Christian terrorism

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


Gunpowder Plot[edit]

The early modern period in Britain saw religious conflict resulting from the Reformation and the introduction of Protestant state churches.[2] 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."[3][self-published source] 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 of 19th century anarchist terrorism.[4] Sue Mahan and Pamala L. Griset classify the plot as an act of religious terrorism, writing that "Fawkes and his colleagues justified their actions in terms of religion."[5] Peter Steinfels also characterizes this plot as a notable case of religious terrorism.[6]


Orthodox Christian-influenced 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 involved in the Bucharest pogrom and political murders during the 1930s.[7][8][9][10][11]

Ku Klux Klan[edit]

Klan members conduct a cross burning in 1921.

After the American Civil War of 1861–1865, former Confederate soldiers organized the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) organization originally as a social club, which was taken over in the next year by "night rider" elements. It then began engaging in arson, beatings, destruction of property, lynching, murder, rape, tar-and-feathering, whipping, and voter intimidation. They targeted newly freed slaves, carpetbaggers and scalawags, and the occupying Union army. That iteration of the Klan disappeared by the 1870s, but in 1915 a new Protestant-led[12] iteration of the Klan was formed in Georgia, during a period of xenophobia and anti-Catholicism. This version of the Klan vastly expanded both its geographical reach and its list of targets over those of the original Klan.

Rev. Branford Clarke's illustration in the 1926 book Klansmen: Guardians of Liberty portrays the Klan as slaying Catholic influence in the US.

Vehemently anti-Catholic, the 1915 Klan had an explicitly Protestant Christian terrorist ideology, basing their beliefs in part on a "religious foundation" in Protestant Christianity and targeting Jews, Catholics, and other social or ethnic minorities,[13] as well as "immoral" practices such as adultery, bad debtors, gambling, and drinking alcohol. 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".[14] Although members of the KKK swear to uphold Christian morality, virtually every Christian denomination has officially denounced the KKK.[15]

From 1915 onward, Klansmen conducted cross-burnings (adapted from[16] scenes in the 1915 film Birth of a Nation), not only to intimidate targets, but also to demonstrate their respect and reverence for Jesus Christ.[16] The ritual of lighting crosses was steeped in Christian symbolism, including prayer and hymn singing.[16] Within Christianity the Klan directed its hostilities against Catholics. Modern Klan organizations remain associated with acts of domestic terrorism in the United States.[17]


Mark Juergensmeyer, a former president of the American Academy of Religion, has argued that there has been a global rise in religious nationalism after the Cold War due to a post-colonial collapse of confidence in Western models of nationalism and the rise of globalization.[18][19] 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".[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]


On 16 July 2001, Peter James Knight walked into the East Melbourne Fertility Clinic, a private abortion provider, carrying a rifle and other weapons[22] including 16 litres of kerosene, three lighters, torches, 30 gags, and a handwritten note that read "We regret to advise that as a result of a fatal accident involving some members of staff, we have been forced to cancel all appointments today". Knight later stated that he intended to massacre everyone in the clinic, and attack all Melbourne abortion clinics. He developed home made mouth gags and door jambs to restrain all patients and staff inside a clinic while he doused them with the kerosene.[23] He shot 44-year-old Stephen Gordon Rogers, a security guard, in the chest, killing him. Staff and clients overpowered him soon after. He intended to massacre the 15 staff and 26 patients at the clinic by burning them alive.[24]

According to psychiatrist Don Sendipathy, Knight interpreted the Bible in his own unique way and believed in his own brand of Christianity. He believed in a pro-life Crusade.[24]

Central African Republic[edit]

Anti-balaka groups destroyed almost all mosques in the Central African Republic unrest.[25][26] In 2014, Amnesty International reported several massacres committed by the Anti-balaka against Muslim civilians, forcing thousands of Muslims to flee the country.[27][28] Other sources report incidents of Muslims being cannibalized.[29][30]

