Christian terrorism

Christian terrorism comprises terrorist acts by groups or individuals who claim Christian motivations or goals for their actions. As with other forms of religious terrorism, Christian terrorists have relied on idiosyncratic or literal interpretations of the tenets of faith – in this case, the Bible. Such groups have used 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] while others have hoped to bring about a Christian theocracy.[2][3]


By country


The early modern period in Britain saw religious conflict resulting from the Reformation and the introduction of Protestant state churches.[4] The 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.[5]

Northern Ireland

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.[6] Professor Mark Juergensmeyer has also argued that some acts of terrorism were "religious terrorism... - in these cases, Christianity".[7]:19-20 Others, such as John Hickey, take a more guarded view.[8] 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".[9]

The Orange Volunteers are a group infamous for carrying out simultaneous terrorist attacks on Catholic churches.[10]

In 1999 Pastor Clifford Peeples of the Bethel Pentecostal Church was convicted of offences under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and sentenced to ten years imprisonment after being found in possession of hand grenades and a pipe bomb intended for use against Catholics.[11] Pastor John Somerville, an associate of Peeples, had previously been convicted under the Prevention of Terrorism Act and had received a life sentence for his part in the Miami Showband massacre.[12] RUC chief constable, Ronnie Flanagan dubbed Peeples and his associates "the demon pastors" – specialising in recounting lurid stories of Catholic savagery towards Protestants, and in finding biblical justifications for Protestant retaliation.[9] Other notable individuals convicted for terrorism offences include Pastor Kenny McClinton, a convicted murderer who once advocated beheading Roman Catholics and impaling their heads on railings, and Billy Wright, a Born again Christian preacher who became one of the most feared paramilitary figures in Northern Ireland before being assassinated whilst incarcerated in prison.[13]


Tripura and Assam

The National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), a rebel group operating in Tripura, North-East India, has been described as engaging in terrorist violence motivated by their Christian beliefs. [14] It is classified by the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism as one of the ten most active terrorist groups in the world, and has been accused of forcefully converting people to Christianity.[15][16] The insurgency in Nagaland was originally led by the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), and it is continued today by a faction named "NSCN–Isaac Muivah", which explicitly calls for a "Nagalim for Christ".[17] The state government reports that the Baptist Church of Tripura supplies arms and gives financial support to the NLFT.[15][16][18] In April 2000, the secretary of the Noapara Baptist Church in Tripura, Nagmanlal Halam, was arrested with a large quantity of explosives. He confessed to illegally buying and supplying explosives to the NLFT for two years.[19][18] The NLFT has threatened to kill Hindus celebrating the annual five-day religious festival of Durga Puja and other religious celebrations.[20] At least 20 Hindus in Tripura have been killed by the NLFT in two years for resisting forced conversion to Christianity.[21] A leader of the Jamatia tribe, Rampada Jamatia, said that armed NLFT militants were forcibly converting tribal villagers to Christianity, which he said was a serious threat to Hinduism.[21] It is believed that up to 5,000 tribal villagers were converted to Christianity by the NLFT in two years.[21]

In August 2000, a tribal Hindu spiritual leader, Shanti Tripura, was shot dead by about ten guerrillas belonging to the NLFT who said it wanted to convert all people in the state to Christianity.[22] In December 2000, Labh Kumar Jamatia, a religious leader of the state's second largest Hindu group, was kidnapped by the NLFT, and found dead in a forest in Dalak village in southern Tripura. According to police, rebels from the NLFT wanted Jamatia to convert to Christianity, but he refused.[23] A local Marxist tribal leader, Kishore Debbarma, was clubbed to death in Tripura's Sadar (north) by militants belonging to the Biswamohan faction of the NLFT in May 2005.[24] He was dragged away at gunpoint by a group of NLFT militants. His body was found with multiple head injuries in a roadside ditch in the Katabon area.

