Christian terrorism

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Christian terrorism comprises terrorist acts by groups or individuals who profess Christian motivations or goals.[1]

Global ideologies[edit]

Christian Identity was 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 on a number of terrorist attacks around the world, including the 2002 Soweto bombings.[2][3][4][5]


Gunpowder Plot[edit]

Main article: Gunpowder Plot

The early modern period in Britain saw religious conflict resulting from the Reformation and the introduction of Protestant state churches.[6] The 1605 Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt by a group of English Catholics including Guy Fawkes to assassinate King James I, and to blow up the Palace of Westminster, the English seat of government. According to Vahabph D. Aghai, "The beginnings of modern terrorism can be traced back to England and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605."[7] Although the modern concept of religious terrorism had not yet come into use in the 17th century, David C. Rapoport and Lindsay Clutterbuck point out that the Plot, with its use of explosives, was an early precursor to 19th century anarchist terrorism.[8] Sue Mahan and Pamala L. Griset classify the plot as religious terrorism, writing that "Fawkes and his colleagues justified their actions in terms of religion."[9] Peter Steinfels also characterizes this plot as a notable case of religious terrorism.[10]


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.[11][12][13][14](p37)[15]

Ku Klux Klan[edit]

Main article: Ku Klux Klan
Klan members conduct a cross burning in 1921.
Rev. Branford Clarke's illustration in the 1926 book Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty portrays the Klan as slaying Catholic influence in the US.

After the American Civil War of 1861–1865, members of the Protestant-led[16] Ku Klux Klan (KKK) organization began engaging in arson, beatings, destruction of property, lynching, murder, rape, tar-and-feathering, whipping and intimidation via such means as cross burning. 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.[17] 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."[18] From 1915 onward, 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 prayer and singing hymns.[19] Within Christianity the Klan directed hostilities against Catholics. Modern Klan organizations remain associated with acts of domestic terrorism in the US.[20]


According to terrorism expert David C. Rapoport, a "religious wave", or cycle, of terrorism, dates from approximately 1979 to the present. According to Rapoport, this wave most prominently features Islamic terrorism, but also includes terrorism by Christians and other religious groups that may have been influenced by Islamic terrorism.[21] Mark Juergensmeyer categorizes contemporary Christian terrorists as being a part of "religious activists from Algeria to Idaho, who have come to hate secular governments with an almost transcendent passion and dream of revolutionary changes that will establish a godly social order in the rubble of what the citizens of most secular societies regard as modern, egalitarian democracies."[22]

Anti-Hindu violence in India[edit]


Further information: Tripura rebellion

The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), is a rebel group that seeks the secession of Tripura, North-East India, and is a proscribed terrorist organization in India. Group activities have been described as Christian terrorists engaging in terrorist violence motivated by their Christian beliefs.[23][24][25] The NLFT includes in its aims the forced conversion of all tribespeople in Tripura to Christianity.[26] The NLFT says that it is fighting not only for the removal of Bengali immigrants from the tribal areas, "but also for the tribal areas of the state to become overtly Christian", and "has warned members of the tribal community that they may be attacked if they do not accept its Christian agenda".[27] The NLFT is listed as a terrorist organization in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002.[28] The state government contends that the Baptist Church of Tripura supplies arms and gives financial support to the NLFT.[29][30][31] 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,[31] and threats of killing Hindus celebrating religious festivals.[32] Over 20 Hindus in Tripura were reported to have been killed by the NLFT from 1999 to 2001 for resisting forced conversion to Christianity.[33] According to Hindus in the area, there have also been forced conversions of tribal villagers to Christianity by armed NLFT militants.[33] These forcible conversions, sometimes including the use of "rape as a means of intimidation", have also been noted by academics outside of India.[34]


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.[35] 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.[36] 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.[37] Later, the 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.[38][39] 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.[40][41]

Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon[edit]

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.[42] A British photographer present during the incident said that "People who committed the acts of murder that I saw that day were wearing [crucifixes] and were calling themselves Christians."[43] 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.[44]

Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda[edit]

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.[23][45] A quasi-religious movement that mixes some aspects of Christian beliefs with its own brand of spiritualism,[46][47] 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.[48][48][49][50] LRA fighters wear rosary beads and recite passages from the Bible before battle.[46][51][52][53][54][55]

