The mass beheadings of 21 Coptic Egyptians in Libya may have the surprising effect of bringing Egypt’s Muslims and Christians closer together. So says Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute.

“The killers may have aimed to exploit sectarian hostilities – as they have in Iraq and Syria – and splinter Egyptian society. Paradoxically, however, this blatantly anti-Christian attack may finally lead to the easing of Christian-Muslim tensions in Egypt,” Shea wrote in a column published Jan. 19 by the Los Angeles Times.

Shea said expressions of condolences to Copts and national resolve by Egypt’s president,  Abdel Fattah Sisi, “is precisely what Copts have been yearning for.”

“President Sisi, a pious Muslim, should ensure that his recent steps lead to a new chapter of religious freedom and cultural tolerance in Egypt,” Shea wrote. “He can start by seeing that those who assault Copts and their property are tried and punished; journalists and religious leaders who incite such violence are taken off government payrolls and held responsible; and churches and mosques are given equal treatment under state zoning and construction regulations.”