HERE’S the most horrific thing from the barbaric assault on Christians and holidaymakers in Sri Lanka.
In the Zion Evangelical Church in the eastern city of Batticaloa, children were gathered for Sunday school.
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Facebook Moments before the blast, children at a Sri Lankan Sunday school service where 14 youngsters died
Sri Lanka bomber shuffles feet before detonating explosives
Given it was Easter Sunday their teacher asked them, “How many of you are willing to die for Christ?”
According to a teacher who survived what was about to happen, all the children put their hands up. They then spilled out into the church grounds to play. Photos show them looking happy.
Minutes later, an Islamist terrorist, who had failed to get into the church itself, walked among the group of children and blew himself up. Twelve children were killed. Many of their teachers were killed, too. Their crime was to be Christian.
Details like this demand an urgent and serious assessment of the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism.
Because this terrorism, even by the historical standards of terrorism, is peculiarly hateful, misanthropic and barbaric.
What drives someone to detonate a suicide belt while standing among children?
It brings to mind the Baghdad suicide bomber in July 2005, who drove his car into a group of kids, accepting sweets from a US soldier, and blew himself up.
Twenty-four children were killed.
Or the suicide bomber in Iraq, in September 2006, who blew herself up among families who were queuing for kerosene. Try to imagine what happened next.
And of course it brings to mind the Manchester Arena bombing of May 2017, which faded strikingly fast from the forefront of the British political consciousness, in which an ISIS-inspired extremist blew himself up among parents and children leaving an Ariana Grande concert.
‘IT FEELS APOCALYPTIC’
The youngest victim, Saffie Roussos, was just eight. These are only a handful of the thousands of acts of barbarism carried out by Islamist extremists in recent years.
This terrorism seems to have utterly dispensed with the old rules of engagement. Its battleground is as likely to be a church, school or queue of children as it is land claimed by a military outfit.
It follows no moral code whatsoever. Its defining feature is a glaring and terrifying absence of moral restraint. Anything is acceptable. Anyone can be killed.
This means the new barbarism is very different to the violent groups that existed in the 1970s and 1980s.
These outfits, like the PLO or the IRA, were usually, though not always, restrained by their own political motives and ambitions.
Their claim to be serious political actors meant they carefully tailored and targeted their militaristic acts.
Their acts of violence were frequently bloody, of course, but they rarely did what Islamist terrorists do today.
For a few years now, some observers — not nearly enough — have tried to get to grips with the new barbarism.
This terrorism, even by the historical standards of terrorism, is peculiarly hateful, misanthropic and barbaricBrendan O’NeillSun Columnist
A 2005 New York Times piece titled ‘The mystery of the insurgency commented on Iraqi insurgents’ massacre of civilians and how historically unusual it was.
This “surge in the killing of civilians” reflects “how mysterious the long-term strategy remains”, it said. The writer arrived at a horrifying conclusion — that maybe there was no long-term strategy, that maybe killing civilians was the strategy, was the overriding aim.
Death for death’s sake. “Counter-insurgency experts are baffled”, said the NYT piece, because these civilian-targeting groups in Iraq had “developed no alternative government or political wing and displayed no intention of amassing territory to govern”.
Of course this changed later, with ISIS, which did amass territory. But even this contained within it “the mystery of the insurgency”, given that IS territory was defined by its perverse celebration of extreme violence, which it recorded and put out online.
What was really unfolding in Iraq back then was the new barbarism.
The Western leftists who excused the “Iraqi insurgency” were utterly missing the point of what was happening.
It was not anti-imperialist rebellion, but the spread of a new, unhinged breed of violent misanthropy.
This is post-political, post-state, post-morality violence.
We need a serious reckoning with the war on Christians, the rise of seventh-century barbarism, and the collapse of any semblance of moral restraint among the new terroristsBrendan O’NeillSun Columnist
It speaks to — and is no doubt inflamed by — the hollowing out of political norms in recent years.
It feels apocalyptic. But there is another factor which is contributing to the intensification of the new barbarism — the striking reluctance of many in the West to condemn it or even to speak openly about its origins or uniqueness.
The aftermath of the attacks in Sri Lanka sums up Western liberal elites’ caginess about confronting the barbarism.
There has been no talk of fascism and hatred and our moral responsibility to stand up to these things, as there was after the mosque massacres in Christchurch in March.
‘STRONG MORAL STANCE’
There has been no emergence of a Christian solidarity movement, in contrast with the numerous, and correct, cries of solidarity made to Muslims after Christchurch. Indeed, focus too much on Islamist terrorism these days and you risk being accused of Islamophobia.
“Christians used to do this kind of thing”, they will say, inaccurately, in order to deflect attention from their own unwillingness to take a strong moral stance.
Look at the comments from world leaders following Sri Lanka. There was no mention “Christians” had been attacked by followers of — an albeit hideously warped version of — Islam. The victims were simply “worshippers”.
Some will also point out that America, Britain and other nations are still engaged in violent conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere.
But even they must know that there is an immeasurable difference between US military campaigns in the Middle East (which are wrong) and the wilful slaughter of children queuing for sweets.
The liberal elites’ key aim seems to be to avoid taking a strong position on this new, anti-human violence.
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And this cowardice has crossed the line from irritating to dangerous.
It does nothing to challenge, far less try to stop, the rise of the new barbarism. It is no longer enough to say “That’s awful” and move on.
We need a serious reckoning with the war on Christians, the rise of seventh-century barbarism, and the collapse of any semblance of moral restraint among the new terrorists.
AFP or licensors Sri Lankan police investigators looked through debris outside Zion Church following an explosion in Batticaloa on April 21
AP:Associated Press Anusha Kumari, center, weeps during a mass burial for her husband, two children and three siblings
Getty Images – Getty A Sri Lankan girl throws earth on a coffin during the funeral of a person killed in the Easter Sunday attack on St Sebastian’s Church
AFP or licensors Sri Lankan security expect the debris of a car that exploded after police tried to defuse a bomb