Christian terrorism

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Christian terrorism comprises terrorist acts by groups or individuals who use Christian motivations or goals for their actions. As with other forms of religious terrorism, Christian terrorists have relied on interpretations of the tenets of faith – in this case, the Bible. Such groups have cited Old Testament and New Testament scriptures to justify violence and killing or to seek to bring about the "end times" described in the New Testament.[1]

By country[edit]

Central African Republic[edit]

After the predominantly Muslim Seleka militia took control of the Central African Republic under President Michel Djotodia in 2013, a period of lawlessness and sectarian violence continued. Following warnings of "genocide" by the UN and a controversial intervention force by MISCA, Djotodia resigned. Despite neutral Catherine Samba-Panza being made president, the Anti-balaka Christian militants continued sectarian violence, including reported targeted killings, against Muslim civilians.[2]

Great Britain[edit]

The early modern period in Britain saw religious conflict resulting from the Reformation and the introduction of Protestant state churches.[3] The 1605 Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt to blow up the Palace of Westminster, the English seat of government. Peter Steinfels characterizes this plot as a notable case of religious terrorism.[4]


Christian terrorism has appeared in various contiguous states in North-East India.


Further information: Tripura rebellion

The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), a rebel group which seeks the secession of Tripura, North-East India, from the country, has been described as engaging in terrorist violence motivated by their Christian beliefs.[5] The NLFT is listed as a terrorist organization in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002.[6] The state government contends that the Baptist Church of Tripura supplies arms and gives financial support to the NLFT.[7][8][9] Reports from the state government and Indian media describe activities such as the acquisition by the NLFT of explosives through the Noapara Baptist Church in Tripura,[9] and threats of killing Hindus celebrating religious festivals.[10] Over 20 Hindus in Tripura were reported killed by the NLFT from 1999 to 2001 for resisting forced conversion to Christianity.[11] According to Hindus in the area, there have also been forced conversions of tribal villagers to Christianity by armed NLFT militants.[11] These forcible conversions, sometimes including the use of "rape as a means of intimidation", have also been noted by academics outside of India.[12] John Joseph, the Christian representative of the National Minority Commission, stated in 2000 that foreign funds used for Roman Catholic terrorism in the northeast are routed through Christians in Kerala.[13]


In 2007 a tribal spiritual Hindu monk, Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, accused Radhakant Nayak, chief of a local chapter of World Vision, and a former Rajya Sabha member from Odisha in the Indian National Congress party, of plotting to assassinate him.[14] The Swami also said that World Vision was covertly pumping money into India for religious conversion during the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, and criticized the activities of Christian missionaries as going against tribal beliefs.[15] In 2008, he was gunned down along with four disciples on the Hindu festive day of Krishna Janmashtami by a group of 30–40 armed men.[16] Later, Maoist terrorist leader Sabyasachi Panda admitted responsibility for the assassination, saying that the Maoists had intervened in the religious dispute on behalf of Christians and Dalits.[17][18] The non-governmental organization Justice on Trial disputed that there had been Maoist involvement, and quoted the Swami as claiming that Christian missionaries had earlier attacked him eight times.[19][20]


Nagaland is a Christian majority state in India. Many terrorist incidents have been documented there as a result of an insurgency against the government. This insurgency was originally led by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), who has indulged in terrorist activities varying from kidnapping, illegal drug trafficking, extortion, etc.[21] The group has committed religious violence, as a part of NSCN's described mission of forcibly converting the animist Naga to Christianity. Other goals include the formation of a greater Nagaland. There are occasional reports of the NSCN using force to convert locals of neighboring states to Christianity.[22]


The National Socialist Council of Nagaland, Issac-Muivah faction (slogan: "Nagaland for Christ"), is accused of carrying out the 1992–1993 ethnic cleansing of Kuki tribes in Manipur, said to have leave over 900 people dead. During that NSCN-IM operation, 350 Kuki villages were driven out and about 100,000 Kukis were turned into refugees.[23]


Maronite Christian militias perpetrated the Karantina and Tel al-Zaatar massacres of Palestinians and Lebanese Muslims during Lebanon's 1975–1990 civil war. The 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre, which targeted unarmed Palestinian refugees for rape and murder, was considered to be genocide by the United Nations General Assembly.[24] A British photographer present during the incident said that "People who committed the acts of murder that I saw that day were wearing crucifixions and were calling themselves Christians."[25] After the end of the civil war, Christian militias refused to disband, concentrating in the Israeli-occupied south of the country, where they terrorized Muslim and Druze villages and forcefully recruited men and boys from those communities into their groups.[26]