In Assam, the Manmasi National Christian Army (MNCA), an extremist group from the Hmar tribe, were charged with forcing Hindus to convert at gunpoint.[25] Seven or more Hmar youths were charged with visiting Bhuvan Pahar, a Hindu village, armed with guns, and pressuring residents to convert to Christianity.[26] They also desecrated temples by painting crosses on the walls with their blood.[26] The Sonai police, along with the 5th Assam Rifles, arrested 13 members of the MNCA, including their commander-in-chief. Guns and ammunition were seized.[26][27]

John Joseph, the Christian representative of the National Minority Commission, stated in 2000 that foreign funds used for Christian terrorism in the northeast are routed through Christians in Kerala.[28]


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 Orissa in the Indian National Congress party, of plotting to assassinate him.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31] 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.[32][33] 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.[34][35]


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.[36] Subsequent news reports have noted Breivik's self-description as a "Christian crusader" who believed that Muslim immigrants were undermining Norway's traditional Christian values.[37] However, some of his writings indicate that he values Christianity primarily as a foundation of European cultural identity,[38] as he himself is not "a very religious person" and sees religion as a "crutch".[39] Analyses of his motivations have recognized a complex interplay of Christian terrorist inclinations with non-religious, right-wing beliefs.[40][41][42] Some commentators have stated that the events were unambiguously Christian terrorism,[43][44] whereas others have rejected the Christian terrorist label.[45]


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.[46][47][48][49](p37)[50]


The Lord's Resistance Army, a cult guerrilla army engaged in an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government, has been accused of using child soldiers and committing numerous crimes against humanity; including massacres, abductions, mutilation, torture, rape, and forced child labour as soldiers, porters, and sex slaves.[51] A quasi-religious movement that mixes some aspects of Christian and Islamic beliefs with its own brand of spiritualism,[52][53] 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.[page needed][54][54][55][56] LRA fighters wear rosary beads and recite passages from the Bible before battle.[52][57][58][dead link][59][60][61]

United States

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.

Beginning after the Civil War, members of the Protestant-led,[62] Ku Klux Klan organization began engaging in arson, beatings, cross burning, destruction of property, lynching, murder, rape, tar-and-feathering, and whipping against African Americans, Jews, Catholics, and other social or ethnic minorities.

They were explicitly Christian terrorist in ideology, basing their beliefs on a "religious foundation" in Christianity. [63] The goals of the KKK included, from an early time on, an intent to, "reestablish Protestant Christian values in America by any means possible," and believe that "Jesus was the first Klansman."[64] Their cross-burnings were conducted not only to intimidate targets, but to demonstrate their respect and reverence for Jesus Christ, and the lighting ritual was steeped in Christian symbolism, including the saying of prayers and singing of Christian hymns. [65] Many modern Klan organizations, such as the Knights Party, USA, continue to focus on the Christian supremacist message, asserting that there is a "war" on to destroy "western Christian civilization." [66]

During the twentieth century, members of extremist groups such as the Army of God began executing attacks against abortion clinics and doctors across the United States.[67][68][69] A number of terrorist attacks were attributed to individuals and groups with ties to the Christian Identity and Christian Patriot movements, including the Lambs of Christ.[70] A group called Concerned Christians were deported from Israel on suspicion of planning to attack holy sites in Jerusalem at the end of 1999, believing that their deaths would "lead them to heaven."[71][72] The motive for anti-abortionist Scott Roeder murdering Wichita doctor George Tiller on May 31, 2009 was a belief that abortion is criminal and immoral, and that this belief went "hand in hand" with his religious beliefs.[73][74] The Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996, as well as subsequent attacks on an abortion clinic and a lesbian nightclub, were made by Eric Robert Rudolph; Michael Barkun, a professor at Syracuse University, considers Rudolph to likely fit the definition of a Christian terrorist, whereas James A. Aho, a professor at Idaho State University, argues instead that Rudolph was inspired only in part by religious considerations.[75]

Hutaree was a Christian militia group based in Adrian, Michigan. In 2010, after an FBI agent infiltrated the group, nine of its members were indicted by a federal grand jury in Detroit on charges of seditious conspiracy to use of improvised explosive devices, teaching the use of explosive materials, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence.[76] 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".[77]

In a 2005 Congressional hearing about radicalization in U.S. prisons, Sheila Jackson Lee stated that investigators needed to analyze Christian militants in America because they might try to "bring down the country."[78]

Motivation, ideology, and theology

Christian views on abortion have been cited by Christian individuals and groups that are responsible for threats, assault, murder, and bombings against abortion clinics and doctors across the United States and Canada.[citation needed]

Christian Identity is a loosely affiliated global group of churches and individuals devoted to a racialized theology that 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.[79][80][81][82]

