The horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon has been headline news for days. It has been interesting to observe the language people use to talk about it. Some in public life seem quite hesitant to call this act terrorism. Others are quick to remind us not to blame all Muslims for the behavior of some Muslims. We can’t guess all the information that will come out as the investigation proceeds, but one thing Christians should not do is ignore this news. Christians should be extremely attentive to the investigation of this bombing, because it so closely resembles the sort of violence Christians endure from Muslim activists around the world.
In Nigeria, a group called Boko Haram has been bombing churches and private homes for many months. The northern region of Nigeria is predominantly Muslim. Boko Haram has taken on the task of “cleansing” the region of Christians. As a consequence, many Christians have been killed in bombings as horrible as the one at Boston, by people whose ideology is quite similar to the information we now know about the two men who are alleged to have executed the bombing in Boston.
Christians in the USA probably do not feel directly threatened by the bombing at the Boston Marathon, but Nigerian Christians would recommend that US Christians not ignore what has happened. Nigerian Christians would recommend that American Christians learn as much as they can about the motivations and goals of the Chechen bombers in Boston, because Nigerian Christians can remember when bombings of Christian churches in Nigeria would have been unthinkable, just like a church bombing by a Muslim activist in the USA would look to American Christians today. Before Muslims in Nigeria grew aggressive, before the Muslims became the dominant demographic in northern regions of Nigeria, there was a time when Christians thrived in Nigeria and the nation as a whole was a generally free, safe nation. Now, the northern half of Nigeria is a dangerous place for anyone who is not Muslim. Boko Haram is not publicly linked to any part of the government, but amazingly, after some recent negotiations, Boko Haram asked to be recognized as a legitimate political voice in Nigeria and the national government hinted that it might agree. Nigerian Christians are quite fearful of the outcome of such a decision.
With malice for no one, American Christians need to open their eyes to certain things that are happening around the world.
- In Nigeria, Boko Haram is terrorizing Christians with the purpose of cleansing them out of the population. This situation is not unique.
- In Pakistan, the Salem News Channel reports that in the past month, three Christian villages have been assaulted by Muslim mobs who also desire their country to be “cleansed” of Christians.
- On April 29, a Christian mother of five children was killed by al-Shabab, a Muslim organization dedicated to cleansing Somalia of Christians. Her husband had been killed months before, and she was captured at a roadblock set up by al-Shabab. Her children’s fate is not known at this time.
- Mark Mousesian of First Things reports, “A mob attack this month on the Cairo cathedral that serves as the seat of the Coptic pope raised alarm bells among Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the country’s 90 million people. There has been a surge in attacks on Christians and churches in the two years since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.” The Arab spring has not been a time of blossoming for Christians in Egypt.
- In Iraq, which had a Christian population of about 1 million in 2003, the Christian population today is about 400,000. Christian churches have been bombed and Christians have been killed, sometimes by beheading or crucifixion.
- In Syria, Christian communities are systematically being eradicated, at the behest of a mosque that tells the populace that it is their “sacred duty” to drive Christians away.
- In Mali, after an Islamic coup, 20,000 Christians fled immediately, and the remaining churches as well as the homes of Christians are being looted and destroyed.
- In Bosnia, Christian churches cannot obtain the required government permits for repairs to buildings. The dominant Muslim demographic treats Christians as an undesirable sub-culture.
- In Ethiopia, despite the existence of a recognized Ethiopian Christian church, Christians who belong to other variant Christian groups must flee their homes and watch churches and houses burn while the police do nothing.
- In the Ivory Coast, Islamic activists have actually crucified many Christians and thousands others have fled, leaving behind homes and churches which have been systematically destroyed.
- Libya, where many Christian NGO’s and religious orders have provided charitable services for years, any group with Christian connections has been forced to abandon property and flee for their lives.
- In Chechnya and Dagestan and surrounding areas, the predominantly Sunni Muslim population expressed outrage at the completion of a translation of the Bible in the Chechnyan language in October of 2012. The national animosity toward Russia, which has only slightly subsided since the end of hostilities in 2009, translates into virulent rejection of Christianity, and Christians are considered traitors. It is dangerous to be a Christian in Chechnya.
In country after country, Islamic activism demands that the population be 100% Muslim, and is willing to rampage and murder and torture to achieve that goal. The battle cries of these groups are not so different from the cries posted by the Tsarnaev brothers on the web before their bombing at the Boston Marathon. Their objectives and their attitudes are chilling, right down to the testimony of a runner whose legs were blown off right after the brothers looked him right in the eye.
The bottom line is that in country after country, mobs claiming to speak for Muslims who want their countries to be 100% Muslim execute actions similar to the bombing at the Boston Marathon. To date, no such campaign appears to have been launched in the US, but it is worth noting that neither has the US seen a flood of outcry from Muslims who are appalled and angered by the bombing. Americans already work very hard not to assume anything inappropriate when events like this take place, but it would be foolhardy and dangerous not to investigate till all the facts of the matter have been uncovered.
Christians need to know that sharia law abhors conversion from Islam to anything else. Most Christians in America are not converts from Islam, so that isn’t a huge problem for American Muslims. However, sharia law also considers any attempt to convert a Muslim to Christianity or any other religion as a high crime. The history of Islam is full of evidence that there have been times and places where Islam co-existed with Christians and Jews, the people of the book, peacefully and respectfully. It can happen, yet the news around the world today makes it clear that peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians in any country cannot be regarded as a foregone conclusion. That does not mean that the Tsarnaev brothers actually have any connection with a group with a real agenda to cleanse the USA of Christians, but it does mean that we should not assume anything or be stupidly complacent about the meaning of their bombs.
If we ever needed the truth about something, this is the time. May God grant the investigators the persistence and insight to find the truth and to hold Dzhokhar Tsarnaev accountable for whatever he did. May Christians pray fervently for the truth to be revealed and for Christ’s redeeming power to work in the heart of this young man. No matter how alert we are to dangers, we must never lose our love for Muslims. By the power of the Holy Spirit, it is completely credible to believe that a Christian can love Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and simultaneously regard him as a terrorist. That is how truth works. This is a time to exercise Christ’s admonition to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.