The massacre in Kenya indicates that Christians are becoming more vulnerable to terror attacks by Muslims. Given Russia’s religious diversity, the incident is ominous for Russia.
A woman prays during the service at the Our Lady of Consolation Church, which was attacked with grenades by militants almost three years ago, in Garissa, Kenya on April 5. Easter Sunday's ceremony was laden with emotion for the several hundred members of Garissa's Christian minority, which is fearful following the recent attack on Garissa University College by al-Shabab, a Somalia-based Islamic extremist group, who singled out Christians for killing, though al-Shabab has a long record of killing Muslims over the years. Photo: AP
147 students killed. That is the result of the recent catastrophic terror attack in the Kenyan town of Garissa. In accordance with protocol, international organizations are sure to issue appeals to “put an end to terrorism” and phrases to the effect that “terrorism knows no religion or nationality.” Global media will no doubt stress Al-Shabaab’s links to Al-Qaida and connect the events to the collapse of the Somali state.
On the key point, they will prefer to keep silent. Perhaps for reasons of political correctness, or perhaps because of the politics involved, the fact that all 147 students killed were Christians, deliberately separated by the terrorists from their Muslim counterparts before being brutally murdered, will be a footnote.
The world has witnessed the execution of 21 Copts by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS), explosions at Christian churches in Lahore, Pakistan, and the massacre of Christians in Kenya in the space of just one month. The situation is becoming tense. In his address to the United Nations, Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi stated that 100,000 Christians perish each year for their religious beliefs. This figure is confirmed by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Every month more than 214 Christian churches and objects of cultural heritage are destroyed.
Christians make up around 33 percent of the world’s population, yet they are the victims of over 80 percent of all acts of harassment committed on the grounds of religious beliefs. The day after the terror attack in Kenya, Pope Francis said that the brutal killing of Christians was taking place to the sound of silence from the international community, and that is indeed the case.
The events in Kenya disprove once more the entrenched opinion that religion has ceased to be a factor in global politics. The economic and cultural rift in humanity is occurring along religious lines, and if we stubbornly refuse to call a spade a spade the situation will only get worse. Like it or not, the Islamic world today is fertile ground for the emergence of terrorist groups.
That we are dealing not just with brutal acts of violence against non-Muslims by fringe organizations, but with an atmosphere of intolerance and hatred within society in a number of countries, is attested by the many cases of harassment against local Christians on the part of both the state and the local population.
For instance, the case of Murta Farah, a 17-year-old girl from Somalia who adopted Christianity only to be brutally beaten and tortured by her parents to coerce her back to Islam. She was shot in November 2010, and among the murder suspects are the parents themselves. Or, say, the story of Meriam Ibrahim, who was sentenced to death by hanging in Sudan simply for marrying a Christian.
And it would be amiss to speak about the threat of religious clashes only inside Muslim countries. The large number of migrants and demographic trends in the EU point to an impending eruption within the traditional Christian world, too.
Is the Christian world itself to blame? Absolutely. At the height of the Cold War, President Reagan described the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and declared a crusade against the “oppression” of Christians in the country. Fast forward a few years and Christians are banned from openly wearing a crucifix at the workplace in Britain, while Germany’s Angela Merkel discourages holding traditional Christmas fairs in areas densely populated by Muslims.
For Russia, combating the persecution of Christians, regardless of denomination, is a major component of foreign policy. The adoption of a joint statement by 65 countries entitled “Supporting the Human Rights of Christians and Other Communities, particularly in the Middle East” at the initiative of Russia, as well as the Vatican and Lebanon, at the 28th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council is positive testimony to that.
Despite its multinational makeup, Russia is predominantly a Christian country, and Orthodoxy permeates every aspect of life from the nature of its people to the system of government. By all appearances, the conservative vector of Russia’s stated development policy assumes a greater role for Orthodoxy in both domestic and foreign affairs.
However, in the case of Europe it is evident that without close cooperation with Russia in the fight against the spread of radical Islamism on both sides of Europe’s borders, the shadow of Constantinople 1453 will soon cast a pall. Europe without Christianity is not Europe. All the achievements and fruits of democratic governance — such as human rights and the rule of law — were made possible by Christianity. No other civilization has ever managed to create anything like it, and the end of Christianity will spell the end of democracy and freedom.
As the only European country home to some predominantly Muslim constituent territories, Russia is obviously threatened by conflict on religious grounds. Whereas Tatarstan, for instance, shows that Islam can be successfully combined with European values, elsewhere the spread of Wahhabism, despite the best efforts of the Kremlin and local authorities to combat it, could have irreparable consequences.
In a similar context, former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew commented that, despite the utter impossibility of integrating his country’s local Malay Muslim community, it had yet to pose a threat to the state. However, with the arrival of funding from Saudi Arabia for the construction of mosques on condition that Saudi clerics preach in them, Singapore faced its own citizens being recruited to terrorist organizations and the gradual isolation of the Malay community. Following a ban on Saudi funding, the problem became far less acute.
According to the Pew Research Center, by 2050 Muslims could equal Christians in terms of global population. Whether it will be a world in which the Middle East is deprived of its most ancient Christian heritage, where violence against adherents of Christianity falls right in line with local sentiment, or a world in which Muslims and Christians work together to create security and prosperity, where Muslims enjoy the fruits of modern civilization and progress, depends on the world powers, international organizations and many other actors in global politics, but above all, on Muslims themselves.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.