While anti-balaka groups have been frequently described as Christian militias in the media, this has been denied by Church leaders. Bishop Juan José Aguirre said: "But in no sense can it be said that the anti-balaka is a Christian group. The anti-balaka are made up of people of all kinds, terribly enraged, and including many people whom we call the 'dispossessed' – bandits, ex-prisoners, delinquents, criminals – who have got involved in these groups and are now extending, like a plague of locusts, across the whole of the CAR, murdering Muslims".[31] The Tony Blair Faith Foundation has also pointed out the presence of animists in anti-balaka groups.[32] However, there have been reports that many members of Anti-balaka groups have forcibly converted Muslims and animists to Christianity.[33][34][35][36]

On 20 January 2014, Catherine Samba-Panza, the mayor of Bangui, was elected as the interim president in the second round voting.[37] The election of Samba-Panza was welcomed by Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General.[38] Samba-Panza was viewed as having been neutral and away from clan clashes. Her arrival to the presidency was generally accepted by the anti-balaka. Following the election, Samba-Panza made a speech in the parliament appealing to the anti-balaka to put down their weapons.[39]

The next day anti-Muslim violence continued in Bangui,[40] just days after the Muslim former Health Minister Dr. Joseph Kalite was lynched outside the Central Mosque[41] and at least nine other people were killed when attacked when a mob, some of whom were from Christian self-defence groups, looted shops in the Muslim-majority Miskine neighbourhood of Bangui.[42] As of 20 January, the ICRC reported that it had buried about 50 bodies within 48 hours.[43] It also came after a mob killed two people whom they accused of being Muslim, then dragged the bodies through the streets and burnt them.[44] Within the previous month, about 1,000 people had died.[45] On 4 February 2014, a local priest said 75 people were killed in the town of Boda, in Lobaye prefecture.[46] In the southwest, anti-balaka militants attacked Guen in early February resulting in the deaths of 60 people, according to Father Rigobert Dolongo, who also said that he had helped bury the bodies of the dead, at least 27 of whom died on the first day of the attack and 43 others the next day. As a result, hundreds of Muslim refugees sought shelter at a church in Carnot.[47]

In May 2014, it was reported that around 600,000 people in CAR were internally displaced with 160,000 of these in the capital Bangui. The Muslim population of Bangui had dropped from 138,000 to 900. The national health system had collapsed and over half of the total population of 4.6 million were said to be in need of immediate aid. Also from December 2013 to May 2014, 100,000 people had fled to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo bringing the number of CAR refugees in these countries to about 350,000.[48] Amnesty International blamed the anti-balaka militia of causing a "Muslim exodus of historic proportions.[49] Some Muslims of the country were also weary of the French presence in MISCA, with the French accused of not doing enough to stop attacks by Anti-balaka militias. One of the cited reasons for the difficulty in stopping attacks by anti-balaka militias was the mob nature of these attacks.[50] In October 2017, Anti-balaka militants killed 25 muslim worshipers in a mosque.[51]

Anti-balaka groups have also kidnapped, burnt and buried alive women and men accused of being 'witches' in public ceremonies.[52]


The Eastern Lightning is a heterodox new Chinese Christian[53][54][55] movement.[56][57][58] Its official name is the Church of Almighty God,[59] but it is identified by several other names, such as Church of the Gospel's Kingdom and "The Gospel of the Descent of Kingdom". The group has been described as a cult[60][61][62] and a terrorist organization.[63][64]

The name "Eastern Lightning" is drawn from the New Testament, Gospel of Matthew 24:27: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be."

In 1998 members of the church triggered eight riots which lasted for twelve days in Hetang county, Henan. They reportedly broke the arms and legs, and cut the ears off their victims.

In 2010 members killed an elementary school student, leaving a lightning-like mark on one of the victim's feet. The police investigation revealed that the boy was killed because one of his relatives, a member of the church, expressed his desire to quit.

In 2012 the church was found to be behind more than 40 riots caused by spreading doomsday rumors and distributing propaganda material. Also in 2012 Ming Yongjun, who said he was motivated by the doomsday prophecies of the church, stabbed an elderly woman and 23 students at a school in Henan province.