Northern Ireland[edit]

Main article: The Troubles

Some scholars, such as Steve Bruce, a sociology professor at the University of Aberdeen, argue that the conflict in Northern Ireland is primarily a religious conflict, its economic and social considerations notwithstanding.[27] Professor Mark Juergensmeyer has also argued that some acts of terrorism were "religious terrorism... – in these cases, Christianity".[28]:19–20 Others, such as John Hickey, take a more guarded view.[29] Writing in The Guardian, Susan McKay discussed religious fundamentalism in connection with the murder of Martin O'Hagan, a former inmate of the Maze prison and a reporter on crime and the paramilitaries. She attributed the murder to a "range of reasons," including "the gangsters didn't like what he wrote". The alleged killers claimed that they killed him for "crimes against the loyalist people".[30]

The Orange Volunteers are a group infamous for carrying out simultaneous terrorist attacks on Catholic churches.[31]

Self-styled pastors[32] Clifford Peeples, previously convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, John Somerville, and their associates, were dubbed by RUC Chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan "the demon pastors" – specialising in recounting lurid stories of Catholic savagery towards Protestants, and in finding biblical justifications for Protestant retaliation.[30]


Main article: 2011 Norway attacks

In July 2011, Anders Behring Breivik was arrested and charged with terrorism after a car bombing in Oslo and a mass shooting on Utøya island that killed 77 people. Early reports erroneously stated he was a Christian fundamentalist.[33][34] Hours prior to the events, Breivik released a 1,500 page manifesto detailing that immigrants were undermining Norway's traditional Christian values, identifying himself as a "Christian crusader" while describing himself as not very religious.[35][36] Analyses of his motivations have noted that he did not only display Christian terrorist inclinations, but also had non-religious, right-wing beliefs.[37][38] Mark Juergensmeyer and John Mark Reynolds have stated that the events were Christian terrorism,[39][40] whereas Brad Hirschfield has rejected the Christian terrorist label.[41]


Orthodox Christian movements in Romania, such as the Iron Guard and Lăncieri, which have been characterized by Yad Vashem and Stanley G. Payne as anti-semitic and fascist, respectively, were responsible for involvement in the Bucharest pogrom, and political murders during the 1930s.[42][43][44][45](p37)[dead link][46]


The Lord's Resistance Army, a cult and guerrilla army, was engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government in 2005. It has been accused of using child soldiers and of committing numerous crimes against humanity; including massacres, abductions, mutilation, torture, rape, and using forced child labourers as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves.[47] A quasi-religious movement that mixes some aspects of Christian beliefs with its own brand of spiritualism,[48][49] it is led by Joseph Kony, who proclaims himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the "Holy Spirit" which the Acholi believe can represent itself in many manifestations.[50][50][51][52] LRA fighters wear rosary beads and recite passages from the Bible before battle.[48][53][54][55][56][57]

United States[edit]

Ku Klux Klan with a burning cross
The End. Victoriously slaying Catholic influence in the U.S. Illustration by Rev. Branford Clarke from Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty 1926 by Bishop Alma White, published by the Pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ.

After the American Civil War of 1861–1865, members of the Protestant-led[58] Ku Klux Klan (KKK) organization began engaging in arson, beatings, cross burnings, destruction of property, lynching, murder, rape, tar-and-feathering, and whipping. They targeted African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and other social or ethnic minorities.

Klan members had an explicitly Christian terrorist ideology, basing their beliefs in part on a "religious foundation" in Christianity.[59] The goals of the KKK included, from an early time onward, an intent to "reestablish Protestant Christian values in America by any means possible", and they believed that "Jesus was the first Klansman."[60] From 1915 Klansmen conducted cross-burnings not only to intimidate targets, but also to demonstrate their respect and reverence for Jesus Christ, and the ritual of lighting crosses was steeped in Christian symbolism, including saying prayers and singing Christian hymns.[61] Within Christianity the Klan directed hostilities against Catholics. Modern Klan organizations, such as the Knights Party, USA, continue to focus on the Christian supremacist message, detecting a "war" which allegedly aims to destroy "western Christian civilization."

