Sri Lanka: battle between Muslims and Christians?

The IS has claimed responsibility for the devastating series of attacks in Sri Lanka. More than 350 people were killed and around 500 injured when eight bombs exploded in several churches and luxury hotels on Easter Sunday. Commentators fear an escalation of violence between Christians and Muslims.

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Milliyet (TR) /

How minorities are being stirred up

Columnist Verda Özer comments in Milliyet that the conflicts in Sri Lanka have taken on a new quality now that in addition to the old tensions between Hindus and Buddhists the Muslim minority is attacking the Christian community:

“All of the attackers arrested are citizens of Sri Lanka. So by the looks of it this movement focuses on local attacks while drawing on developments in the global climate. That's a new type of terror which implements the globalists' motto: 'think global, act local'. Because otherwise there's no reason at all for Muslims to attack Christians in Sri Lanka. Precisely for that reason we must finally start to ask what exactly the IS is. Is it really a terrorist organisation? Or is it a wind that is increasingly becoming a pure ideology?”

De Tijd (BE) /

Country facing spiral of violence

Sri Lanka's government should be careful not to lump all Muslims together in responding to the attacks, De Tijd warns:

“If Muslim minorities have to pay the price for attacks carried out in the name of their religion it will only help groups like the IS or Al Qaeda. ... If Muslims are treated unjustly it will be felt by the entire Umma, the global community. And the anger and feelings of injustice that causes will increase the support, money and followers of the skewed version of the 'jihad'. ... The important thing is that the Sri Lankan government should keep a cool head and not give in to calls for revenge.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

Prototype of non-believers

The persecution of Christians is underestimated, warns columnist Gerardo Morina in Corriere del Ticino:

“The most recent data (from January of this year) from the World Watch List (the report that examines the phenomenon of persecution of Christians) is worrying. In 2018 4,136 Christians were killed worldwide simply because of their faith, and 245 million Christians were subjected to some kind of persecution. It is known that the jihadists equate Christianity with the dominant spirit of the West and condemn it to death. Not only that. For fundamentalists who have declared war on the crusaders and the Jews, the Christians of the world represent the most important prototype of the non-believers. They are the ones who have been found guilty of fuelling hostility and hatred, and must therefore be tracked down and punished.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Why talk of the persecution of Christians is taboo

Columnist and priest Giles Fraser examines in The Guardian why so few people in Europe and the US get incensed over the persecution of Christians:

“I do wonder whether on some unconscious level the secular and broadly progressive west thinks that Christianity had it coming. They associate Christianity with popes and their armies, with crusades and inquisitions, with antisemitism, British imperialism, Trump supporters and abortion protesters. … And maybe there are some who don't want to talk about Christian persecution because they fear that it could easily be used - as it sometimes is - as an alibi for Islamophobia. Easier to fall silent about the murder of Christians than to be seen to side with those racists who blame Muslims for everything.”

Upsala Nya Tidning (SE) /

How the hate is being concealed

The reactions to the attacks illustrate how hard it is for the West to see Christians as persecuted, comments Upsala Nya Tidning:

“On social media there were angry comments when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton described the victims of the terror attack in Sri Lanka as 'Eastern worshippers'. In Sweden Annie Lööf of the Centre Party tweeted about 'the faithful' who had gathered for prayer. Why are politicians keeping silent about the fact that the victims were Christians, critics ask. ... Why use such a vague term as 'the faithful'? Of course leaders like Lööf don't mean it in a bad way, but perhaps from a Western perspective it's more difficult to see Christians as the persecuted.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Loving your enemies won't help here

Europe is quick to condemn anti-Semitism and Islamophobia but slower on the uptake when it comes to condemning Christophobia, Die Welt criticises:

“There may well be good reasons for that: a bad conscience about the role played by Christians in European colonialism; Christian sexual morals, which the older generation at least experienced as repressive; the anger over Christianity's double standards. But such reservations are wrong. ... Christophobia must be named and fought, and not just by the churches. It may be their task to react to the horror in Sri Lanka with calls to love one's enemy. But Germany and Europe should solemnly pledge that the obscurantists who preach and practice hatred will find no home here and will be tracked down and prosecuted around the world.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Religious divisions continue

The attack on Christians shows that Sri Lanka's government has done too little to resolve the conflicts in the country since the civil war ended, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung believes:

“Sri Lanka is far from having overcome its violent past. In the past few years the ethnic-religious divisions in the country have actually been exacerbated. Not just the Tamil population feels marginalised, but also members of other minorities wonder where their place is in a state in which the influence of the Buddhist-Singhalese nationalism has constantly grown. That goes above all for the Muslims, who make up just under ten percent of the population. For several years they have been the victims of spontaneous outbreaks of violence, among other things because Buddhist fundamentalists fuel fears that Sri Lanka could one day have a Muslim majority.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

United by empathy

The attack has shaken not just Sri Lanka but the whole world to the core, writes Andrea Riccardi, historian and founder of the Roman Catholic lay movement Sant'Egidio, in Corriere della Sera:

“Deeply shocked, the whole world has followed the images of the attacks. They didn't happen in a remote place but in our immediate vicinity. Not just because around forty of the victims are not from other countries than Sri Lanka, but also because the migrants of this country are scattered across the entire globe and live among us. We heard them talking about their relatives and friends who were somehow involved in the attacks. This bloody Easter the distances in the globalised world became shorter, despite the borders and barriers we felt closer to each other.”

Expressen (SE) /

Islamists reorganising

Islamist terrorism is experiencing a revival despite the defeat of the IS, Expressen fears:

“In the recent past IS supporters have carried out simple terrorist attacks with cheap and readily accessible resources. Lorries can become deadly weapons, as the terrorist attack in Stockholm showed. But [the Swedish Security Service] Säpo has warned that the pendulum could swing back towards well planned attacks. ... The fact that more and more people are joining the Salafist movement should be a cause for concern because it means that the group from which terrorist organisations can recruit new members is growing. This also goes for Sweden - where the number of Islamists who are ready to use violence has increased tenfold in the last decade. Sri Lanka makes it clear that the threat of Islamist terror remains a major one - even though the IS has lost its caliphate.”

Iltalehti (FI) /

Social programmes not enough

In the fight against terrorism the authorities must work together around the world, Iltalehti stresses:

“It's easy to say that we shouldn't let ourselves be overcome by fear or allow the terrorists to paralyse our daily life. After the massive terrorist attacks, however, one has to ask how something like that could have happened once again. Terrorism has not been defeated, and the authorities must be on their guard everywhere. International cooperation must function properly. ... The terrorism of our times is brutal and negates humanity. It cannot be fought with social programmes alone. The fight against terrorism requires efficient tools for police work and educational initiatives. The terrorists need money, communication tools and plans. It's possible to track down all these things.”