In August 2013 in Shanxi the eyes of a boy were pulled out. According to a report in Taiwan's Want China Times this was one of "several cases of violence in China [which] have been linked to the cult".

On May 28, 2014, six members who claimed to represent the "Almighty God" sparked a national outcry when they attacked and killed a woman at a McDonald's restaurant in Zhaoyuan, a city in Shandong Province of China. During an interview with a CCTV journalist, Lidong Zhang, the lead attacker in what became known as the Zhaoyuan McDonald's Cult Murder, claimed that the subject rejected his daughter's request for her phone number and was called a "devil", which prompted the six members to attack. Zhang described in detail how they kept stamping the victim's head to the ground for about three minutes, and that "he felt great", but he deliberately avoided questions on the organization to which he belonged and his rank within the religious group. Five of them were convicted and on October 10, two were sentenced to death and later executed, one to life imprisonment, and the other two to 7 and 10 years in prison. The McDonald's murder was later studied by scholars of new religious movements such as Emily Dunn, David Bromley and Massimo Introvigne.They came to different conclusions, and argued that the assassins were part of a small, independent cult not connected with Eastern Lightning, who used the words "Almighty God" to designate its two leaders, Zhang Fan (who was executed in 2015) and Lü Yingchun.


In 1988, a Paris cinema which was screening the controversial The Last Temptation of Christ movie was attacked by members of a right-wing Catholic group. An acidic device was detonated inside which caused a fire which destroyed the cinema and caused serious injuries to people inside.[65]



Manmasi National Christian Army (MNCA), a christian extremist group operating in North East India[66][67] In 2009, this group was charged with forcing Hindus to convert at gunpoint. Seven or more Hmar youths were charged with visiting Bhuvan hill, a Hindu village, armed with guns, and pressuring residents to convert to Christianity. The militants were seen holding a gun in one hand and a Bible in another hand.[68] They also desecrated temples by painting crosses on the walls with their blood. The Sonai police, along with the 5th Assam Rifles, arrested 13 members of the group, including their commander-in-chief. Guns and ammunition were seized from them.[69][66][67]


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.[70][71][72] The NLFT includes in its aims the forced conversion of all tribespeople in Tripura to Christianity.[73] 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".[74] In the Bagber massacre, 25 Bengali Hindu refugees were killed by NLFT militants. The NLFT is listed as a terrorist organization in the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002.[75] The state government contends that the Baptist Church of Tripura supplies arms and gives financial support to the NLFT.[76][77][78] 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,[78] and threats of killing Hindus celebrating religious festivals.[79] Over 20 Hindus in Tripura were reported to have been killed by the NLFT from 1999 to 2001 for resisting forced conversion to Christianity.[80] According to Hindus in the area, there have also been forced conversions of tribal villagers to Christianity by armed NLFT militants.[80] It is believed that as many as 5,000 tribal villagers were forcibly converted during 1999 to 2001. These forcible conversions, sometimes including the use of "rape as a means of intimidation", have also been noted by academics outside of India.[81] In 2000, the NLFT broke into a temple and gunned down a popular Hindu preacher popularly known as Shanti Kali.[82] They have also been accused of force converting Buddhists to Christianity.[83]

In 2001, there were 826 reported terrorist attacks in Tripura, in which 405 people lost their lives and 481 kidnappings were made by the NLFT and related organisations such as the Christian All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTP). Nagmanlal Halam, secretary of the Noapara Baptist Church in Tripura, was arrested for and confessed, under torture from police, to providing munitions and financial aid to the NLFT from 1998 until 2000.[84]


The Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) is also a Christian[85] Naga nationalist militant group operating in North India.[86][87] The main aim of the organization is to establish a sovereign Christian state, "Nagalim",[88] unifying all the areas inhabited by the Naga people in Northeast India and Burma.[89] The organization's slogan is "Nagaland for Christ".[90][91][92][93][94][95] Its manifesto is based on the principle of Socialism for economic development and a Baptist Christian religious outlook.[96] In some of their documents the NSCN has called for recognizing only Christianity in Nagalim.[97] They believe in Christian theocracy.[98] The NSCN has been declared a terrorist organisation in India under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.[99] It is believed that the organisation primarily raises funds through trafficking drugs from Burma and selling smuggled weapons to other insurgent groups in the region.[100] The group reportedly indulges in kidnapping, assassination, extortion, forced conversion,[101] and other terrorist activities.[102][103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110]

