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Jihad comes to Church

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In this piece, Christian Concern's Director of Islamic Affairs, Tim Dieppe, comments on the assassination of a Catholic Priest in Normandy this week.

The latest in a steady stream of Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe this summer was the killing of an elderly priest after two armed attackers claiming allegiance to Islamic State stormed into a church in Normandy during mass. Father Hamel was forced to kneel and then had his throat slit. It later emerged that the church was on a list of targets found on an Islamic State suspect last year, which included several places of worship. Up to now, Islamic terrorism in Europe has been directed against civilians in crowds, shopping centres, or public transport. Muslims targeting worshippers in a church is a new departure for Europeans, but not for Christians in countries where Islam has a stronger presence.

The Open Doors charity estimates that 7,000 Christians were killed in the year to October 2015 for faith-related reasons. They estimate that 2,400 churches were attacked or damaged. They state that “Islamic extremism is by far the most common driver of persecution.” His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, released a statement this week in which he talked about the “exponential rise in attacks against Christians and Christian property in recent months.” He described “a growing trend towards the direct targeting of priests and their families.” Regular Islamic attacks on churches and Christians are not new in Egypt or indeed in many other countries.

Muslims are victims of Islamic extremism too. Islamic State has killed far more Muslims than Christians. They justify this by viewing those killed as heretics or non-Muslims. Of course the killers themselves are also victims. Victims of a false ideology which gives them a false hope of salvation through violence.

In response to the attack in Normandy, the Police Deputy Commissioner has written an open letter for the attention of all church leaders in the UK. The letter advises churches and their congregations to “remain alert not alarmed.” A new government scheme has been set up enabling Churches to apply for funding of increased security measures.

Father Hamel is perhaps the first openly assassinated Christian martyr in modern Europe to Islam. Sadly, he is unlikely to be the last. So far, most of the persecution by Muslims of Christians in Europe has been directed against converts from Islam. This is why we set up our Safe Haven initiative to provide advice and practical help for Christians suffering from converting out of Islam. The attack in the church in Normandy may mark the start of a new type of persecution of Christians in Europe.

Europe is starting to reap the fruit of multicultural relativism which assumes that all religions and worldviews are equal, when they are not. It assumes that all religions are peaceful, when they are not. It dares not criticise Islam even when Islam is clearly motivating these attacks. Astonishingly, European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker said only this week that no matter how bad terrorism gets, the European Union will never give up on open borders. Angela Merkel has also announced that she will continue her policy of mass migration which has meant that around 1m migrants, who are mainly young, male and Middle Eastern, have entered Germany in the last year. This is a recipe for social unrest even without the added ingredient of radical Islam. These politicians are seemingly blind to the fact that what they have created is not a multicultural utopia, but a plural monoculturalism which is resulting in Islamic enclaves and hotbeds of radicalism.

Lives are being sacrificed on the altar of multiculturalism. How many martyrs will it take to turn the tide? Europe and the west need to recover an unashamed identity as civilisations based on Christianity. We may be entering a new age of Christian martyrdom in Europe. Let us pray that the blood of Father Hamel, and others who will likely follow, will not be wasted. Let us pray for boldness to fearlessly proclaim the gospel which is the hope for the nations. Let us pray for mercy to triumph over judgement.

"They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death."

Revelation 12:11

Related Links: 
The year of fear: Persecution trends in 2016 (Open Doors) 
Statement by His Grace Bishop Angaelos on increased attacks against Egypt’s Christian community (The Coptic Orthodox Church) 
Merkel rules out migrant policy reversal after attacks (BBC) 
Juncker: No Matter How Bad Migrant Crisis, Terrorism Gets, We’ll Never Give Up On Open Borders (Breitbart)