In November, 2017, a lone gunman fired at the congregation of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, United States (US), killing 26 and wounding 20 others. It was the deadliest shooting in an American place of worship in modern history.
About a year later, in October, 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshippers and wounded six others at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, the deadliest attack against the American Jewish community in US history.
At the time of these attacks, it was feared that the phenomenon of Islamic terrorism born in the continuing war in the Middle East led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was beginning to spread around the world. It had even reached the Philippines where the St. Mary’s Cathedral was besieged by ISIS-inspired Maute fighters who occupied Marawi City for the next six months.
Last Friday, two gunmen attacked the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, and another mosque in suburban Linwood, as Muslim worshippers gathered for Friday prayers. The gunmen killed a total of 50 worshippers in the country’s worst-ever mass shooting.
There have been many several such mass killings in several countries, many in schools in the US, but these three were doubly unfortunate because they were carried out in places of worship, against people gathered for prayer.
Political and religious leaders around the world condemned the mosque killings, with Islamic leaders like Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan expressing concern over spreading Islamophobia since the attack on the US World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001. There have also been so many conflicts around the world involving fighters claiming to be inspired by the ISIS which has been fighting for years in Syria and Iraq, in Libya in North Africa, and now in Southeast Asia.
The killings in the Baptist church in Texas in 2017 and in the synagogue in Pennsylvania in 2018 were widely condemned as attacks on innocent people gathered for worship and prayer. The killings in the mosques in Christchurch were similarly attacks on peaceful victims of still another faith.
The world’s Islamic leaders now fear that the mosque attacks are the result of a growing tide of fear, with the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims being collectively blamed for any act of terror. We pray that this fear aired by Pakistan’s prime minister will not be borne out by succeeding events for such a conflict based on religious fear would be a tragedy for all humanity.