On 3 August 2015 NSCN leader T. Muivah signed a peace accord with the Government of India in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and NSA Ajit Doval.[111] However, NSCN also joined with a militia organization named the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia, along with other Northeast Indian terrorist groups,[112][113] and shortly after broke off peace talks with the Indian government.[114]


The Walisongo school massacre is the name given to a series of attacks by Christian militants on 28 May 2000 upon several predominantly Muslim villages around Poso town, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia as part of a broader sectarian conflict in the Poso region. Officially the total number killed in the attacks is 165,[115] but there is no definite figure of how many died. The number of dead is believed to be greater than the 39 calculated from bodies later discovered in three mass graves, and equal to or below the 191 quoted by Muslim sources.[116] The massacre is named for the Pesantren Walisongo boarding school in Sintuwu Lemba where the most high-profile murders occurred.[117] Three leaders of local Christian militia groups called the Red Group were later convicted and executed in 2006 for crimes committed during the massacre.[118]

A similar attack by alleged Red Group members was staged against the majority Muslim village of Buyung Katedo on the next year, killing at least 14 people, all but two of whom were women and children. Among those murdered in Buyung Katedo were the Imam of the local mosque and Firman, an infant.[116][117]


Monte Kim Miller formed a group known as the Concerned Christians in Colorado, during the 1980s. Created to combat New Age religious movements and anti-Christian sentiment, it has shifted to more of an apocalyptic Christian movement as the group adopted the less mainstream views of the millennium held by Miller.[119] They believe all Jews should be converted to Christianity.[120]

The Concerned Christians believe that the Fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 signaled "the time of the end." They interpret many biblical passages regarding the apocalypse through the lens of political events in world history. It is stated that they believe that the office of the United States President is the seat of the Antichrist. For example, in what is titled The Seed of Abraham, the group reports that Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was the archetypal Antichrist and helped build the "Babylonian nation that leads the entire world astray." They see American patriotism as a "foolish" compromise to their Christian beliefs. Founder, Monte "Kim" Miller, proclaimed that he was "the Prophet of the Lord," and that God spoke through his mouth.[121]

Between 60 and 80 members of the group disappeared from their homes and jobs in Colorado in October 1998 and were the subject of a search. On January 3, 1999, they gained notoriety when they were arrested and deported from Israel as part of an Israeli effort to protect the Al-Aqsa mosque from extremist Christian groups, codenamed "Operation Walk on Water". According to Israeli police, the Concerned Christians were one of several independent groups who believed it must be destroyed to facilitate the return of Jesus Christ. The group members said that they were law-abiding religious pilgrims there to await the return of Jesus but had no plans to participate in any illegal activity.[122][123]

The group is said to currently reside in Greece or the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area and its potential threat level has since been disputed.[119]


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.[124] 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."[125]


God's Army was an armed revolutionary Christian insurgent group that opposed the then military junta of Myanmar (Burma).[126][127] The group was an offshoot of the Karen National Union. They were based along the Thailand-Burma border, and conducted a string of audacious guerrilla actions—including allegedly being involved in the seizure of the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok-during the 1990s and early 2000s.They have been described as a terrorists.[128][129]

God's Army was situated in mountainous rainforests along the border between Burma and Thailand.[130] They were a band of Christian guerrillas who maintained an austere lifestyle, including abstinence from sexual intercourse, alcohol, milk, eggs and pork. The group was estimated to have around 500 fighters in 1998, but gradually declined to between 100 and 200 men by early 2000 after many left to find work to support their refugee families. Meanwhile, the Burmese army had 21,000 troops in the area.[131] Some of its members also called themselves as ''Jesus Warriors'' or ''Jesus Commandos'' and believed its founders had "Christian powers". According to Kwe Htoo, the name of the group was actually Kaserdoh God's Army.[132][133]

