," he says. "They set the whole place on fire with Molotov cocktails and gasoline."