By Jacques Chitayat
It seems that religious violence will not be a thing of the past anytime soon. These last few months, stories of atrocities committed with religious motivations have made headlines across the world, the most notable example being the attacks on various churches and a hotel in Sri Lanka over Easter weekend, the attacks on two synagogues in the US and on a mosque in New Zealand. The images were appalling, and so were the results of the attacks.
In Sri Lanka, 321 people were killed in a single day. ISIS, despite its considerable loss of territory, remains a serious threat. The entity claimed responsibility for these attacks through their news agency, Amaq, using the app Telegram. The group said that the bombings had been intended to target Christians, as well as citizens of countries belonging to the coalition fighting the Islamic State.
But should this come as a surprise? ISIS may claim to have carried out this attack as a “retaliation” for the Christchurch mosque attack, but their violent hatred of non-Muslims, especially Christians and Jews, has been well-known for years. One only has to scroll for a few minutes through some pages of their propaganda magazine, Dabiq, to find explicit calls for violence and terrorism against Christians all over the world: “Likewise, we renew our call to the muwahhidīn [everyone engaged in jihad] in Europe and the disbelieving West and everywhere else, to target the crusaders in their own lands and wherever they are found” (Dabiq, issue 7, 2015), “So I say to the Muslims, be wary very wary of allying with the Jews and Christians, and whoever has slipped by a word, then let him fear Allah, renew his faith, and repent from his deed (…) Every Muslim should get out of his house, find a crusader, and kill him.” (Dabiq, issue 4, 2014).
The terrorist attacks in the Sri Lanka churches and the following worldwide reactions, or underreactions, reveal worrisome double standards of media coverage about anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence: When an anti-Islamic incident takes place, such as the ones in Christchurch and Quebec City, the media dedicates lengthy coverage time to the ideological background of the act. Peoples across the world express thoughts, prayers and start discussions about hatred of Islam, as they all should, in the name of human decency. However, the words “anti-Christian violence” or “Christianophobia” are absent from the media’s vocabulary and are not on the tip of people’s tongues. Could it be because the number of anti-Christian terrorist attacks is vastly inferior to the anti-Muslim ones? The Global Terrorism Database reported that 20 terrorist attacks were carried out targeting Christians worldwide in only 4 months of 2017, and ISIS has executed dozens of murderous attacks on Coptic and Nigerian Christians over recent years, but media and academia are failing to put the violence in its larger ideological context. A Christianophobic wave is in fact sweeping across the globe A brief visit to Google Trends will show that the number of searches about Islamophobia outnumber any search about anti-Christian violence about 30 to 1, which in no way accurately represents the real situation of Christian minorities. The quick global response to the Christchurch attacks included the Prime Minister of New Zealand and celebrities adorning hijabs. The world was invited to reflect on its supposed inherent Islamophobic sentiment. After Sri Lanka, no lessons were learned, and the condition of Christian minorities was not given its deserved attention.
There is a selective outrage and coverage about one type of persecution, when ideally, religious violence of all kinds should be equally discussed and, even more importantly, condemned. Jews, who have never been strangers to persecutions over centuries, should offer a helping hand to oppressed Christian minorities and the West should finally acknowledge that their coreligionists are fearing for their lives.