In October 1999, a group calling themselves Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors along with the God's Army seized the Burmese embassy in Bangkok and the situation ended with their departure, at which point they were taken in by God's Army.[134] The Burmese Government called the attack "a pure act of terrorism" and in Washington the State Department, which has been critical of the Burmese military regime, also condemned what it called "a terrorist attack".[135]

In January 2000, 10 members of God's Army seized a hospital in Ratchaburi, Thailand.[136] The group held 700 to 800 patients and staff members hostage for 22 hours. They demanded the Thai government stop shelling Karen positions in Burma and treatment for their wounded. Thai security forces stormed the hospital, killing all 10 of the gunmen.[130] After the raid, God's Army were strenuously pursued by the Tatmadaw (Burmese armed forces) and shunned by other Karen rebels.


Anders Behring Breivik was convicted for the 2011 Norway attacks, in which he killed eight people by detonating a van bomb amid Regjeringskvartalet in Oslo and then shot dead 69 participants of a Workers' Youth League (AUF) summer camp on the island of Utøya, leaving 77 dead. On the day of the attacks, Breivik electronically distributed a compendium of texts entitled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, describing his militant ideology.[137][138][139][140] In them, he lays out a worldview encompassing opposition to Islam and blaming feminism for creating a European "cultural suicide".[141][142] The texts call Islam and "Cultural Marxism" the enemy and advocate the deportation of all Muslims from Europe based on the model of the Beneš decrees, while also claiming that feminism and Islam exists to destroy Christian European culture.[143][144] Breivik wrote that his main motive for the atrocities was to market his manifesto.[145] Breivik contends that he is waging a Christian Crusade against multiculturalism and believes that the attacks were "necessary".[146]

In his manifesto it states that its author is "100 percent Christian",[147] but he is not "excessively religious";[147] "I'm not going to pretend I'm a very religious person, as that would be a lie"; and considers himself a "cultural Christian" and a "modern-day Crusader" of the Knights Templar, a medieval Catholic military order.[147][148] Furthermore, Breivik said "myself and many more like me do not necessarily have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and God."[148][149] Nevertheless, he said he planned to pray to God for help during his attacks.[150] Before the attacks, he stated an intention to attend Frogner Church in a final "Martyr's mass".[151] In 2015, Breivik claimed to be an Odinist, but Breivik and others have previously linked his religious beliefs to Christianity during the attacks.[152]

Deputy police chief Roger Andresen initially told reporters that information on Breivik's websites was "so to speak, Christian fundamentalist"[153][154][155][156] and many mainstream media such as The New York Times have described him a Christian fundamentalist.[157] Others, however, have disputed Andresen's characterisation of Breivik as a Christian fundamentalist.[158]

In an earlier incident, a dynamite was detonated near a Word of Truth church in Slemmestad on 14 September 2003 by two siblings and former members of the church.[159]


Ilaga is a Catholic Extremist group who are anti-Islam based in southern Philippines. The group is predominantly composed of Visayans (mostly Ilonggo), embracing a form of Folk Catholicism that utilizes amulets and violence. From March 1970 to January 1972, the Ilaga committed 22 massacres resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Muslim civilians. The group is guilty of "mutilating bodies of victims" and "marking bodies with a cross."[160] It also burned down and looted many houses and properties.The group committed its bloodiest act on June 19, 1971, when the group killed 70–100 Moro civilians inside a mosque.[citation needed] In November 2008, Ilaga killed five Muslim civilians in an ambush in Lanao del Norte.[161]


