Meeting Catastrophe with Indifference
"Where is the solidarity for the Sri Lanka's Christians?" asked the British scholar Rakib Ehsan, a Muslim.
"The differences in tone and nature between the condemnations of the Christchurch and Sri Lanka terrorist attacks are striking. After Christchurch, there was no hesitation about stating the religious backgrounds of the victims and directing emotion and affection towards Muslim communities. Politicians took no issue with categorising the events in Christchurch as terrorism.
"In contrast, the words 'terrorism' and 'Christianity', along with their associated terms, have so far failed to feature in much of the reaction to the attacks in Sri Lanka.
"What is evident is not only a clear reluctance to specify the religious background of Christians who were killed in Sri Lanka, but also an absence of heartfelt solidarity with Christian communities across the world, which continue to suffer grave forms of persecution on the grounds of their faith."
Rakib Ehsan asked the right question. But it might be rewritten as: Where is the Western solidarity for the Sri Lanka's murdered Christians?
This is a drama in three acts. The first act consists of the Christians and other non-Muslim indigenous peoples being violated and murdered. The second act consists of Muslim extremists who create this genocide. And the third act consists of the indifferent West, which looks everywhere else.
The number of murdered victims in the April 21 Easter Sunday jihadist attacks in Sri Lanka is too terrible even to think about: 253 dead. Among the victims, 45 children were murdered. Their small faces and stories have begun to emerge. The Islamic terrorists knew there were many children in the three churches, and they deliberately targeted them with their bombs. Footage shows one of the bombers patting a young child on the head before he enters the St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo, where "everyone has lost someone".
The Fernando family had taken a photograph at the baptism of their third child, Seth. In Negombo they were all buried together. Father, mother and three children aged 6, 4, and 11 months. According to the New York Times:
"Fabiola Fernando, 6, was an elementary school student. In a photo posted to her mother's Facebook page, she showed off a gold medal, a small smile on her face. Leona Fernando, 4, the middle child in her family, was learning to read and was holding a copy of "Sleeping Beauty" in the picture. Seth Fernando, 11 months, was the newest addition to the Fernando family. He was buried alongside his parents and two sisters."
The silence of the Western intellectual world and the media is particularly deafening. The new humanitarian conscience seems to see only two groups: those who have the right to the compassion and protection of the international community, and those, such as Christians, unworthy of help or solidarity.
The deliberate murder of an 8-month-old baby, Matthew, in a Sri Lankan church apparently did not upset or chill the West, did not go viral on social media, did not to become a hashtag, did not to push the Europeans to crowd into their public squares, did not press the Islamic world to examine its conscience, did not to induce Western politicians and opinion-makers seriously to reflect on who killed that child, or on those who foment and finance the Islamist anti-Christian hatred.
Sudesh Kolonne was waiting outside St. Sebastian's Church when he heard the blast. He then ran inside and searched for his wife and daughter. It took him a half hour to find their bodies.
The attacks also killed three children of a Danish billionaire. Another woman lost her daughter, son, husband, sister-in-law and two nieces. A British father had to make a choice over which of his two children to save. Another British family was destroyed. To add horror to horror, the pregnant wife of one of the terrorists, when police raided her home, detonated a suicide vest, killing her own children.
The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, just visited the Muslim survivors of the attack on the mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, including children recovering in the hospitals. It was a gesture of humanity and compassion. Why does the same compassion not spur the British royal family to stop in Sri Lanka, their former colony, to meet the Christian survivors, before going back to England? Entire Christian families were decimated in the attack.
Where is the outrage in the West for the annihilation of Christian life and people? It feels as if there is no indignation, only silence, interrupted by bombs and "Allahu Akbar". The history books of the future will not condone this Western betrayal. If the West had taken seriously the persecutions of Christians, now the bell would not toll for the death of the Christian presence -- not only in historic lands of Christianity, but also for the West. Islamic extremists have seen that the West has not mobilized to prevent them from repressing Christians, as if unconsciously there were a strange convergence between our silence and the ethnic cleansing project of the Islamic State, aimed at erasing Christians.
The British author Melanie Phillips has called this persecution of Christians "our guilty secret."
"Religious liberty, the core value of western civilisation, is being destroyed across large parts of the world. Yet the West, myopically denying this religious war, is averting its gaze from the destruction of its foundational creed in the Middle East and the attempt to eradicate it elsewhere. It is therefore no surprise that, faced with jihadist barbarities abroad and cultural inroads at home, the free world is proving so ineffectual".
The jihadist attack in Sri Lanka was not only "the deadliest attack on Christians in South Asia in recent memory." It was also the largest massacre of Christian children. But no newspaper has launched a campaign to raise awareness of European public opinion, no pro-Christian solidarity movement has arisen, no Western leader appears to have visited a church in solidarity, no Western church leaders had the courage to point out the culprits by calling them by name, no Western mayors hung photographs of the 45 children torn to pieces, no public square was filled in thousands saying "Je suis chrétien".
A few years ago, at the height of the migrant crisis in Europe, a photograph conquered public opinion in the West. It was the famous picture of the three-year-old Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, who drowned off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey. That little migrant moved the West. His image went viral. The New York Times called it "Aylan Kurdi's Europe".
"For historical reasons, Angela Merkel feared images of armed German police confronting civilians on our borders," wrote Robin Alexander, Die Welt's leading journalist, in his book, Die Getriebenen ("The Driven Ones"). If photographs of migrant children spurred Europe's leaders to open their borders, the photographs of murdered Christian children -- such as the 45 in Sri Lanka -- apparently left them indifferent.
The appeal of Asia Bibi's daughters to help her mother met a deaf West. The UK refused to offer asylum to this Pakistani Christian family and take persecuted Christians.
"It is with indifference that we witness a catastrophe of civilization with no precedent", wrote the French scholar historian Jean-François Colosimo, commenting on the destruction of Eastern Christianity. No religion, no community, is today more persecuted than Christians. Why, then, this silence by the West? Have we become so foreign to ourselves, to our roots and to our history, that we can contemplate this outbreak of jihadi violence without blinking an eye? Or are we so short-sighted that we hoped to buy "peace" with the Muslim extremists at the cost of abandoning those Christians? The same jihadi ideology that murdered Christian children in Sri Lanka, targeted European children in Nice, Manchester and Barcelona.
Sri Lanka after the massacre is not just a terrible succession of crying mothers and little coffins. Unfortunately, it also tells us a lot about the discouraging state of the West.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.