Hiding the Christian name on his ID with his thumb, Joshua Hakim approached the gunmen and showed them the plastic card. “They told me to go. Then an Indian man came forward, and they said, ‘What is the name of Muhammad’s mother?’ When he couldn’t answer they just shot him.”
That’s the way it went inside the Westgate Premier Shopping Mall in Nairobi in last month’s terrorist takeover. If you said when asked that you were Muslim, you were let go. If you answered no, you stayed. And maybe died.
More than 60 patrons in that upscale mall in Kenya’s capital breathed their last that day, shot dead by Islamist militants from Somalia who call themselves al-Shabab. The massacre was not al-Shabab’s first attack on non-Muslims.
But why should we know much about the killing of Christians when news of Washington’s political food fights, the federal shutdown and the National Zoo’s new panda cub keep getting in the way?
Since 1999, more than 14,000 Nigerians have been killed in sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians, reports the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The militant group Boko Haram, which supports an extreme and violent interpretation of Islam, is behind most of the violence. It cites state and federal government action against Muslims, among other “reasons,” as justification for its strikes on churches.
In the past year alone, Boko Haram has bombed, burned or attacked at least 50 churches, killing more than 360 people, the publication Religion Today reports. The extremists are also known to have assaulted more than 160 Christians or people thought to be Christian in more than 30 incidents. Western education is a sin, according to Boko Haram.
The record of crimes against Christians is too terrible to ponder. Give us more Miley Cyrus.
Last month in Peshawar, Pakistan, worshipers at All Saints Church may have left services with the blessing “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord” ringing in their ears. But they were greeted outside by two suicide bombers who ripped apart at least 78 people, including 34 women and seven children.
“It’s not safe for Christians in this country,” Mano Rumalshah, bishop emeritus of Peshawar, told the Guardian newspaper. “Everyone is ignoring the growing danger to Christians in Muslim-majority countries. The European countries don’t give a damn about us.”
Hello, only Europe?
In the Middle East, the Arab Spring has sprung misery upon Christians from Egypt to Syria.
Shortly after the Egyptian military’s bloody breakup of Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo in mid-August, at least 42 churches were attacked, with 37 burned or otherwise damaged, Human Rights Watch reported.
Consider this excerpt from a recent interview PBS’ Margaret Warner conducted with Fifi Awad, an Egyptian who witnessed the attack on his village’s 60-year-old Coptic Christian church. Speaking through an interpreter, Awad said: “They attacked the church. They took everything they could take, the generator, the refrigerator, even bags they thought had donation money. Then they burned the first and second floors and said, ‘Allahu akbar.’ “
In Syria, a Christian community wasn’t burned; it was hammered. The ancient town of Maaloula endured the brunt of an attack this month led by militants of Jabhat al-Nusra, a terror group affiliated with al-Qaida in Iraq.
Residents described street battles and bearded Syrian rebels shouting “God is great” as they attacked Christian homes and churches after conquering the village. “They shot and killed people. I heard gunshots and then I saw three bodies lying in the middle of a street in the old quarter of the village,” one resident told USA Today by phone. “So many people fled the village for safety.”
Does religious hatred cut both ways? Is intolerance limited to those who burn villages and shoot women and children?
Here at home, Christian figures proclaim that only their faith is true and that all others are false.
But there is no moral equivalence between them and Islamic terrorists. Our prophets of exclusion generally don’t resort to guns and explosives to get their point across. Nor do they construe the tenets of their faith as directing them to do so.But this isn’t about who has the corner on God.
It’s about striking down innocent souls because they believe in one God and a Son who teaches, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Their annihilation cannot be what the Almighty intended.
So why does the rest of the world seem to care so little about what is happening?
Yo, it’s time for some footbawl.
Colbert I. King is a columnist for The Washington Post.