After 1981, members of groups such as the Army of God began attacking abortion clinics and doctors across the United States.[62][63][64] A number of terrorist attacks were attributed by Bruce Hoffman to individuals and groups with ties to the Christian Identity and Christian Patriot movements, including the Lambs of Christ.[65] A group called Concerned Christians was deported from Israel on suspicion of planning to attack holy sites in Jerusalem at the end of 1999; they believed that their deaths would "lead them to heaven".[66][67]

The motive for anti-abortionist Scott Roeder murdering Wichita doctor George Tiller on 31 May 2009 was the belief that abortion is not only immoral, but also a form of murder under "God's law", irrespective of "man's law" in any country, and that this belief went "hand in hand" with his religious beliefs.[68][69] The group supporting Roeder proclaimed that any force used to protect the life of a born child is "legitimate to protect the life of an unborn child", and called on all Christians to "rise up" and "take action" against threats to Christianity and to unborn life.[70] Eric Robert Rudolph carried out the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, as well as subsequent attacks on an abortion clinic and on a lesbian nightclub. Michael Barkun, a professor at Syracuse University, considers Rudolph to likely fit the definition of a Christian terrorist. James A. Aho, a professor at Idaho State University, argues that religious considerations inspired Rudolph only in part.[71]

Hutaree was a Christian militia group based in Adrian, Michigan. In 2010, after an FBI agent infiltrated the group a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted nine of its members on charges of seditious conspiracy to the use of improvised explosive devices, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.[72] On 28 March 2012, the conspiracy charges were dismissed.[73] Terrorism scholar Aref M. Al-Khattar has listed The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord, Defensive Action, The Freemen Community, and some "Christian militia" as groups that "can be placed under the category of far-right-wing terrorism" that "has a religious (Christian) component".[74]

Motivation, ideology, and theology[edit]

Christian views on abortion have been cited by Christian individuals and groups that are responsible for threatening, assaulting and murdering doctors, and for bombing their abortion clinics across the United States and Canada.

Christian Identity is a loosely affiliated global group of churches and individuals devoted to a racialized theology which asserts that North European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, God's chosen people. It has been associated with groups such as the Aryan Nations, Aryan Republican Army, Army of God, Phineas Priesthood, and The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. It has been cited as an influence in a number of terrorist attacks around the world, including the 2002 Soweto bombings.[75][76][77][78]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ B. Hoffman, "Inside Terrorism", Columbia University Press, 1999, pp. 105–120. ISBN 978-0231126991
  2. ^ Andrew Katz (May 29, 2014). "‘A Question of Humanity’: Witness to the Turning Point In Central African Republic". Time. 
  3. ^ The Reformation in England and Scotland and Ireland: The Reformation Period & Ireland under Elizabeth I, Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  4. ^ Peter Steinfels (5 November 2005). "A Day to Think About a Case of Faith-Based Terrorism". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Adam, de Cordier, Titeca, and Vlassenroot (2007). "In the Name of the Father? Christian Militantism in Tripura, Northern Uganda, and Ambon". Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 30 (11): 963. doi:10.1080/10576100701611288. 
  6. ^ "The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002". Republic of India. South Asia Terrorism Portal. 2002. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  7. ^ "Constitution of National Liberation Front Of Tripura". South Asia Terrorism Portal. 
  8. ^ "National Liberation Front of Tripura, India". South Asia Terrorism Portal. 
  9. ^ a b Bhaumik, Subhir (18 April 2000). "'Church backing Tripura rebels'". BBC News. Retrieved 26 August 2006. 
  10. ^ "Separatist group bans Hindu festivities". BBC News. 2 October 2000. 
  11. ^ a b Tribals unite against conversions in Tripura
  12. ^ Adam, de Cordier, Titeca, and Vlassenroot (2007). "In the Name of the Father? Christian Militantism in Tripura, Northern Uganda, and Ambon". Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 30 (11): 965, 966, 967. doi:10.1080/10576100701611288. 
  13. ^ VHP demands inquiry into source of Christian funds
  14. ^ "RSS wing blames Cong MP for triggering communal tension in Kandhamal". The Pioneer Archive. 27 December 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  15. ^ News Today
  16. ^ Net closes in on Cong MP for Orissa swami’s murder - Indian Express
  17. ^ Why Swami Laxmanananda was killed
  18. ^ "Advani, Singhal, Togadia natural targets of Maoists". The Times Of India. 5 October 2008. 
  19. ^ Swami Laxmanananda feared for his life: NGO : Latest Headlines: News India Today
  20. ^ [1][dead link]
  21. ^ "Encyclopaedia Of Manipur (3 Vol.)", p. 490
  22. ^ "Encyclopaedia of Scheduled Tribes in India: In Five Volume", p. 253, by By P. K. Mohanty.
  23. ^ "'Is this the India we should be proud of?'". 17 May 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2013. 
  24. ^ United Nations (December 16, 1982). "General Assembly Resolution 37/123". Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  25. ^ BBC News (June 17, 2001). transcript "Panorama: "The Accused"". Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  26. ^
  27. ^

    The Northern Ireland conflict is a religious conflict. Economic and social considerations are also crucial, but it was the fact that the competing populations in Ireland adhered and still adhere to competing religious traditions which has given the conflict its enduring and intractable quality.

