A New Year’s mass ended with 21 dead and 79 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a church early Saturday, that is, January 1. A Coptic Christian Church in Alexandria was the scene of the carnage that saw eight Muslims wounded from a mosque across the street.
Reports are saying that a car parked outside the church was the source of the blast but police still do not know if the car had been rigged with explosives or if someone had placed a bomb underneath it.
This attack happens at a time of growing sectarian tension in Egypt and the broader region. Back in November, Cairo saw violent riots on the part of its Christian minority when authorities stopped the building of a church. Clashes occurred in the Giza district between police and about 3,000 Copts leaving dozens wounded. Christians make up 10 percent of Egypt’s 79 million people.
AFP reported that in a televised speech, President Hosni Mubarek accused outside forces for the attack pledging his government would find those guilty. He urged both Muslims and Christians to "close ranks" as all of Egypt is targeted and terrorism does not differentiate between Muslims and Copts.
While Al Qaida had no immediate claim, the terrorist organisation has previously made threats against Christians.
Are Christians being singled out? On October 31, Muslim extremists killed 58 in a Baghdad church and in the past few days, fifteen separate bombs were apparently placed at the private homes of Christians in Baghdad leaving two dead and 16 injured.
In Pakistan, it is thought the blasphemy law is being abused to target Christians. Asia Bibi, a 45 year old mother of five, a Christian arrested for blasphemy has been condemned to hang for supposedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The insult? She refused to convert to Islam.