The terrorists whose bombs killed at least 359 people on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka made their point crystal clear: they hate Christians. The Islamic group ISIS released photos of eight suicide bombers pledged to its caliph, Abu Bakr-al Baghdadi. It claimed that they had carried out the “blessed attack” on the “blasphemous holiday” of Easter.
A plaster statue of Jesus spattered with blood in St. Sebastian's Church, Negombo, expresses the horror of the atrocity.
It’s not sure whether ISIS really was behind the blasts, as it likes to claim responsibility for carnage and mayhem whatever the source. It even tweeted that it had inspired the Las Vegas shooter who shot dead 58 people in 2017.
But two facts stand out. The bombers were Muslim fanatics and most of the victims were devout Christians at two Catholic churches on Sri Lanka’s west coast and an evangelical church on its east coast. It was an act of calculated perversity aimed at killing as many Christians as possible, men and women, old and young, on the holiest day of the year. This is Christianophobia at its worst.
The Easter bombings back up claims by Christian groups that Christianity is the world’s most persecuted faith. According to the respected Pew Research Report of 2018, Christians were harassed in 144 of 198 countries, up from 142 the year before. Another Christian think tank, Open Doors USA, claims that every month, “345 Christians are killed for faith-related reasons; 105 Churches and Christian buildings are burned or attacked …[and] 219 Christians are detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned”.
Muslims are harassed as well. In fact, the Pew Research Report ranks them second in the persecution stakes. But it seems indecent to ignore the fact that trying to live by Jesus’s command to “love one another as I have loved you” can be a death sentence. Not just in lawless regions like Yemen or northern Nigeria, but in countries with hundreds of years of Christian traditions, like France, where 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel had his throat cut during Mass in 2016.
But this is exactly how the New York Times and other media reacted to the slaughter of hundreds of Christians in Sri Lanka. The Times editorial did not mention the word “Christian” once.
For the Times, there is no such thing as Islamist Christianophobia. There is only the baffling phenomenon of a mysterious terrorist virus which indiscriminately attacks synagogues in Pittsburgh, and mosques in Christchurch, and country-and-western fans in Las Vegas, and Christians in Sri Lanka, and journalists in Northern Ireland.
The Times “gets” anti-semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia; it regularly campaigns against them. But it just doesn’t “get” Christianophobia. It seems to think that Christianity is just an embarrassing habit that can be cured by reading its op-ed page often enough.
The causes of terrorism are baffling, according to the Times, but whatever they are, modern social media amplifies them. “The terrible images from the churches and hotels of Sri Lanka should … add convincing weight to demands that the powers of social media finally acknowledge and accept their responsibility to block the venom they allow to spread.”
Sound advice, perhaps, but astonishingly blinkered. After 9/11 did the Times point the finger at technical fixes to airport security or New York City building standards? No. It asked patriotic readers “to consider the intensity of the hatred it took to bring [9/11] off. It is a hatred that exceeds the conventions of warfare, that knows no limits, abides by no agreements.”
However scant the Times’s respect for religion was in 2001, it now seems to have completely evaporated. This explains its insulting coverage of the slaughter of Sri Lankan Christians, but it also signals a decline in the once-formidable analytical skills of its editorial writers. Without appreciating the influence and resilience of Christianity and Islam, they will constantly be blind-sided by history.
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.