    Steve Bruce (1986). God Save Ulster. Oxford University Press. p. 249. ISBN 0-19-285217-5. :249 Reviewing the book, David Harkness of The English Historical Review agreed "Of course the Northern Ireland conflict is at heart religious". David Harkness (October 1989). "God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism by Steve Bruce (review)". The English Historical Review (Oxford University Press) 104 (413). 
  28. ^ Mark Juergensmeyer. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24011-1. 

    "Like residents of Belfast and London, Americans were beginning to learn to live with acts of religious terrorism: shocking, disturbing incidents of violence laced with the passion of religion - in these cases, Christianity" and "The violence in Northern Ireland is justified by still other theological positions, Catholic and Protestant."

  29. ^

    Politics in the North is not politics exploiting religion. That is far too simple an explanation: it is one which trips readily off the tongue of commentators who are used to a cultural style in which the politically pragmatic is the normal way of conducting affairs and all other considerations are put to its use. In the case of Northern Ireland the relationship is much more complex. It is more a question of religion inspiring politics than of politics making use of religion. It is a situation more akin to the first half of seventeenth‑century England than to the last quarter of twentieth century Britain.John Hickey (1984). Religion and the Northern Ireland Problem. Gill and Macmillan. p. 67. ISBN 0-7171-1115-6. 

