We live in the era of the anti-Christian pogrom. The slaughter at Garissa University College in Kenya that killed nearly 150 people last week was the latest example of the bloodlust.
Usually, such mass-casualty attacks are indiscriminate, but the killers of the Somali-based al-Shabab terror group sought to be exacting during their all-day assault on the largely Christian university.
A student told The Associated Press, “If you were a Christian, you were shot on the spot.”
Another who escaped through a window said, “The attackers were just in the next room, I heard them ask people whether they were Christian or Muslim, then I heard gunshots and screams.”
One witness described his best friend begging for his life, pretending to be a Muslim; when he couldn’t recite a Muslim prayer, he was shot to death.
Another recalls seeing three girls praying for help: “The mistake they made was to say, ‘Jesus, please save us,’ because that is when they were immediately shot.”
Al-Shabab condemned the university, just 90 miles from Kenya’s porous border with Somalia, as being part of an alleged plan to spread Christianity and infidelity. An al-Shabab spokesman told Reuters that the group spared Muslims (although, according to reports, the killers fired randomly at times).
The administration’s reaction to this atrocity carried out by Islamic zealots for avowedly religious reasons was typically shorn of any specific reference to what had happened, or why. The administration reverted to its core strength of tightly scripted euphemism.
In his statement, President Barack Obama said that “innocent men and women were brazenly and brutally massacred.” True enough, but he couldn’t bring himself to say who had been shot by whom. He vowed to stand with the Kenyan government and people “in their efforts to bring communities together,” the closest he dared step to the unmistakable religious dimension of the murders.
Secretary of State John Kerry urged steadfastness in the fight against “violent extremism,” the administration’s term of art for Muslim extremism.
President Obama can’t restrain his anger over Bibi Netanyahu saying that Arab voters are turning out in droves prior to the Israeli election, but if coldblooded killers gun down Christians for their faith, he turns to careful verbal gymnastics.
As a matter of sheer intellectual honesty, we should be forthright about the religious hatred that motivates attacks on Christians. One of the Garissa gunmen was a law-school graduate and son of a Kenyan government official, who presumably wasn’t driven into the arms of al-Shabab by blighted economic prospects.
If the administration worries about playing into the Islamist narrative of the Western “crusaders,” the 11th century wants its foreign policy back. In country after country, Christian communities are embattled and vulnerable, and obviously in no condition to crusade for anything. They don’t want to take back Jerusalem; they want to survive.
At Garissa, it was the typical depressing story of insufficient protection from the government, either out of indifference or incompetence or both. Warnings of a coming attack on a university had been ignored. Students had protested the lack of security back in November, and did get a fence, although not the protection they felt they needed. An elite police unit didn’t respond to the attack on the university until hours after it had begun.
The least we can do is to speak up forcefully about the plight of threatened Christians and urge governments to do more to protect them. It is one of the scandals of our time that the president of Egypt has been a more courageous voice on this than the president of the United States.
There will be more Garissa-like attacks to come, demonstrating with heartbreaking starkness the disparity in martyrdom between radical Islam and Christianity. The “martyrs” of militant Islam strap on suicide vests and commit hellish acts of mass murder; Christianity’s martyrs die as innocents, often with a prayer on their lips.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: email@example.com.