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Sri Lankan security personnel walk past dead bodies covered with blankets amid blast debris at St. Anthony's Shrine following an explosion in the church in Kochchikade in Colombo on April 21, 2019. Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images

April 23, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― On Easter Sunday, Islamic suicide bombers detonated in three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka, killing over 300 local Christians and Western tourists, maiming 500 more, and providing influential Westerners an opportunity to distance themselves from Christians.  

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In what was arguably the most bizarre response to the brutal attack, several politicians tweeted what they presumably thought were compassionate responses while refusing to acknowledge that the principal targets of the violence were Christians. Their preferred expression was “Easter worshippers.”

Former U.S. President Barack Obama wrote, “The attacks on tourists and Easter worshippers in Sri Lanka are an attack on humanity. On a day devoted to love, redemption and renewal, we pray for the victims and stand with the people of Sri Lanka.”

Former U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton also expressed her feelings of compassion for Easter worshippers, tweeting, “On this holy weekend for many faiths, we must stand united against hatred and violence. I’m praying for everyone affected by today’s horrific attacks on Easter worshippers and travelers in Sri Lanka.”

Jared Polis, the first LGBT governor of Colorado, echoed the concern for Sri Lankan “Easter worshippers”, writing on his own Twitter page, “Heartbreaking to learn about the attacks on tourists and Easter worshippers. Colorado stands with the people of Sri Lanka during this very tragic day and we grieve for those affected by these acts of violence.”  

Easter or “Ēostre” is an Old English word denoting an ancient Indo-European goddess after whom the month now called April was named by the Anglo-Saxons. Most European languages derive their word for the Easter season from the Greek word  Πάσχα (Paska), which was borrowed from either the Aramaic or Hebrew words for Passover. Thus, the description of the murdered Sri Lankan Christians obscures their belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ and gives a nightmarish impression that they worshipped the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn.

“They cannot imagine sympathizing with Christians.”

Writing at the American Conservative, Rod Dreher wrote, “I really don’t think ‘Easter worshippers’ was meant in a derogatory way.  But it really is interesting how hard it is for so many of these liberals to say the word  ‘Christian’ or ‘Jesus’.”  

Dreher brought attention to an article in Washington Post, which strove to give the impression that only European “right-wing” populists like Marine LePen and American conservatives believe that Christians, one of the most persecuted minority groups in the world, are singled out for attack.

In an article entitled “Christianity under attack? Sri Lanka church bombings stoke far-right anger in the West”, authors Adam Taylor and Rick Noack wrote that the massacre was “to some … further proof that Christians in many parts of the world are under attack.”

“Some” to Taylor and Noack means Le Pen, Germany’s “far-right” Alternative for Germany, unnamed “far-right groups”, British journalist “and provocateur” Katie Hopkins, Frank Gaffney “a former Reagan administration aide now best known for his anti-Muslim rhetoric”, and Trump supporters writing on Reddit.  

To add ignorance to injury, the authors described Easter as one of the most important dates in the Christian calendar. It is, in fact, the most important date in the liturgical year.

Dreher skewered the knee-jerk anti-Christian reaction to attacks on Christians by reflecting on certain journalists’ obsession with “Islamophobia.”

“When things like the Sri Lanka attacks happen, the first thing that many American and British journalists think is, ‘Oh dear, this is going to cause a spike in Islamophobia,’” Dreher wrote.

“They cannot imagine sympathizing with Christians. They really can’t. Yes, these dead Sri Lankans may be Catholics living on the other side of the world, and sure, they may have roots in their country going back to the 16th century (or earlier), but deep down, when many journalists imagine these people, they see them wearing MAGA hats, and carrying around invisible knapsacks full of privilege.”

Two of the churches, St. Sebastian’s Catholic Church in Negombo and St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, were Roman Catholic. The third, Zion Evangelical Church in Batticaloa, belongs to the Reformed tradition.

Dreher added that the Post’s indifferent attitude to Muslim-on-Christian violence could inspire angry people to join “far right” movements.

“If media outlets like the Washington Post make it seem like a right wing thing, or a far-right wing thing, to notice — and to get angry about the fact — that Muslim terrorists blew hundreds of Christians to bits while they were in church on the holiest day of the Christian year — then the Post is doing the work of radicalizing people to the far right,” he wrote.

Writing in the Catholic Herald, C.C. Pecknold suggested that Western elites were reluctant to recognize the murdered Christians as martyrs because they are attempting “to shed” liberalism’s Christian past.  

“…[L]iberalism is premised on the conceit that it brought an end to “religious violence,” and ushered in peace between all (mostly protestant) religious views,”  Pecknold wrote.  

“John Locke even seems to envision a sort of Pax Christiana that makes the secular state an neutral agent of Christian unity, and so makes martyrs a thing of the past. So long as liberalism was built on the basis of a (mostly protestant) Christian culture, this claim looked somewhat plausible,” he continued.

“As many elites attempt to shed this ecumenically Christian past, it follows that they will also attempt, in fits and starts, to shed any recognition of actual Christian martyrdom wherever it occurs. We should resist these attempts, and not only in defense of Christians.”

Christians are the most persecuted religious group today.”

In contrast to the discomfort of American politicians and journalists to address anti-Christian sentiment among Islamic radicals, Carl Anderson, the CEO and Supreme Knight of the US-based Knights of Columbus spoke frankly.

“The Knights of Columbus stands in solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka during this time of trial,” Anderson wrote in an online statement.

“Terrorist attacks like those on Easter Sunday are the acts of those who reject the sanctity of life, human rights and religious freedom. In addition to our prayers, the Knights of Columbus is sending $100,000 to Cardinal Ranjith in Colombo, Sri Lanka‌, for his use in the rebuilding and repair of his Christian community in the aftermath of this act of terrorism,” Anderson continued.

“Globally, it is well documented that Christians are the most persecuted religious group today. Now is the time for every country to take concrete steps to protect their minority populations, including Christians, and to stop this persecution and slaughter. Every country should protect its religious minorities, and freedom-loving countries must demand nothing less of their neighbors. Talk of human rights and religious freedom rings hollow when people are killed for nothing more than worshipping the one who taught us to love one another.”

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Dorothy Cummings McLean is a Canadian journalist, essayist, and novelist. She earned an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and an M.Div./S.T.B. from Toronto’s Regis College. She was a columnist for the Toronto Catholic Register for nine years and has contributed to Catholic World Report. Her first book, Seraphic Singles,  was published by Novalis (2010) in Canada, Liguori in the USA, and Homo Dei in Poland. Her second, Ceremony of Innocence, was published by Ignatius Press (2013). Dorothy lives near Edinburgh, Scotland with her husband.