Terrorism

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The 2,000-year-old Coptic Church of Egypt has a long tradition of hallowing those who died affirming their faith in the face of violence.

But the group that calls itself the Islamic State has launched waves of attacks on the Coptic community in recent years – claiming at least 70 lives and wounding scores of others – an unrelenting assault that has opened a debate in the community about martyrdom.

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While much will hinge on the motives of a white gunman attacking a mostly-white country music crowd, that uncomfortable question also hits at some of America’s most divisive issues: race, religion, and politics.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton speaks to media in St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S. on July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Miller/File Photo

Mohamed Omar, the mosque's executive director, previously said a member of the congregation saw a pickup truck speeding away from the building's parking lot just after the blast.

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Late last month, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) proposed legislation that would tax remittances primarily to Latin American nations to prevent undocumented immigrants from sending money to those countries — and those revenues would help build a border wall. Now, the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Financing is considering the idea of imposing a similar 2 percent fee on money transfers to any country to clamp down on terrorism.

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Vice President Mike Pence — a onetime altar boy who became an evangelical Protestant — proclaimed President Donald Trump a faithful supporter of Catholic values at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, an event that sought to set aside any friction between the president and the pope.

“Let me promise all of you, this administration hears you. This president stands with you,” Pence said to the 1,300 gathered.

Richard Wolf 6-02-2017

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The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to break its losing streak in lower courts and revive President Trump’s travel ban on immigrants from six predominantly Muslim nations.

The request came on June 1 in three separate petitions to courts in Richmond, Va., and San Francisco that blocked the president’s executive order barring most immigrants from countries deemed at risk for terrorism, as well as international refugees.

the Web Editors 5-26-2017

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This is one of numerous attacks on Coptic Christians this year. Christians have repeatedly been targeted and attacked by members of the Islamic State, who have vowed to carry out more attacks in the future.

David Gushee 5-23-2017

Two women wrapped in thermal blankets stand near the Manchester Arena, where U.S. singer Ariana Grande had been performing, in Manchester, northern England, Britain, on May 23, 2017. Photo courtesy of RNS/Reuters/Andrew Yates 

It is not only religion, and not only one particular religion, that produces murderous subcultures. Sometimes these subcultures are nationalist, sometimes racist, sometimes anarchist, and often a combination of many ideologies and convictions, many loves and hatreds. As we grieve Manchester, let us not forget murderous subcultures closer to home. Much closer.

Photo via Hira Hyder/ Religion News Service 

Copts are the largest minority population in the Middle East and make up 10 percent to 15 percent of Egypt’s population. Founded in the first century by St. Mark the Apostle, it is believed to be one of the oldest Christian denominations in the world.

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With his anti-Muslim rhetoric and planned travel bans, you’d think President Trump would be a favorite target for Islamic State’s propaganda. The jihadist caliphate in Syria and Iraq must be pulling out all the stops to slam him as the epitome of Islamophobia.

Well, think again. The extremist group that Trump vows to “totally obliterate” has hardly printed or broadcast a word about him since before the November election. The caliphate’s Ministry of Media acts almost as if he didn’t exist.

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President Trump, long-chided for failing to address a surge in hate crimes, began his first address to Congress by invoking Black History Month, and condemning recent threats against Jewish institutions and the shooting of Indian men in Kansas City.

Charles Kwuelum 1-30-2017
Image via Flickr / condevcenter / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Image via Flickr / condevcenter / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

LONG BEFORE Boko Haram emerged in 2002, my home country of Nigeria was polarized along religious and ethnic lines by politicians who sought to pit one group against another. Disputes about religious freedom, resource control, and citizenship led to violent conflicts at the local and state levels. Many religious sites were desecrated.

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and seventh most populous worldwide, is fondly referred to as “the giant of West Africa.” It has the largest economy on the continent and is incredibly diverse in ethnicity and religion. Half of Nigeria’s population is Christian, living mostly in the southern part of the country, and the other half is Muslim, living primarily in the north.

