Last Sunday, many Christians around the world celebrated Easter, taking it for granted that they can congregate and worship in peace. Not so; in the Islamic world, where top religious officials call for the destruction of churches, Christian holidays celebrated in church are increasingly a time of death and destruction, a time of terror.
Nigeria, for example, saw some 50 Christians killed "when explosives concealed in two cars went off near a church during Easter Sunday services in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna…. the casualty figure may go up because some injuries were really critical." The church targeted was "the Assemblies of God's Church near the centre of the city with a large Christian population and known as a major cultural and economic centre in Nigeria’s north." According to the pastor holding Easter services at the time, "We were in the Holy Communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors, destroyed our fans and some of our equipment in the church."
There is little doubt that the Islamist group Boko Haram is behind the terror strike. The group has long been targeting churches--most notoriously, last December 25, when several churches were bombed in the Muslim majority areas of Nigeria, in what was described as "Nigeria's blackest Christmas ever": then, over 40 Christians were slain, "the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church [in Madalla near the capital of Abuja] after celebrating Christmas Mass as blood pooled in dust from a massive explosion." As usual, the charred and dismembered remains of Christian worshippers were seen scattered in and around the destroyed church.
While the Christmas--and now Easter--church attacks may be Nigeria's most known, they are certainly not the only ones. Consider just the last few weeks:
• Sunday, March 11: A Boko Haram suicide car bomber attacked a Catholic church, killing at least 10 people. The bomb detonated as worshippers attended Mass at St. Finbar's Catholic Church in Jos, a city where thousands of Christians have died in the last decadeas a result of Boko Haram's jihad.
• Sunday, February 26: A Boko Haram suicide car bomber killed at least three people, including a toddler, at another church in Jos. Witnesses said the jihadist drove his car into the prominent Church of Christ during morning prayers.
• Sunday, February 19: A Boko Haram bomb attack outside a church in Abuja left at least five people seriously injured and manymore hurt, when a parked car filled with explosives detonated outside the Christ Embassy Church.
While the mainstream media, analysts, government officials, etc. try to portray these attacks as products of Nigerian poverty--most recently, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs insisted that "religion is not driving extremist violence" in Nigeria--the fact is, wherever in the world there are significant numbers of Muslims (Nigeria is essentially half Christian, half Muslim), churches are under siege (see sections dealing with church attacks in my "Muslim Persecution of Christians" reports for February, January,December, November, October, September, August, and July).
Some of the more spectacular ones include the Baghdad church attack where 58 Christians were killed; likewise, the New Year's Eve church bombing in Egypt that saw over 20 Christians killed (when several more churches were bombed and attacked and thousands of Egyptian Christians demonstrated, they were slaughtered by their own military); earlier, in 2010, eight Egyptian Christians were shot dead by drive-by Muslims as they were leaving church on Christmas Eve.
Incidentally, Muslim attacks on churches during the holiest of Christian holidays are not limited to Nigeria and Egypt, but occur throughout the Muslim world--for instance, in distant, "moderate" Philippines, where another church was bombed during Christmas.
Of course, there are some Muslim nations--Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and soon possibly Kuwait--where one rarely hears of church attacks; but that is because they have nipped the "church problem" in the bud by not allowing them to exist in the first place. In other words, the hatred for churches is still there, but in an unseen form.
Speaking of hatred, while church attacks are efficient ways to ensure the deaths of maximum numbers of Christians--in that worshippers are tightly gathered in one spot--intentionally targeting churches during the highest Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter, is also a reminder of the malevolency that drives such attacks.
By Raymond Ibrahim