While this incident received some coverage in Western media, attacks on churches in Egypt on or around Easter are not uncommon. For instance, two days after the Palm Sunday attacks, on April 12, authorities thwarted another Islamic terror attack targeting a Coptic monastery in Upper Egypt. Similarly, on April 12, 2015, Easter Sunday, two explosions targeting two separate churches took place in Egypt. Although no casualties were reported—hence no reporting in Western media—large numbers could easily have resulted, based on precedent (for example, on January 1, 2011, as Egypt’s Christians ushered in the New Year—another Christian holiday for Orthodox communities—car bombs went off near the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, resulting in 23 dead worshippers and dozens critically injured).
Less spectacular but no less telling, after 45 years of waiting, the Christians of Nag Shenouda, Egypt, finally got a permit to build a church; local Muslims responded by rioting and even burning down the temporary tent the Christians had erected to worship under (different incident from this similar one). Denied, the Christians of Nag Shenouda celebrated Easter in the street, to Muslims jeers and sneers (picture here)
While almost anything can provoke Muslims around the world to attack churches, there is a reason that the animus can reach a fever pitch during Easter: more than any other Christian holiday, Resurrection Sunday commemorates and celebrates three central Christian doctrines that Islam manifestly rejects: that Christ was crucified and died; that he was resurrected; and that by especial virtue of the latter, he is the Son of God. As Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Bir, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s mufti said in 2013, Muslims must not commend Coptic Christians during Easter, for that holiday “contradicts and clashes with Islamic doctrine unlike Christmas.”
From here the carnage makes sense. Thus on Easter Sunday, 2016, another Islamic suicide bombing took place near the children rides of a public park in Pakistan, where Christians were known to be congregated and celebrating. Some 70 people—mostly women and children—were killed and nearly 400 injured. Something similar was in store for Pakistan this year, 2017, as officials foiled a “major terrorist attack” targeting Christians on Easter Sunday.
As Islam’s presence continues to grow in Europe, and in accordance with Islam’s rule of Numbers, Easter-related attacks are also growing. According to one report, “the terror cell that struck in Brussels [in March, 2016, killing 34] was planning to massacre worshippers at Easter church services across Europe, including Britain.” In Scotland, 2016, a Muslim man stabbed another Muslim man to death for wishing Christians a Good Friday and Happy Easter. If an al-Qaeda terror plot targeting Easter shoppers in the UK was not thwarted “it would almost certainly have been Britain’s worst terrorist attack, with the potential to cause more deaths than the suicide attacks of July 7, 2005, when 52 people were murdered.”
On Easter Sunday, 2015, the Islamic State destroyed the Virgin Mary Church in Tel Nasri, an ancient Christian region in northeast Syria. After Islamic rebels fired rockets at a Christian neighborhood right before that same Easter, 2015, killing approximately 40, a woman lamented how “Our Easter feast has turned to grief.”
In 2015, Muslims attacked a Catholic village in Bangladesh as it celebrated Easter; they stabbed its priest, destroyed Bibles, crosses, holy pictures, musical instruments and homes — and slaughtered goats and chickens.
According to an AP report from 2013, “Iraq’s Catholic Christians flocked to churches to celebrate Easter Sunday, praying, singing and rejoicing in the resurrection of Christ,” but only “behind high blast walls and tight security cordons.”
Of course, while Resurrection Sunday has the capacity to offend—and thus bring out the worse in some—Muslims more than any other Christian holy day, one should be careful not to attribute too much doctrinal nitpicking to those who attack churches. After all, Muslims have bombed and burned Christian churches on other holidays—in the days leading to last Christmas, 2016, a Cairo church was bombed leaving 27 dead and 70 wounded—and no holidays at all. (See here for Christmas 2016, here for Christmas 2015, and here for Christmas 2014 for dozens of anecdotes of Muslim violence against and slaughter of Christians in the context of Christmas.)
In short, whatever the holiday, growing numbers of Muslims appear to agree with the view voiced by one Egyptian cleric that “Christian worship is worse than murder and bloodshed”—meaning, shedding the blood of Christians and murdering them is preferable to allowing them to flaunt their opposition to Muhammad’s teachings, as they most certainly do every Sunday in church. Only more doctrinally attuned Muslims, who are in the minority, save their attacks for that one day of the year that so flagrantly defies Islam: Resurrection Sunday.