United States[edit]

Contemporary American Christian terrorism reflects conservative Christian beliefs in Dominion Theology.[56] Dominion Theology insists that Christians are called by God to (re)build society on Christian values to subjugate the earth and establish dominion over all things, as a pre-requisite for the second coming of Christ.[57]

After 1981, members of groups such as the Army of God began attacking abortion clinics and doctors across the United States.[58][59][60] 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.[61] 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".[62][63]

Eric Robert Rudolph carried out the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, as well as subsequent attacks on an abortion clinic and 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.[64]

Terrorism scholar Aref M. Al-Khattar has listed The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA), Defensive Action, the Montana Freemen, and some "Christian militia" as groups that "can be placed under the category of far-right-wing terrorism" that "has a religious (Christian) component".[65]

In 1996 three men—Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merelle—were charged with two bank robberies and bombings at the banks, a Spokane newspaper, and a Planned Parenthood office in Washington state. The men were anti-Semitic Christian Identity theorists who believed that God wanted them to carry out violent attacks and that such attacks will hasten the ascendancy of the Aryan race.[66]

In 2011, analyst Daryl Johnson of the United States Department of Homeland Security said that the Hutaree Christian militia movement possessed more weapons than the combined weapons holdings of all Islamic terror defendants charged in the US since the September 11 attacks.[67]


