Christians living in countries hostile to Christianity often face increased fears for their personal safety in the run-up to the Easter holiday, Mike Gore, the CEO of Open Doors Australia and New Zealand (an organization that aids persecuted Christians) wrote in an op-ed for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Thursday.
“[F]or many Christians around the world, the anticipation of Easter is accompanied by the fear of an attack. As many Christians gather on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, the risk of violence intensifies. As Christians gather to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, they themselves become targets for violent extremism,” Gore wrote on April 14.
The Christian holiday of Easter falls on April 17 this year.
Gore on Thursday cited Open Doors statistics which found that “526 Christians have lost their lives while celebrating Easter over the past seven years, with hundreds more injured. Just a year ago, on 28 March 2021, twenty people were injured in a bombing on Palm Sunday in a church in Makassar, south Sulawesi [Indonesia].”
Gore referred to a suicide bombing perpetrated by two Muslim terrorists outside a Catholic church in Makassar that wounded at least 20 people and killed only the attackers.
“Both suspects were killed instantly after they rode a motorbike into the church compound and, when challenged by security, detonated a bomb packed with nails,” the Jakarta Post reported on March 29, 2021, citing local police.
The March 2021 bombing took place “on Sunday at a time the congregation was inside the church on the island of Sulawesi, just as the mass was ending,” Al Jazeera observed.
Indonesian National Police Chief General Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters at the time the two attackers were members of the Islamic terror group Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD), which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in 2015.
JAD was responsible for a series of prior attacks on Indonesian Christians in 2018, including “suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya, which killed a dozen congregants,” the Jakarta Post recalled at the time.
“JAD was also implicated in a 2019 cathedral suicide bombing in the Philippines committed by a married Indonesian couple. That attack killed worshippers and security forces,” according to the newspaper.
“Violent Islamic radicalism is present in 7 out of the top 10 countries” in which it is most dangerous to be a Christian, Open Doors reported as part of its 2022 World Watch List, published in January.
Elsewhere in the world, Islamic radicalism in Nigeria — embodied by Muslim Fulani “herdsmen” and the jihadist terror group Boko Haram — sees Christians targeted for violent attacks on a regular basis. An estimated 50 percent of Nigeria’s 90 million-plus population is Muslim while 48.1 percent of the population is Christian.
Jihadist Fulanis routinely massacre Christian villages across Nigeria, targeting the communities specifically for their outward displays of Christian faith. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is himself a Muslim and a member of the Fulani ethnic group. Nigerians have often criticized Buhari for failing to curtail Fulani attacks on Christians since he was elected in 2015.
Boko Haram is also a major perpetrator of targeted anti-Christian attacks in Nigeria. The jihadist group’s aim is to eradicate both Christian and Western culture across the Lake Chad Basin, which unites northeastern Nigeria with the neighboring countries of Chad and Niger.
International Christian Concern reported in August 2020 that “between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians have been killed by radical Islamists” in Nigeria over the past 10 years.
In India, radical Hindu nationalists regularly perpetrate mob violence against the country’s minority Christians. In one such incident, a group of suspected Hindu nationalists broke into the home of a Christian pastor in central India’s Chhattisgarh state on March 17, dragged the man out onto the street, and stabbed him to death.
“According to local Christians, the pastor had been warned by Hindutva [Hindu nationalist] goons against preaching his religion and had been threatened with his life [prior to his murder],” the Indian news website Siasat revealed on March 21.
“Hindus make up 79.8% of India’s population and Muslims account for 14.2%; Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains account for most of the remaining 6%,” Pew Research Center reported in September 2021.
China’s ruling Communist Party, which is officially atheist, also severely persecutes Christian minorities in the country through oppressive policies and regular raids of “house churches” or spaces of worship created inside the privacy of Chinese Christian homes. China’s ruling Communist Party enacted a law on March 1 prohibiting the circulation of Christian-related content on China’s heavily censored internet, Open Doors reported.
The Communist Party officially allows Chinese citizens to observe just five religions: Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, and “Christianity,” which the Party acknowledges as the “Three-Self Church.” While a severely regulated form of Christianity is ostensibly tolerated according to official rules, the Communist Party in practice creates hostile conditions for any Chinese who dare to openly worship as Christians.