On New Year's Day in Egypt, the year was wrung in with violence based on religious persecution. 21 are dead, 79 are injured on the 1st day of 2011. Coptics (Christians) vs. Muslims. Muslim extremist have used this holiday season to unleash their terror on Christians in Nigeria after similar recent attacks in Iran and Iraq.
The article goes on to note that Christians have declined in Egypt to around 5% from 20% over the last century. I remember seeing simliar trends when I was in Greece about 6 years ago and Turkey 10 years ago. I remember talking to a Greek pastor who mourned that his people who were amongst the first churches but now are only a shadow of their former glory.
Unfortunately neither community are above reproach. Earlier in August of 2010, Kamelia Shehata Zakher, wife a priest was locked away after she converted from Christianity (Coptic) to Islam. (Note: The president of Egypt was threatened to be sued over this as well. Very odd side-bar.)
I always feel torn and confounded by the violence that plagues the middle east. However I try not confuse communities (with their radicals) and their religious associations. I know I wouldn't want my actions judged by some ultra-extremists that happen to share some ideals.(Timothy McVeigh, David Koresh, etc)
Why don't we see this persecution as often in Europe or North America? Is extremism the cost of such conviction and passion? (Misguided of course.) Are we in North America more understanding and open, or just lukewarm? I'm hoping the former.
16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Rev. 3:16 NIV)
For now, I think all I can offer are prayers for this region. I'm sure if there was a "quick-fix" for peace in the middle-east it would have been found a long time ago...