  30. ^ a b Susan McKay (17 November 2001). "Faith, hate and murder". London: The Guardian. 
  31. ^ Claire Mitchell (2006). Religion, Identity and Politics in Northern Ireland. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 51. ISBN 0-7546-4155-4. 
  32. ^ "Self-styled loyalist pastor jailed". BBC News. 8 March 2001. 
  33. ^ "Scores killed in Norway attack". BBC (UK). 23 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  34. ^ Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks (25 July 2011). "When Christianity becomes lethal". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  35. ^ Schwirtz, Michael (14 August 2011). "Suspect in Norway Reconstructs Killings for Police". New York Times. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  36. ^ "Anders Breivik Manifesto: Shooter/Bomber Downplayed Religion, Secular Influence Key". International Business Times. (25 July 2011). Accessed 26 July 2011.
  37. ^ Washington, Jesse (31 July 2011). "'Christian terrorist'? Norway case strikes debate". Associated Press. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  38. ^ Sheppard, Robert (24 July 2011). "Norway's shooter: Delusional loner or far-right conspirator?". CBC News. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  39. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark (24 July 2011). "Is Norway's Suspected Murderer Anders Breivik a Christian Terrorist?". Religious Dispatches Magazine. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  40. ^ Reynolds, John Mark (28 July 2011). "Breivik betrays Christianity". Washington Post. 
  41. ^ Hirschfield, Brad (29 July 2011). "Breivik a Christian, terrorist but not 'Christian terrorist'". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2011. 
  42. ^ Paul Tinichigiu (January 2004). "Sami Fiul (interview)". The Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  43. ^ Radu Ioanid (2004). "The Sacralised Politics of the Romanian Iron Guard". Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 5 (3): 419–453(35). doi:10.1080/1469076042000312203. 
  44. ^ Leon Volovici. Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism. p. 98. ISBN 0-08-041024-3. "citing N. Cainic, Ortodoxie şi etnocraţie, pp. 162–4" 
  45. ^ "Roots of Romanian Antisemitism: The League of National Christian Defense and Iron Guard Antisemitism" (PDF). Background and precursors to the Holocaust (Yad Vashem – The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority). 
  46. ^ Payne, Stanley G. (1995). A History of Fascism 1914–1945. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press (pp. 277–289) ISBN 0-299-14874-2
  47. ^ Xan Rice (20 October 2007). "Background: the Lord's Resistance Army". London: The Guardian. 
  48. ^ a b Marc Lacey (4 August 2002). "Uganda's Terror Crackdown Multiplies the Suffering". New York Times. 
  49. ^ [2] The scars of death: children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda By Human Rights Watch/Africa 1997 page 72
  50. ^ a b Ruddy Doom and Koen Vlassenroot (1999). "Kony's message: A new Koine? The Lord's Resistance Army in northern Uganda". African Affairs (Oxford Journals / Royal African Society) 98 (390): 5–36. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.afraf.a008002. 
  51. ^ "Ugandan rebels raid Sudanese villages". BBC News. 8 April 2002. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  52. ^ K. Ward (2001). "The Armies of the Lord: Christianity, Rebels and the State in Northern Uganda, 1986–1999". Journal of Religion in Africa 31 (2): 187. doi:10.1163/157006601X00121. 
  53. ^ "In pictures: Ugandan rebels come home". BBC News. Retrieved 2 January 2010. "One of the differences on the LRA pips is a white bible inside a heart" 
  54. ^ David Blair (3 August 2005). "I killed so many I lost count, says boy, 11". London: The Telegraph. [dead link]
  55. ^ Matthew Green (8 February 2008). "Africa’s Most Wanted". Financial Times. 
  56. ^ Christina Lamb (2 March 2008). "The Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted by Matthew Green". London: The Times. 
  57. ^ Marc Lacey (18 April 2005). "Atrocity Victims in Uganda Choose to Forgive". New York Times. 
  58. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30. 
  59. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30, 55, 91. 
  60. ^ Michael, Robert, and Philip Rosen. Dictionary of antisemitism from the earliest times to the present. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Scarecrow Press, 1997 p. 267.
  61. ^ Wade, Wyn Craig (1998). The fiery cross: the Ku Klux Klan in America. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 9780195123579. Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  62. ^ Frederick Clarkson (2 December 2002). "Kopp Lays Groundwork to Justify Murdering Abortion Provider Slepian". National Organization for Women. 
  63. ^ Laurie Goodstein and Pierre Thomas (17 January 1995). "Clinic Killings Follow Years of Antiabortion Violence". Washington Post. 
  64. ^ "'Army Of God' Anthrax Threats". CBS News. 9 November 2001. 
  65. ^ Bruce Hoffman (1998). Inside Terrorism. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11468-0. 
  66. ^ "Apocalyptic Christians detained in Israel for alleged violence plot". CNN. 3 January 1999. [dead link]
  67. ^ "Cult members deported from Israel". BBC News. 9 January 1999. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  68. ^ "George Tiller's killer has no regrets, doesn't ask for forgiveness". Houston Belief. 9 February 1999. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  69. ^ Davey, Monica (28 January 2010). "Doctor’s Killer Puts Abortion on the Stand". New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2011. 
  70. ^ Leach, David. "Defensive Action Statement (3rd Edition)". Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  71. ^ Cooperman, Alan (2 June 2003). "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect? Religion May Have Motivated Bombing: Suspect". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 August 2011. "'Based on what we know of Rudolph so far, and admittedly it's fragmentary, there seems to be a fairly high likelihood that he can legitimately be called a Christian terrorist,' said Michael Barkun, a professor of political science at Syracuse University who has been a consultant to the FBI on Christian extremist groups." 
  72. ^ "US 'Christian militants' charged after FBI raids". BBC. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  73. ^ "Defense lawyers hail Hutaree acquittals as free speech victory | Detroit Free Press". Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  74. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30. ISBN 9780275969233. 
  75. ^ Mark S. Hamm (2001). In Bad Company: America's Terrorist Underground. Northeastern. ISBN 1-55553-492-9. 
  76. ^ James Alfred Aho (1995). The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism. University of Washington Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-295-97494-X. 
  77. ^ Alan Cooperman (2 June 2003). "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect?". Washington Post. 
  78. ^ Martin Schönteich and Henri Boshoff (2003). 'Volk' Faith and Fatherland: The Security Threat Posed by the White Right. Pretoria, South Africa, Institute for Security Studies. ISBN 1-919913-30-0. 


  • Mason, Carol. 2002. Killing for Life: The Apocalyptic Narrative of Pro-Life Politics. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Zeskind, Leonard. 1987. The ‘Christian Identity’ Movement, [booklet]. Atlanta, Georgia: Center for Democratic Renewal/Division of Church and Society, National Council of Churches.
  • Al-Khattar, Aref M. Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Greenwood. January 2003. ISBN 978-0-275-96923-3

Further reading[edit]

  • Rodney Stark God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, HarperOne, 2010,