Yesterday’s pair of suicide attacks on Coptic churches in Egypt killed at least 44 people and the death toll will probably rise as more of the wounded succumb. The Palm Sunday attack was unusual, but perhaps the attackers realized that security would have been tighter had they waited for Easter.
Easter was marked most infamously in Lahore on Easter Sunday in 2016, where a park was attacked by the Pakistani Taliban. That attack killed 72 Christians after Easter services, including 29 children.
For anyone who does listen to what Salafists, Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood say, there have been plenty of statements about their view of Christianity and its place in the world. There is a traditional place – one of humiliation and subjugation. Christians and Jews are supposed to be Dhimmi and remain inferior, cowed, and available for abuse when Muslims are feeling restless.
As they did with concubinage and slavery, much of the Muslim world moved beyond this in the 20th Century. However, the revival of Militant Islam has certainly put Christianity back into place as a target and there have been hundreds and hundreds of attacks since 2001 where Christians have been singled out.
Boko Haram in Nigeria has made a point of attacking churches at Easter and Christmas. They have also been known to burn down churches during services. Hand grenades often mark Abu Sayyaf’s style in the Philippines, whereas Christian churches in Iraq are normally marked down for truck bombs.
Of course, not all terrorism involves mass attacks on churches. The Jihad movement has plenty of room for individual craftsmanship with knives on men, women and children. Shop-keepers who close on Sundays, people who go swimming, have an alcoholic drink… anything can justify homicide for an Islamist.
So far in 2017 alone, there have been 18 Islamist attacks on Christians – seven alone in Egypt, four in Nigeria, and even one in the US. Five of the attacks took place on a church, most of the others involved attacks on Christians in their daily life. There were 98 last year, including incidents in Australia, Austria, France, Germany, and the US.
So far, Westerners have viewed these attacks with equanimity – who cares about Nigerian Anglicans, Copts in Egypt, or Catholics in Pakistan? Well, now the attacks are occurring here.
The two growing tends for attacks in the Western World include vehicular homicide and lone attacks with a knife. So, what are to make of the targeting for the December 19th attack in Berlin when 11 people were killed and 48 injured in a popular Christmas market outside a church? Or of the 84-year old French priest who had his throat slit in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in July 2016, when mass was interrupted by Islamists ‘radicals’?
We have been warned.