The vile and bloody attack upon a New Year's Eve service at a Coptic Christian church in Egypt is only the latest in a string of attacks upon Middle Eastern Christians over the last several years.
I became aware of this a few years ago, through the Chaldean community here in my hometown of San Diego. Chaldeans are Christian Iraqis, although it should be noted that not all Christian Iraqis are Chaldean. Christianity in the Middle East is fragmented. In Lebanon, for example, where Christians are 40% of the population, the Christian community is divided between 12 different sects. Yes, twelve. No, I'm not exaggerating.
According to the local Chaldeans, even under Saddam Hussein the Christian community was fully tolerated in Iraq. As one local store owner related to me, "We were treated well, and we were the source of the forbidden. Many Muslims enjoy a drink from time to time, and where else were they going to get alcohol except from us?". Apparently the trade-off was that the Christian Iraqis stayed out of politics, and in exchange they were left completely alone. But this was under Saddam Hussein, about whom I have heard more than one Chaldean say, "Well, he was a very bad man, but he treated us OK."
The notable exception to the "No Christians in politics" rule was Tariq Aziz, who served as Foreign Minister of Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Oddly enough, Tariq Aziz was recently railroaded into a death sentence, but Iraqi President Jalal Talibani announced in mid-November that he would not sign the execution order. Who knows what's next for Aziz?
And the scapegoating of Tariq Aziz is representative of the general fate of Iraq's Christian community, who have been attacked again and again in recent years. Now the campaign of anti-Christian violence has spread to Egypt, and really, this is not a sudden thing. There has been trouble between the Coptic Christians of Egypt and the Muslim majority for the last three years, with definite signs of deliberate provocation by some unknown third party. Provocation in the form of malicious rumors spread among the Muslim majority of some unspeakable practice or outrage committed by the Copts, is the usual form. And it has been done over and over.
Now we have a suicide bomb attack against a church. On New Year's Eve. While these poor bastards are inside praying to their god for peace, BOOM!
So, the question, who is behind this? The Egyptian government is quick to blame al Qaeda, and they may in fact be responsible. Or they may not.
My favorite uncle phrases it as "cui bono?", meaning "who profits?", or who gains from this?
Very well, let us ask ourselves this question; who does gain from tension between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East? Well, what other religious groups are present in the Middle East in any sizable numbers?
Also, where are most Christians in the Middle East found? Lebanon is the obvious answer. Ok, so which of Lebanon's neighbours would benefit from a renewed civil war in Lebanon?
I think you know enough to answer these questions for yourself.