The slaughter of dozens of Christians attending Palm Sunday services in Egypt is shocking.
News pictures of splintered pews and blood soaked carpet are so out of place with our conception of church as a sanctuary of peace, love and worship.
Egyptian Copts are some of the most ancient Christians tracing their heritage back to St Mark, the gospel writer, who evangelised that part of North Africa.
The ACL team is made up of Christians from a broad spectrum of the Body of Christ. Our Western Australian Director, Dahlia Messiha, is of Egyptian descent and is a proud member of Australia’s Coptic community, many of whom fled Egypt to escape persecution from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Dahlia wrote movingly on our blog yesterday about her church of martyrs.
Now only 10 per cent of the majority Muslim population, Egypt’s Christians pre-date Islam by hundreds of years.
St Athanasius, who showed great courage to settle an early heresy about the nature of Jesus by giving us the doctrine of the trinity, was the bishop of Alexandria.
Just as his life was in danger, so too are the lives of the Christians who inhabit that city 1600 years later.
Australia’s most senior Coptic leader, Melbourne-based Bishop Surial, (pictured yesterday with Melbourne's Christian leaders) shared confronting CCTV footage on Facebook of the Alexandria church bomber trying to evade a metal detector at the door of St Mark’s before blowing himself up, along with 17 others.
It is shocking that airport style security is now needed to get into church in some parts of the world. I hope we never see that day in Australia.
Islamic State (also known as ISIS) has claimed responsibility for the twin suicide bombings. Having driven millions of Christians out of Iraq and Syria, ISIS is hell-bent on completing its genocide of Christians in the Middle East.
But we should not think they will stop with the Middle East.
And it seems that within the Muslim world, it is not just ISIS that shares a sinister ambition of killing Christians who “blaspheme” their religion’s founder, Mohammad.
In Pakistan, a supposedly moderate Islamic state, Christians like Asia Bibi are put on death row for the crime of “blaspheming the prophet”.
Australia imposes no sanctions on Pakistan for its blasphemy laws which clearly undermine international covenants on freedom of religion.
Their cricket team was here again last summer and nothing is said.
Yet South Africa was rightly banned from international sport when it had discriminatory policies on race.
It is no wonder ISIS is emboldened to kill Christians. If Islam allows moderate Islamic states like Pakistan to enforce the death penalty against Christians, why would ISIS not extrapolate this logic?
Indeed, they do.
Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah al Sisi, who overthrew the radical Muslim Brotherhood in a military coup in 2013, has issued a challenge to Islamic scholars to reform Islam.
He told them they need to give the world confidence that Islam is not out to kill non-Muslims.
Sadly his challenge to do more to resist the ISIS jihadist is being resisted by Islamic scholars in Egypt which is a centre for world Islamic scholarship.
While ever “moderate” Islamic states like Pakistan put Christians like Asia Bibi on death row using the teachings of Islam as justification, there will be terrorist versions of Islam like ISIS.
Here in Australia the overwhelming majority of Muslims share our peace-loving way of life and practice a version of Islam that is peaceful.
They are welcome.
However, some of those who claim to speak for them need to be called to account.
Keysar Trad, president of Muslims Australia, is a frequent advocate for redefining marriage to include the misogynist practice of polygamy, something viewed as acceptable in many Islamic countries.
He has also recently claimed that Islam supports husbands hitting their wives.
As recently as today, he is in the Australian newspaper calling South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi a “bigot” for questioning why the new Royal Adelaide Hospital has a Muslims only prayer room.
Clearly there needs to be further discussion about Islam and our anti religious vilification laws, or extending 18C of the federal Racial Discrimination Act, are not the answer.
It is ironic that the attacks in Egypt took place on Palm Sunday.
This is the day Christians worldwide celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem.
The crowds cheered their king, waving palm fronds as he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Jesus never denied he was a king, as the Bible says he is.
But he redefined what it meant to be a king. Ridiculously riding a donkey, he went to lay down his life for the world by submitting to a humiliating death on a cross.
In contrast, Islam’s founder, Mohammad, road a battle horse leading his army on a killing spree into Medina.
Christians are rightly ashamed of times in our history where in the name of Christ the sword has been used. It is not the Jesus way.
Yet Islam seemingly continues to turn a blind eye to the violence of states like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and groups like the Muslim Brotherhood.
We have to be allowed to discuss the differences in religions without the fear of so-called “hate speech” laws.
One of the great myths of our age is that all religions are the same.
No, they are not.
Palm Sunday proves this.