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Analysis: A Reminder That Holy Week Is Prime Time for Anti-Christian Violence

ROME (Crux) — To be blunt about it, worshippers March 28 at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, the capital of Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province, got lucky.

When two suicide bombers detonated their devices outside a Palm Sunday Mass, they were the only ones who died, in part because a security guard had prevented them from entering the church’s compound.

At least twenty people were wounded, but because no one other than the attackers actually lost their lives, the incident probably won’t cause much of a ripple in global interest.

It doesn’t really compare to the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka two years ago, for instance, which targeted Christian churches and high-end hotels, leaving 269 people dead and hundreds more injured. In that case, world leaders, one after the other, issued statements about the violence, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling it “shocking.”

In reality, however, the only shocking thing about what happened in Sri Lanka two years ago — or, for that matter, what almost happened in Indonesia yesterday — is precisely that it wasn’t shocking at all.

Every year on major Christian feast days, somewhere in the world, Christians will be killed for no reason other than that they chose to attend religious services. Because Christmas and Holy Week are the holiest periods on the Christian calendar, churches tend to be especially full, presenting ripe targets for anti-Christian hatred.

Even in the COVID-era, to the extent Christians can congregate at all for religious services, more of them are likely to do so this week than during any other period of the year. That’s a feature of Christian life terrorists have long understood and exploited.

In 2012, a car bomb exploded near a church in Kaduna, Nigeria, while Easter was being celebrated, killing 41 people in an attack suspected of being the work of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram. In 2016, 75 people died and more than 300 were injured when bombs exploded in a park in Lahore, Pakistan, as Christians were celebrating after Easter services. The following year, Coptic Christians in Egypt were forced to scale back Easter celebrations after bombings at two churches on Palm Sunday the week before, which opens the Easter observances, killed more than 40 people.