The attack on the Catholic church in Nice, France and the assault on two Jewish men in Philadelphia may seem like unrelated events. But they are not.
In France there have been thousands of attacks on churches, mainly Catholic churches. In 2019, the most recent year for which we have statistics, the French Ministry of Interior reports there were 1,063 instances of “anti-Christian” acts, meaning mostly attacks on churches. In 2020 the numbers are not yet in, but the attacks have increased and turned more violent. There is even a special website dedicated to church attacks in France (Christianophobie.fr).
It is quite true that other Christian denominations as well as mosques and synagogues have also been hit, often by demonstrators ostensibly belonging to Antifa and BLM.
Which helps us focus on Philadelphia where recent riots have torn up part of the city, where over 30 police have been wounded by rioters, and where over 1,000 looters have stripped stores bare in the riot areas. A van was found on Logan Circle in center city Philadelphia that contained explosives and propane tanks. The van appears very similar to a van that was set to explode in Times Square before it was discovered on May 1, 2020. The perpetrator, Faizal Shazad was caught and sentenced to life in prison.
Three Jewish men, wearing Kippot (head covering worn by observant Jews) who wanted to show solidarity with the protestors in Philadelphia were not only chased away, but suffered threats and verbal abuse. They were chased, and one said he feared for his life. Some in the crowd were shouting these men came from the “Synagogue of Satan.”
The phrase “synagogue of Satan” is taken from the New Testament book of Revelation (2:9 and 3:9) and refers to those who would persecute the early Church. The use of this phrase today is almost always regarded as antisemitic.
Both antisemitism and anti-Catholicism in France is tied to radical Islam. In the United States, radical Islamic ideology is also a component of the Black Lives Matter and Antifa movements. That is what links the attack in Nice, France to the events in Philadelphia.
It is noteworthy that almost all the attacks in the United States and in France have been on churches, synagogues, and mosques that are completely unprotected. As one of the priests told the French press about the Nice attack, they had plenty of warning but aside from the clergy trying to keep a lookout, there were no guards at the church.
Churches and synagogues no longer need warnings—they have to know the risk they are taking leaving their buildings and their congregations unprotected. Two of the three persons killed inside the Nice church were women congregants—one was decapitated, the other stabbed. Also killed and decapitated was one of the church’s sacristans.
The French police, who captured the killer after wounding him, called him an Islamo-fascist. His full name has not been released, but the first name appears to be Ibrahim (French reports do not include the letter I in the name and report it as Brahmin).
It is very important for holy places to take immediate steps to put in place active protection in the form of guards. Active protection is the only immediate solution. Relying on cameras and burglar alarms is not helpful when a building or congregants are under attack.