Milícia Catalana (lit. Catalan militia) was a Spanish nationalist and ultra-catholic armed paramilitary group that operated between 1976 and the mid 90s in Catalonia. The main objectives of this group were Catalan independence-related associations and independentist parties (especially the Moviment de Defensa de la Terra, the most prominent extra-parliamentary political expression of the Catalan independence movement); but Milícia Catalana also attacked clinics where abortions were practiced (in 1989, the Dexeus Clinic façade was damaged by an explosion attributed to the band.[162]), LGBT locals and brothels[163] Similarly, they sent threats and intimidated collectives of the alternative left and those who satirized with Catholicism, like Els Joglars, a popular theater company. One of its most famous attacks was the provocated fire near the Sanctuary of Montserrat in August 1986, burning 2,000 hectares, the 75% of the mountain area, and leaving 1,000 people isolated in the sanctuary for a day.[164]


The Lord's Resistance Army, a 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.[70][165] A quasi-religious movement that mixes some aspects of Christian beliefs with its own brand of spiritualism,[166][167] 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.[168][168][169][170] LRA fighters wear rosary beads and recite passages from the Bible before battle.[166][171][172][173][174][175]

During the mid-1990s, the LRA was strengthened by military support from the government of Sudan,[176] which was retaliating against Ugandan government support for rebels in what would become South Sudan. The LRA fought with the NRA army which led to mass atrocities such as the killing or abduction of several hundred villagers in Atiak in 1995 and the kidnapping of 139 schoolgirls in Aboke in 1996. The government created the so-called "protected camps" beginning in 1996. The LRA declared a short-lived ceasefire for the duration of Ugandan presidential election, 1996, possibly in the hope that Yoweri Museveni would be defeated.[177]

During the Christmas of 2008, the LRA massacred 620 people and abducted more than 180 at a concert celebration sponsored by the Catholic Church in Faradje in the Democratic Republic of Congo,[178] and struck several other communities in the near-simultaneous attacks: 75 people were murdered in a church near Dungu, at least 80 were killed in Batande, 48 in Bangadi, and 213 in Gurba.[179][180][181] Many of them hacked into pieces,[182] decapitated,[183] or burned alive in their homes.[183] By August 2009, the LRA terror in this country resulted in displacing as many as 320,000 Congolese, exposing them to a threat of famine, according to UNICEF director Ann Veneman.[184] That same month, the LRA attacked a Catholic church in Ezo, South Sudan, on the Feast of the Assumption, with reports of victims being crucified, causing Ugandan Archbishop John Baptist Odama to call on the international community for help in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.[185][186][187] In December 2009, the LRA forces under Dominic Ongwen killed at least 321 civilians and abducted 250 others during a four-day rampage in the village and region of Makombo in the DR Congo.[188][189] In February 2010, about 100 people were massacred by the LRA in Kpanga, near DR Congo's border with the Central African Republic and Sudan.[190] Small-scale attacks continued daily, displacing large numbers of people and worsening an ongoing humanitarian crisis which the UN described as one of the worst in the world.[191] By May 2010, the LRA killed over 1,600 Congolese civilians and abducted more than 2,500.[192] Between September 2008 and July 2011, the group, despite being down to only a few hundred fighters, has killed more than 2,300 people, abducted more than 3,000, and displaced over 400,000 across the DR Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.[193]


The Russian Orthodox Army is a Christian Extremist militant group in Ukraine that was founded in May 2014, as part of the insurgency and following War in Donbass.[194] It reportedly had 100 members at the time of its founding, including locals and Russian volunteers. As fighting between separatists and the Ukrainian government worsened in Donbass, their membership rose to 350, and later 4,000.[195] Notable engagements of the ROA include the June 2014 skirmishes in Mariupol and Amvrosiivka Raion.[196] The headquarters of the ROA is located in an occupied Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building in Donetsk city.[197] Members had no special training apart from the usual conscription service in the army[198] and swore allegiance to Igor Girkin ("Strelkov"), insurgent and Minister of Defence of the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. Along with other separatist groups in the region, the ROA has been noted for "kidnapp[ing], beat[ing], and threaten[ing] Protestants, Catholics, and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church ... as well as participat[ing] in anti-Semitic acts."[199] The ROA is designated as a terrorist organization by the Ukrainian Government.[200]

In late November 2014, the group gained attention after abducting prominent Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, Sergeii Kulbaka, and Roman Catholic priest, Father Pawel Witek.[201][202] According to the Defence Ministry of Ukraine, the ROA has also been in conflict with another pro-Russian militia, the Vostok Battalion, which accused the ROA of looting, and of avoiding combat.[203][204]

In July 2015, the Russian Orthodox Army, abducted Tykhon Kulbaka, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest. According to the report, "His captors reportedly subjected him to repeated mock executions and took away his medication, threatening him with a 'slow death' unless he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. He also sustained physical injuries before his release.".