See also


  1. ^ B. Hoffman, "Inside Terrorism", Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 105–120.
  2. ^ Mark Juergensmeyer. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. ISBN 0520240111. 
  3. ^ Mark Juergensmeyer (2010-04-15). "The Return of Christian Terrorism". AlterNet. Retrieved 20011-02-21. 
  4. ^ The Reformation in England and Scotland and Ireland: The Reformation Period & Ireland under Elizabeth I, Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
  5. ^ Peter Steinfels (2005-11-05). "A Day to Think About a Case of Faith-Based Terrorism". New York Times. 
  6. ^
    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 0192852175. :249 Reviewing the book, David Harkness of The English Historical Review agreed "Of course the Northern Ireland conflict is at heart religious". David Harkness (1989-10). "God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism by Steve Bruce (review)". The English Historical Review (Oxford University Press) 104 (413). 
  7. ^ Mark Juergensmeyer. Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. University of California Press. ISBN 0520240111. 
    "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."
  8. ^
    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 0717111156. 
  9. ^ a b Susan McKay (2001-11-17). "Faith, hate and murder". London: The Guardian. 
  10. ^ Claire Mitchell (2006). Religion, Identity and Politics in Northern Ireland. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.. p. 51. ISBN 0754641554. 
  11. ^ "Self-styled loyalist pastor jailed". BBC News. 2001-03-08. 
  12. ^ Ciaran McGuigan (2005-06-12). "Bomb preacher flees UVF mob". Belfast Telegraph. 
  13. ^ Martin Dillon. God and the Gun: The Church and Irish Terrorism. Routledge. ISBN 0415923638. 
  14. ^ 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: 963. doi:10.1080/10576100701611288. 
  15. ^ a b "Constitution of National Liberation Front Of Tripura". South Asia Terrorism Portal. 
  16. ^ a b "National Liberation Front of Tripura, India". South Asia Terrorism Portal. 
  17. ^ National Socialist Council of Nagaland - Isak-Muivah
  18. ^ a b Bhaumik, Subhir (April 18, 2000). "'Church backing Tripura rebels'". BBC News. Retrieved 2006-08-26. 
  19. ^ "Church backing Tripura rebels". BBC News. 2000-04-18. 
  20. ^ "Separatist group bans Hindu festivities". BBC News. 2000-10-02. 
  21. ^ a b c Tribals unite against conversions in Tripura
  22. ^ "Hindu preacher killed by Tripura rebels". BBC News. 2000-08-28. 
  23. ^ "Tripura tribal leader killed". BBC News. 2000-12-27. 
  24. ^ The Telegraph - Calcutta : Northeast
  25. ^ Christianity threat looms over Bhuvan Pahar Assam Times - June 23, 2009
  26. ^ a b c The Assam Tribune Online
  27. ^ Abhijeet Singh - Current Indian Scenario
  28. ^ VHP demands inquiry into source of Christian funds
  29. ^
  30. ^ News Today
  31. ^ Net closes in on Cong MP for Orissa swami’s murder - Indian Express
  32. ^ Why Swami Laxmanananda was killed
  33. ^ The Times Of India. 
  34. ^ Swami Laxmananand feared for his life: NGO : Latest Headlines: News India Today
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Scores killed in Norway attack". BBC (UK). 23 July 2011. Retrieved 23 July 2011. 
  37. ^ Schwirtz, Michael (August 14, 2011). "Suspect in Norway Reconstructs Killings for Police". New York Times. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  38. ^ Arnoldy, Ben 2011. Norway massacre: Breivik manifesto attempts to woo India's Hindu nationalists. Christian Science Monitor. Published 25 July 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  39. ^ "Anders Breivik Manifesto: Shooter/Bomber Downplayed Religion, Secular Influence Key". International Business Times. (25 July 2011). Accessed 26 July 2011.
  40. ^ Washington, Jesse (July 31, 2011). "'Christian terrorist'? Norway case strikes debate". Associated Press. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  41. ^ Sheppard, Robert (July 24, 2011). "Norway's shooter: Delusional loner or far-right conspirator?". CBC News. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  42. ^ Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks (July 25, 2011). "When Christianity becomes lethal". Washington Post. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  43. ^ Juergensmeyer, Mark (July 24, 2011). "Is Norway's Suspected Murderer Anders Breivik a Christian Terrorist?". Religious Dispatches Magazine. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  44. ^ Reynolds, John Mark (July 28, 2011). "Breivik betrays Christianity". Washington Post. 
  45. ^ Hirschfield, Brad (July 29, 2011). "Breivik a Christian, terrorist but not 'Christian terrorist'". Washington Post. Retrieved August 17, 2011. 
