The recent indiscriminate attacks attracting widespread media attention in Christchurch and Colombo on mosques and churches have instilled fear amongst people of all religions who frequently attend their places of worship.
However, the terrorist attacks on places of worship are certainly not a new phenomenon. Mosques have been continuously targeted in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of sectarian violence, in particular, those belonging to the Shia community mainly by groups associated with ISIS.
Similarly, churches have been attacked in Egypt and a number of African countries from time to time by terrorists and militants. In the West, US in particular black churches, mosques and synagogues have been attacked by white supremacists and others in the form of racial, anti-Semitic or Islamophobic crimes of hate.
These attacks are of great concern to all people of faith and amount to a real threat to freedom of religion and the freedom to worship in congregation, a means to put their faith in action.
In all religious traditions, places of worship are considered safe sanctuaries where one finds peace and tranquillity through devotion to one’s deity in love.
Historically, places of worship of other religions have been considered immune from desecration during invasions and conflicts. Islam strictly forbade the destruction of houses of worship of other religions.
However, from time to time unscrupulous rulers, contrary to the teachings of their own faith targeted and even converted other’s places of worship to their own in a display of bigotry and power.
In the contemporary era, it was during the communist rule in the Soviet Union and China that places of worship came under attack, were shut down or demolished. During the Bosnian conflict in 1990’s a number of mosques were attacked.
In December 1992, the centuries-old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in secular India was demolished by Hindu extremists who have since been laying claims on a number of mosques in India.
Desecration and acts of violence on all places of worship are attacks on all people of faith and threat to our religious liberties and practice of our religion without fear.
All people of faith must be joined by people of no faith as well, to demand that our places of worship must be respected, be immune from threats of violence and returned back to being sanctuaries of love and safety for congregational worship by men, women and children where families feel safe.