Other churches that are targeted include God's Church of Ukraine, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and a variety of Protestant denominations.[205]

United States[edit]

Contemporary American Christian terrorism can be motivated by a violent desire to implement a Reconstructionist or Dominionist ideology.[206] 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 prerequisite for the second coming of Christ.[207] Political violence motivated by dominion theology is a violent extension of the desire to impose a select version of Christianity on other Christians, as well as on non-Christians.

Of the roughly 800 crimes aimed at abortion clinics between 1978 and 1993,[208] 38 have been bombings, and there have been an additional 7 violent crimes, including murder.[209] At least 11 people have been killed in attacks on abortion clinics in the United States since 1993. After 1981, members of groups such as the Army of God began attacking abortion clinics and doctors across the United States.[210][211][212] 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.[213] 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".[214][215] 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".[216]

Mark David Chapman accused John Lennon of blasphemy before murdering him in 1980. Chapman was a Beatles fan who had idolized Lennon but turned against him after Chapman's religious conversion, He was angry about Lennon's 1966 well-publicized comment that Beatles were "more popular than Jesus." He later stated that he was further enraged by the songs "God" and "Imagine", even singing the latter with the altered lyric: "Imagine John Lennon dead".[217] Jan Reeves, the sister of one of Chapman's friends, reported Chapman "seemed really angry toward John Lennon and he kept saying he could not understand why John Lennon had said [the Beatles were more popular than Jesus]. According to Mark, there should be nobody more popular than the Lord Jesus Christ. He said it was blasphemy."[218] Chapman was charged with second degree murder.[219]

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.[220]

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 would hasten the ascendancy of the Aryan race.[221]

Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder were a gay couple from Redding, California, who were murdered by white supremacist brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams in 1999. The Williams brothers confessed killing the couple because they were gay. The Williams brothers, who were both known by their middle names, operated a landscaping and lawn service out of their parents' home in Palo Cedro, California. Neighbors said that the family was known for their fundamentalist Christianity, and that recordings of sermons and religious music were often heard from their house.[222]

Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the United States who provided abortions late in pregnancy, was a frequent target of anti-abortion violence and was killed in 2009 by Scott Roeder as he stood in the foyer of his church. A witness who was serving as an usher alongside Dr. Tiller at the church that day told the court that Mr. Roeder entered the foyer, put a gun to the doctor's head and pulled the trigger. At trial, Mr. Roeder admitted to killing Dr. Tiller and said he did it to protect unborn babies. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. At his sentencing, he told the court that God's judgment would "sweep over this land like a prairie wind." Dr. Tiller was shot once before, in 1993, by Shelley Shannon, an anti-abortion activist who compared abortion providers to Hitler and said she believed that "justifiable force" was necessary to stop abortions. Ms. Shannon was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the shooting of Dr. Tiller and later confessed to vandalizing and burning a string of abortion clinics in California, Nevada and Oregon.

James Kopp was convicted of the murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian, an obstetrician who provided abortion services in the Buffalo area, and has been named a suspect in the shooting of several abortion providers in Canada. Mr. Kopp hid in the woods behind Dr. Slepian's home in October 1998 and shot him through the window with a high-powered rifle, killing him as he stood in his kitchen with his family. Dr. Slepian had just returned from a memorial service for his father when he was killed. Mr. Kopp spent several years on the run in Mexico, Ireland and France before he was captured and extradited to the United States. He was convicted of a state charge of second-degree murder in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in jail. He was convicted in 2007 on a separate federal charge and sentenced to life in prison. The authorities in Canada also suspect Mr. Kopp in the nonlethal attacks on several abortion providers there who were shot through the windows of their homes. He was charged with the 1995 attempted murder of Dr. Hugh Short, an abortion provider in Ontario, although the charges were dropped after his conviction in New York. The police in Canada also named him a suspect in the 1997 shooting of Dr. Jack Fainman in Winnipeg and the 1994 shooting of Dr. Garson Romalis in Vancouver, which was the first attack on an abortion provider in Canada.