Christian militant group Anti-balaka destroyed almost all mosques in Central African Republic unrest[68][69][70]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ B. Hoffman, "Inside Terrorism", Columbia University Press, 1999, pp. 105–120. ISBN 978-0231126991
  2. ^ Mark S. Hamm (2001). In Bad Company: America's Terrorist Underground. Northeastern. ISBN 1-55553-492-9. 
  3. ^ James Alfred Aho (1995). The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism. University of Washington Press. p. 86. ISBN 0-295-97494-X. 
  4. ^ Alan Cooperman (2 June 2003). "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect?". Washington Post. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ The Reformation in England and Scotland and Ireland: The Reformation Period & Ireland under Elizabeth I, Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  7. ^ Aghai, Vahabph D. (2011). Terrorism, an Unconventional Crime: Do We Have the Wisdom and Capability to Defeat Terrorism?. Xlibris Corporation. p. 14. Retrieved December 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ Rapoport, David C. (2006). Terrorism: The first or anarchist wave. Routledge. p. 309. ISBN 0415316510. 
  9. ^ Mahan, Sue; Griset, Pamala L. (2013). "Religious Terrorism: Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot". Terrorism in Perspective (3rd ed.). Sage Publications. pp. 42–44. ISBN 9781452225456. Like many terrorists throughout history, Fawkes and his colleagues justified their actions in terms of religion. Like other instances of 'holy terror', the Gunpowder Plot was deeply rooted in events that had occurred long before. 
  10. ^ Peter Steinfels (5 November 2005). "A Day to Think About a Case of Faith-Based Terrorism". New York Times. 
  11. ^ Paul Tinichigiu (January 2004). "Sami Fiul (interview)". The Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Leon Volovici. Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism. p. 98. ISBN 0-08-041024-3. citing N. Cainic, Ortodoxie şi etnocraţie, pp. 162–4 
  14. ^ "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). 
  15. ^ Payne, Stanley G. (1995). A History of Fascism 1914–1945. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press (pp. 277–289) ISBN 0-299-14874-2
  16. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30. 
  17. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30, 55, 91. 
  18. ^ Michael, Robert, and Philip Rosen. Dictionary of antisemitism from the earliest times to the present. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Scarecrow Press, 1997 p. 267.
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ ADL About the Ku Klux Klan Page accessed August 25, 2015
  21. ^ Rapoport, David C. The Four Waves of Modern Terrorism (PDF). p. 47. Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  22. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark (1998). "Christian Violence in America". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 
  23. ^ a b Henderson, Alex (2015). "6 Modern-day Christian Terrorist Groups Our Media Conviently Ignores". Salon. Retrieved June 15, 2015. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ Kumar, B.B. (2007). Problems of Ethnicity in North-East India. New Delhi, India: Concept Publishing Company. p. 23. ISBN 818069464X. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  26. ^ "Hindu preacher killed by Tripura rebels". BBC News. August 28, 2000. Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "Analysis: Tripura's tribal strife". BBC News. 21 May 2000. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  28. ^ "The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002". Republic of India. South Asia Terrorism Portal. 2002. Retrieved 1 March 2009. 
  29. ^ "Constitution of National Liberation Front Of Tripura". South Asia Terrorism Portal. 
  30. ^ "National Liberation Front of Tripura, India". South Asia Terrorism Portal. 
  31. ^ a b Bhaumik, Subhir (18 April 2000). "'Church backing Tripura rebels'". BBC News. Retrieved 26 August 2006. 
  32. ^ "Separatist group bans Hindu festivities". BBC News. 2 October 2000. 
  33. ^ a b Tribals unite against conversions in Tripura
  34. ^ 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. 
  35. ^ "RSS wing blames Cong MP for triggering communal tension in Kandhamal". The Pioneer Archive. 27 December 2007. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  36. ^ "Attack on Laxmanananda by Christian mob in Orissa-I". Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  37. ^ Net closes in on Cong MP for Orissa swami’s murder - Indian Express
  38. ^ Why Swami Laxmanananda was killed
  39. ^ "Advani, Singhal, Togadia natural targets of Maoists". The Times Of India. 5 October 2008. 
  40. ^ Swami Laxmanananda feared for his life: NGO : Latest Headlines: News India Today
  41. ^ [1][dead link]
  42. ^ United Nations (December 16, 1982). "General Assembly Resolution 37/123". Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  43. ^ BBC News (June 17, 2001). "Panorama: "The Accused"". Retrieved January 17, 2011.  The transcription actually says "crucifixions" instead of "crucifixes".
  44. ^
  45. ^ Xan Rice (20 October 2007). "Background: the Lord's Resistance Army". London: The Guardian. 
  46. ^ a b Marc Lacey (4 August 2002). "Uganda's Terror Crackdown Multiplies the Suffering". New York Times. 
  47. ^ [2] The scars of death: children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda By Human Rights Watch/Africa 1997 page 72
  48. ^ 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. 
  49. ^ "Ugandan rebels raid Sudanese villages". BBC News. 8 April 2002. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  50. ^ 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. 
  51. ^ "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 
  52. ^ David Blair (3 August 2005). "I killed so many I lost count, says boy, 11". London: The Telegraph. [dead link]
  53. ^ Matthew Green (8 February 2008). "Africa’s Most Wanted". Financial Times. 
  54. ^ Christina Lamb (2 March 2008). "The Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted by Matthew Green". London: The Times. 
  55. ^ Marc Lacey (18 April 2005). "Atrocity Victims in Uganda Choose to Forgive". New York Times. 
  56. ^ Jeurgensmeyer, Mark (2008). Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 
  57. ^ Barron, Bruce; Shupe, Anson (1992). "Reasons for the Growing Popularity of Christian Reconstructionism: The Determination to Attain Dominion". In Misztal, B.; Shupe, A. Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective: Revival of Religious Fundamentalism in East and West. Praeger Publications. 
  58. ^ Frederick Clarkson (2 December 2002). "Kopp Lays Groundwork to Justify Murdering Abortion Provider Slepian". National Organization for Women. 
  59. ^ Laurie Goodstein and Pierre Thomas (17 January 1995). "Clinic Killings Follow Years of Antiabortion Violence". Washington Post. 
  60. ^ "'Army Of God' Anthrax Threats". CBS News. 9 November 2001. 
  61. ^ Bruce Hoffman (1998). Inside Terrorism. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11468-0. 
  62. ^ "Apocalyptic Christians detained in Israel for alleged violence plot". CNN. 3 January 1999. [dead link]
  63. ^ "Cult members deported from Israel". BBC News. 9 January 1999. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  64. ^ 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. 
  65. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30. ISBN 9780275969233. 
  66. ^ Martin, Gus (2003). Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues. SAGE Publications, Inc. ISBN 978-0761926153. 
  67. ^ Shane, Scott (July 24, 2011). "Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S." (PDF). The New York Times. Retrieved November 3, 2014. [dead link]
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^


  • 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,
  • "The Armies of God: A Study in Militant Christianity" by Iain Buchanan, Publisher: Citizens International (2010), ISBN 978-9833046096