Egyptian riot police attempt to put out fire started by Christians outside a mosque in Alexandria, 230 km (140 miles) north of Cairo January 1, 2011. A car bombing outside Alexandria's Coptic Orthodox church killed 21 people as worshippers gathered to mark the New Year, security and medical sources said on Saturday. The blast also damaged the mosque, which is near the church, and eight Muslims were among the 24 wounded. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh (EGYPT - Tags: RELIGION CIVIL UNREST)

That was the description by Al-Jazeera of the latest massacre of Christians in the Mideast, the New Year’s Day assault on a Coptic church in Alexandria. It is laden with significance…

Starting with when and where it happened.

A devastating New Year’s Day terrorist bombing at a Coptic church in Egypt that killed 21 people was the latest in a spate of violent assaults against the Middle East’s vulnerable Christian communities.

The car bomb explosion also injured 79 people just after midnight Saturday as worshipers were leaving a New Year’s Mass at the Saints Church in east Alexandria, Egyptian officials said.

On the surface, even at a distance, this is outrageous and intolerable. But look at this more closely…Look at what that last sentence reveals.

The faithful were leaving a midnight Mass of Reparations, a liturgy dedicated to prayer for peace, that began as the year ended and January 1, 2011 began its first hour.

What is January 1st? The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, a holy day for Christians since ancient times, first known in the East as the Theotokos. Proclaimed and adopted at the Council of Ephesus largely because of Cyril of Alexandria.

This attack targeted a church in Alexandria.

Eyewitnesses say at least 21 people have been killed and scores wounded in a suicide bombing attack at a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, Egypt.

Somehow, this galvanized people to act and speak out….finally. It struck me as heartening relief in a long string of mindless violence.

The local TV news channel, Nile News, reported that despite the angry reactions of many people, dozens of ordinary Egyptians rushed to area hospitals to donate blood for victims of the blast.

The Sheikh of Egypt’s venerable al-Azhar University, Ahmed Tayeb,  condemned the explosion, insisting it was carried out by evil outside forces trying to damage the image of Islam.

He says that al-Azhar expresses its deep sorrow for this odious crime which troubles everyone’s conscience. No Egyptian, he insisted, could have committed such an act, which was the deed of outside forces. He said that such people are strangers to Islam, because attacking a church is to attack a house of worship. Such people, he added, are aiming to damage the image of Islam in the West and create sectarian strife in the streets of Arab and Islamic countries.

We often hear and say…’where is the outrage in the Muslim community?’ We’re hearing it now.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused unnamed foreign elements of being behind the attack.

“This act of terrorism shook the country’s conscience, shocked our feelings and hurt the hearts of Muslim and Coptic Egyptians,” he said in an emergency address to the nation. “The blood of their martyrs in the land of Alexandria mixed to tell us all that all Egypt is the target and that blind terrorism does not differentiate between a Copt and a Muslim.”

Al-Jazeera had more access to the scene, or so it seemed. They reported the outrage of these attacks from their perspective.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb said: “This criminal act is the work of a sinner forbidden in Islam, because Islam has enjoined on the Muslims to protect churches as protecting mosques…”

That’s a key statement, one I haven’t seen published in most Western media, those that covered the attack at all.

It’s time to engage this battle, for crying out loud. This happened on the very day the universal Catholic Church also celebrated the World Day of Peace. Pope Benedict’s message this year is all about religious freedom.

The world needs God. It needs universal, shared ethical and spiritual values, and religion can offer a precious contribution to their pursuit, for the building of a just and peaceful social order at the national and international levels.

Peace is a gift of God and at the same time a task which is never fully completed. A society reconciled with God is closer to peace, which is not the mere absence of war or the result of military or economic supremacy, much less deceptive ploys or clever manipulation. Rather, peace is the result of a process of purification and of cultural, moral and spiritual elevation involving each individual and people, a process in which human dignity is fully respected. I invite all those who wish to be peacemakers, especially the young, to heed the voice speaking within their hearts and thus to find in God the stable point of reference for attaining authentic freedom, the inexhaustible force which can give the world a new direction and spirit, and overcome the mistakes of the past.

It’s the task at hand. Be a peacemaker.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....