In 2009, while I was pastor of a Catholic parish in Kano State, in northern Nigeria, a bloody confrontation broke out between the Nigeria Police Force and Boko Haram about 300 miles away in the northeast part of the country. Two years later, I was caring for eight families who had fled to the city of Kaduna, seeking safety from Boko Haram attacks. As I listened to their stories, I could not help but think of my own family’s displacement after riots in 1980 and 2002. Our congregation and my own family had been directly impacted by violent ethno-religious conflicts.

But the norm in the part of northern Nigeria where I grew up was very different from that. Christians and Muslims lived together as neighbors and friends. Young people bonded as they played sports with one another. Muslims and Christians exchanged greetings and attended one another’s naming and marriage ceremonies. We rejoiced and grieved together.

This included Nasiru, Ahmad, and Abdul, three of my Muslim neighbors who joined Boko Haram in 2009. They were attracted to Boko Haram because of their frustration with overwhelming socioeconomic inequality that had left them impoverished and unemployed. From their perspective, the ostentatious lifestyle of the political class indicated corruption, poor governance, and improperly managed resources. Boko Haram seemed to promise justice.

“We feel hopeful when the preacher reminds us that those who rob us of our livelihood will be judged and damned,” I remember Nasiru saying to me.

John Gehring 12-22-2016

Image via RNS/Tommy Lee Kreger via Creative Commons

You probably don’t think of Christmas as a revolutionary holiday. Twinkling lights on trees, Starbucks gift cards, and sweet carols are not exactly the stuff of subversion. A domesticated Christmas is comforting, but considering our fraught political landscape today, we might find better lessons by reflecting on the disruption caused by Jesus’ birth, and the radical implications of his life.

the Web Editors 12-22-2016

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President Obama's administration will formally end a registry program created after 9/11 to monitor visitors traveling to the U.S. from countries with active terrorist groups, reports the New York Times. This move comes weeks before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who made known during his presidential campaign his intent to set up a national registry for Muslims and temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from the U.S.

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On the day after the election, Mervat Aqqad’s 7-year-old son woke up and asked who got elected president.

When Aqqad broke the news to Ibrahim, a second-grader at the Al-Iman School in Raleigh, his first question was, “Do we have to move now?”

Jim Wallis 9-15-2016

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In a spirit of remembrance of the terrible events of Sept.11, 2001, as well as the policies that came afterward leading to endless wars, I want to call your attention to a statement that Sojourners put together in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, entitled "Deny Them Their Victory.” This document was developed in consultation with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian clergy, and the breadth of participation has made it an extensively inclusive religious statement, with more than 3,900 signers. Its insights feel just as true today as they were then. Now 15 years on, it is worth reflecting on the ways we have succeeded in living up to the values stated below, as well the ways we have failed to do so.

Franklin Graham. Image via Paul Sherar / RNS

Pope Francis is once again making headlines for comments declaring, as he has before, that Islam is not “terroristic” and that all religions, including Catholicism, have “fundamentalist” splinter groups that can commit violence.

The pontiff made his comments during a flight back to Rome on July 31 from Poland, where he was presiding over the church’s triennial World Youth Day festival.

RNS Staff 7-26-2016

Image via REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/RNS

France was convulsed by another horrific attack on July 26 as armed men burst into a Catholic Church near Rouen and slit the throat of a priest who was saying Mass.

The slain priest, the Rev. Jacques Hamel, 84, was one of four people taken hostage by the attackers, who authorities said had claimed to be from Daesh, the Arabic term for the Islamic State group.

Robert Satloff 7-21-2016

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Nice, on France’s Mediterranean coast, now joins a long list of cities, on four continents, where Islamist terrorists have perpetrated gruesome attacks, mercilessly killing hundreds of innocents.

And those are just where some of the highest-profile outrages have occurred, the ones that attract headlines. The fact that millions of people, mostly other Muslims, survive under the daily brutality of violent Islamists in large parts of Syria, Iraq, Libya, Gaza, Nigeria, and elsewhere is so routine as to barely be newsworthy.

Image via Stefano Rellandini/REUTERS/RNS

Pope Francis has telephoned leaders of the terror-stricken French city of Nice, asking them what he could do to help in the wake of last week’s gruesome truck attack and promising to meet with the families of the victims as soon as possible.

The pontiff made his call out of the blue on July 17, reaching the former mayor of Nice and leader of the region, Christian Estrosi, through the head of a national association of Italians who live in France.

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