Easter bombs show war on Christians is spreading

Easter bombs show war on Christians is spreading The shoe of a victim is seen in front of St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo: CNS
For too long the media has played down the most appalling attacks against believers, writes James Bradshaw


The bomb attacks which took place on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka have once again demonstrated the horrors which Christians are being subjected to the world over. Some 320 people were killed and another 500 were injured in the eight bomb blasts, three of which targeted churches.

Alarmingly, the carrying out of such large-scale atrocities in a country where Christians had appeared to be relatively safe could be a harbinger of more such attacks. Up until this week, Sri Lanka would not have been considered much of a battleground in what is increasingly referred to as a ‘Global War on Christians’.

While the small Christian minority is dwarfed within a country that is 70% Buddhist and 13% Hindu, violence of this scale has not been experienced by them in recent times.


Revulsion at the attacks was matched by bewilderment as to who could have carried them out. True, Sri Lanka’s recent history has been blighted by bloodshed. The civil war between government and separatist Tamil Tiger rebels cost 100,000 lives between 1983 and 2009. Attacks on civilians were common, including suicide attacks.

The Sri Lankan government has identified the perpetrators of the attacks as a radical Islamic group who had received help from an international terrorist network.

The objectives of this attack are clear: to slaughter as many Christians and tourists as possible.

Given the pattern of previous attacks in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere, the architects of this atrocity seem to have conflated the two groups. This is also not surprising. In many of the countries where anti-Christian hatred is felt most keenly, followers of Christ are despised for their alleged disloyalty or ‘foreignness’ — even in places where Christianity has been present since Apostolic times or shortly thereafter.

Today’s aggressors differ little in their thought processes from the Neros of old, with the same unhappy consequences for those living in modern-day catacombs, and seeking nothing more than the right to believe.

That the Sri Lankan attacks took place on the day Christians celebrate the Lord’s Resurrection and triumph over death will have been shocking to many. But it should not be. As the journalist – and author of The Global War on Christians – John L. Allen has noted, attacks on churches and church gatherings on feast days have been a hallmark of Islamic extremist groups in recent years, and Easter has been a favourite time to carry out atrocities.

On Easter Sunday in 2016, a Taliban-affiliated group carried out a suicide bombing in a park in Lahore, Pakistan where Christians had gathered together: 75 people were killed and more than 340 were injured. On Palm Sunday in 2017, twin suicide attacks in two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt claimed the lives of 45 innocent victims – the Coptic Pope Tawadras II was lucky to escape with his life.

Nor is the violence limited to Easter time. On Christmas Day in 2011, the Islamic group Boko Haram carried out gun and bomb attacks at several Nigerian churches, killing more than 40 people.

Monstrous though this trend is, it only forms a part of the global war on Christians which constitutes one of the most consequential yet least reported upon stories of our time. It is estimated that more than 215 million Christians live in countries where Christianity is actively persecuted — this amounts to one in 12 of the world’s Christians.

Although no religion is immune to persecution somewhere in the world, there can be no doubting that Christians suffer more than any other group. In fact, a 2012 report from Frankfurt-based International Society of Human Rights, estimated that 80% of all acts of religious persecution are directed against Christians. This figure is especially jarring when we consider that only 33% of the world’s population is Christian.

Christians are subjected to savage persecution – including assault, imprisonment, rape, forced conversion, torture and murder – around the world, from Saudi Arabia to North Korea, from Sudan to China, from Afghanistan to Eritrea, and the problem is getting worse.

In this century, we already face the near extirpation of Christianity in the ancient heartland of Iraq, while other Christian communities in the Middle East – including many who still speak the language of Christ – struggle to survive.

How has this happened? For too long, the international news media has systematically played down the most appalling abuses by acting as if each fresh massacre was an isolated incident, rather than part of a catastrophic global campaign which is costing thousands of Christians their lives annually.

With noble exceptions, NGOs have failed to draw attention to the problem, one which Christian churches in the West have also been inexcusably lax in addressing. Western governments have also been culpable in turning a blind eye to the suffering inflicted on some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Thanks to the work of groups such as Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), progress is at last being made in making more people aware of what is happening. This is also starting to have effects in the political world.

The British Government has asked the Church of England’s Bishop Philip Mountstephen to conduct an independent review into the global persecution of Christians while the US Government has gone even further by appointing an Ambassador for International Religious Freedom.

This is a start, but more needs to be done in this area, including by an Irish Government which continues to remain silent on the issue of Christian persecution.

Shamefully, that same silence has been exhibited by too many Irish Christians and has contrasted sharply with the anguished cries of their brothers and sisters in Christ. A global persecution requires a global solution, and it is time for every parish and every individual to stand and up and bear witness to the suffering and persecution of Christians all over the world.

James Bradshaw is a writer and a volunteer with Aid to the Church in Need Ireland.