  46. ^ Paul Tinichigiu (2004-01). "Sami Fiul (interview)". The Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation. 
  47. ^ 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. 
  48. ^ Leon Volovici. Nationalist Ideology and Antisemitism. p. 98. ISBN 0080410243. "citing N. Cainic, Ortodoxie şi etnocraţie, pp. 162–4" 
  49. ^ "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). 
  50. ^ Payne, Stanley G. (1995). A History of Fascism 1914–1945. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press (pp. 277–289) ISBN 0-299-14874-2
  51. ^ Xan Rice (2007-10-20). "Background: the Lord's Resistance Army". London: The Guardian. 
  52. ^ a b Marc Lacey (2002-08-04). "Uganda's Terror Crackdown Multiplies the Suffering". New York Times. 
  53. ^ [1] The scars of death: children abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda By Human Rights Watch/Africa 1997 page 72
  54. ^ 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. 
  55. ^ "Ugandan rebels raid Sudanese villages". BBC News. 2002-04-08. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  56. ^ 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). 
  57. ^ "In pictures: Ugandan rebels come home". BBC News. Retrieved 2010-01-02. "One of the differences on the LRA pips is a white bible inside a heart" 
  58. ^ David Blair (2005-08-03). "I killed so many I lost count, says boy, 11". London: The Telegraph. 
  59. ^ Matthew Green (2008-02-08). "Africa’s Most Wanted". Financial Times. 
  60. ^ Christina Lamb (2008-03-02). "The Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted by Matthew Green". London: The Times. 
  61. ^ Marc Lacey (2005-04-18). "Atrocity Victims in Uganda Choose to Forgive". New York Times. 
  62. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30. 
  63. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30, 55, 91. 
  64. ^ Michael, Robert, and Philip Rosen. Dictionary of antisemitism from the earliest times to the present. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Scarecrow Press, 1997 p. 267.
  65. ^ Wade, Wyn Craig (1998). The fiery cross: the Ku Klux Klan in America. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 185. Retrieved May 3, 2011. 
  66. ^ Robb, Thomas. [2] "The Knights Party, USA." Accessed March 22, 2011
  67. ^ Frederick Clarkson (2002-12-02). "Kopp Lays Groundwork to Justify Murdering Abortion Provider Slepian". National Organization for Women. 
  68. ^ Laurie Goodstein and Pierre Thomas (1995-01-17). "Clinic Killings Follow Years of Antiabortion Violence". Washington Post. 
  69. ^ "'Army Of God' Anthrax Threats". CBS News. 2001-11-09. 
  70. ^ Bruce Hoffman (1998). Inside Terrorism. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231114680. 
  71. ^ "Apocalyptic Christians detained in Israel for alleged violence plot". CNN. 1999-01-03. [dead link]
  72. ^ "Cult members deported from Israel". BBC News. 1999-01-09. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  73. ^ "George Tiller's killer has no regrets, doesn't ask for forgiveness". Houston Belief. 1999-02-09. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
  74. ^ Davey, Monica (January 28, 2010). "Doctor’s Killer Puts Abortion on the Stand". New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2011. 
  75. ^ Cooperman, Alan (June 2, 2003). "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect? Religion May Have Motivated Bombing: Suspect". Washington Post. Retrieved August 10, 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." 
  76. ^ "US 'Christian militants' charged after FBI raids " BBC, March 30, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2010.
  77. ^ Al-Khattar, Aref M. (2003). Religion and terrorism: an interfaith perspective. Westport, CT: Praeger. pp. 21, 30. 
  78. ^ Ms Jackson Lee, questions Dunleavy, he refers to Christian militants as Ideologue.
  79. ^ Mark S. Hamm (2001). In Bad Company: America's Terrorist Underground. Northeastern. ISBN 1555534929. 
  80. ^ James Alfred Aho (1995). The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism. University of Washington Press. p. 86. ISBN 029597494X. 
  81. ^ Alan Cooperman (2003-06-02). "Is Terrorism Tied To Christian Sect?". Washington Post. 
  82. ^ 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 1919913300. 


  • 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 978-0275969233

Further reading

  • Robert Spencer (author) Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't, Regnery Publishing, 2007, ISBN 1-59698-515-1
  • Rodney Stark God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, HarperOne, 2010,

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