From March 28 to March 30, 2010, nine people thought to be Hutaree members were arrested in police raids in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana (in Hammond), for their alleged involvement in a plot to kill various police officers and possibly civilians using illegal explosives or firearms. The group was allegedly preparing for what they believed would be an apocalyptic battle with the forces of the Antichrist, whom they believed would be supported and defended by local, state, and federal law enforcement.[223] The group formed in early 2006. The name "Hutaree" appears to be a neologism; the group's web site says that the name means "Christian warriors".[224]

In 2015, Robert Doggart, a 63 year old mechanical engineer, was indicted for solicitation to commit a civil rights violation by intending to damage or destroy religious property after communicating that he intended to amass weapons to attack a Muslim enclave in Delaware County, New York.[225] Doggart, a member of several private militia groups, communicated to an FBI source in a phone call that he had an M4 carbine with "500 rounds of ammunition" that he intended to take to the Delaware County enclave, along with a handgun, molotov cocktails and a machete. The FBI source recorded him saying "if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds".[226] Doggart had previously travelled to a site in Dover, Tennessee described in chain emails as a "jihadist training camp", and found that the claims were wrong. Doggart pleaded guilty in an April plea bargain stating he had "willfully and knowingly sent a message in interstate commerce containing a true threat" to injure someone. The plea bargain was struck down by a judge because it did not contain enough facts to constitute a true threat.[227][228] Doggart, who describes himself as a Christian minister of the "Christain National (Congregational) Church" (apparently the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches), stood as an independent candidate in Tennessee's 4th congressional district, losing with 6.4% of the vote.[229] None of the charges against him are terrorism related.[230][231][232][233]

The November 2015 Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, in which three were killed and nine injured, was described as "a form of terrorism" by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.[234] The gunman, Robert Lewis Dear, was described as a "delusional" man[235] who had written on a cannabis internet forum that "sinners" would "burn in hell" during the end times, and had also written about smoking marijuana and propositioned women for sex.[236][237] He had praised the Army of God, saying that attacks on abortion clinics are "God's work".[238] Dear's ex-wife said he had put glue on a lock of a Planned Parenthood clinic, and in court documents for their divorce she said "He claims to be a Christian and is extremely evangelistic, but does not follow the Bible in his actions. He says that as long as he believes he will be saved, he can do whatever he pleases. He is obsessed with the world coming to an end." Authorities said that he spoke of "no more baby parts" in a rambling interview after his arrest.

In 2016, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Eugene Stein, 3 Kansas militia men calling themselves 'Crusaders' were arrested plotting a bomb attack and a mass shooting targeting an apartment complex home to a mosque and many Muslim immigrants from Somalia.[239] Stein allegedly told the agent the trio would use ammonium nitrate to make the bombs, a method used in 1995 by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.[240] Dr. John Birky, who works with the Somali community, told the AP about 300 to 500 Somali refugees resided in the area where the attacks were planned.[240]

Global ideologies[edit]

Christian Identity is a loosely affiliated global group of churches and individuals devoted to a racialized theology which asserts that Northern European whites are the direct descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, making them God's chosen people. It has been associated with groups such as the Aryan Nations, the Aryan Republican Army, the Army of God, the 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.[241][242][243][244]

These groups are estimated to have 2000 members in the United States,[245] and an unknown number of members in Canada and the rest of the Commonwealth of Nations. Due to the promotion of Christian Identity doctrines through radio broadcasts and later through the Internet, an additional 50,000 unaffiliated individuals are thought to hold Christian Identity beliefs.[245]

See also[edit]


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  • 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