In Egypt, Nigeria and Iraq we saw a trinity of recent attacks on Christian churches. This is more than a sacrilege it is a worrisome sign that the instability caused by terrorism is looking for new ‘soft targets’ and Christians may find themselves martyred.
Happy New Year!
I know this sounds like a gloomy start to 2011. When we enter our parish church each Sunday morning the last thing we think about is whether we are going to be attacked. But these three incidents remind us that in many parts of the world being a practicing Christian is a dangerous demonstration of faith.
That was just what happened 20 minutes after midnight on January 1st at the Coptic Church of Two Saints in Alexandria, Egypt as a suicide bomber blew himself up as worshipers gathered for midnight mass. Authorities in Egypt said the attack followed an internet statement from al Qaeda in Iraq calling for attacks against churches in Egypt and the Church of Two Saints. No one seems to know why that church was targeted but 21 were killed and 80 more wounded in the attack.
It would be easy to blame these attacks on radical Islamists seeking to strike out where the bombs do the most damage and wreak the most fear and outrage. But the intelligence advisory service STRATFOR says these attacks should not be taken so literally. That the attacks likely have more to do with a show of force demonstration that they could be carried out in a country like Egypt which has a fierce and fearsome domestic intelligence service designed to root out terrorists and opponents of the regime.
This is small comfort to Christians in countries beset with radical Islamist groups and grievances. It is also a chilling reminder to those of us who think little of security issues when we come to church each Sunday that it only takes one person bent on destruction to wreak havoc on so many lives.
This is not an indictment of Islam. In fact, Muslims are the most frequent target of Islamic radicals. This is not a message that Christians should question our beliefs or refrain from our corporate worship. We do not know why the three great monotheistic religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism find it so hard to unite around the simple concept of worshiping one God. Even in our Anglican Communion we bicker with each other over things that seem trivial and inane from the pews.
I have often wondered if Rodney King’s destiny was to deliver that simple message to us as an act of grace arising from his own torment. We hear it. We want to believe it, but somehow it keeps slipping beyond our grasp.
We pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Nigeria and Iraq who sacrificed their lives and unknowingly put their families in harm’s way by the simple act of corporate prayer—martyrs for their faith.
Yet every Sunday we renew our faith by the simple act of prayer that God will help us find a way to break this senseless cycle of violence on our street and in our neighborhoods and in nations a world away.
That is our true Epiphany!