In the a period of about a month and a week, the world witnessed an age old wave of fear, anger, sadness, sympathy and empathy resonating from New Zealand, then Sri Lanka, sweeping throughout the global media network. And as redundant as it sounds, we must consider and try to understand what happened, and why.
On the 15th of March, a lone gunman entered Al Noor mosque in Christchurch New Zealand, and as he was being greeted, he opened fire. He then he drove to nearby Linwood Islamic Center and continued his massacre. Brenton Harrison Tarrant, age 28, an Australian national was arrested for killing 50 people.
A little over a month later, Sri Lankans were shook to the core by several explosions carried out by suicide bombers. The targets of the bombings were four hotels, and three christian churches. The attacks were coordinated to coincide on Easter Sunday of April the 21st, an important christian holiday, 253 died and over 500 injured.
Brenton Tarrant claimed racial retribution for past transgressions from the expansion of Islam into Europe, and current racial integrity of whites. Islamic State claimed the Sri Lankan attacks were revenge for the New Zealand attacks on Muslims. Both tragic incidents has riled up sentiments and exacerbate the polarisation between constituents of Islam and Christianity. However, before the incidents, Christian and Muslim communities got along just fine.
New Zealand arguably had zero terrorist attacks before the Christchurch mosque shooting, and in Sri Lanka, Christians and Muslims shares a common tragedy as both were minority groups targeted by Buddhist extremists in the past.
In fact, according to an article from The Atlantic, Christians and Muslims in Sri Lanka have developed a degree of solidarity as persecuted minorities, said Chad Bauman, a religion professor at Butler University who studies Christian movements in the region.
So, what has happened? Perhaps because terrorist attacks were so unexpected in these two places they made for easier targets?
Brenton Tarrant had made donations to racial oriented groups in Europe. A report from NBCNews reported that Martin Sellner, head of the Identitarian Movement, an Austrian ultra nationalist organization, received 1,500 euros ($1,690) in early 2018 from a donor with the same name as the man charged with murder following the Christchurch attack. Tarrant also has records of posting online comments on far-right movement webpages in Australia.
Sri Lankan officials also said there had been intelligence signalling that the attacks were going to happen. The BBC quoted Deputy Defense Minister Ruwan Wijewardene:
“We have to take responsibility because unfortunately if the sharing of the intelligence information had been given to the right people, I think that at least this could have been avoided or even minimised,”.
Sharing is the basis for many good and wonderful things. We live in a world now that shares many things, however, not all that’s being spread around is good and innocent. Extremist ideologies and know how on how to carry out acts of terror are being disseminated by non state groups and organizations claiming freedom of press. Perhaps information on how to prevent extremists and the organisations promoting such ideologies should be shared by public entities as well.