Major Attacks on Religious Institutions of the World

Religion is always supposed to be a personal aspect of one’s life, where one interacts regularly with Lord Almighty. It can be spiritual in nature or even ceremonious but any and every worship is supposed to spread love and faith. Places of worship are such places where people come together and profess their love and devotion towards their Maker and also atone for their crimes or look for a better tomorrow for them and their loved ones. However, quite often these places are targeted by miscreants. Lives are lost and people are injured but the worst attacks are ones where the very edifice of religious beliefs is destroyed in order to prove a point or two.

2015 Attacks at Joseph’s Tomb

On October 16, 2015, some Palestinians set fire to the Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus, West Bank. Local media said that Molotov cocktails were used to start the fire. No injuries or deaths were reported after the incident but the women’s section was damaged. This is a holy site, which is extremely important for both Christians and Jews – it contains the remains of Joseph, a Biblical figure – and it may be surmised that the entire incident could have had religious motivations considering the longstanding rivalry between Palestine, a Muslim country, and Israel, a Jewish one.

2015 Bangkok Bombing

On August 17, 2015, there was a bombing within the Erawan Shrine, located at the Ratchaprasong intersection of Bangkok. TNT explosives were used to cause the explosion and led to the deaths of 20 people along with 125 injuries. Victims included both Thai nationals and tourists. It was suspected that an individual named Adam Karadeg orchestrated the bombing with an organization named Grey Wolves. Even though no motive was found, some people feel that it was targeted to destabilize the national tourism sector and economy.

2010 Attacks on Etz-Hayyim Synagogue

During 2010, the Etz-Hayyim Synagogue of Chania in Crete, Greece, was attacked by arsonists on two separate occasions. The first one took place on January 5 and the next one took place on January 16. The second attack was especially damaging with almost 2000 books and the wooden roof of the building being destroyed. The attack was supposed to create terror among the Jewish community of Greece and is part of several incidents aimed against Semitics in the past few years.

Jos Riots – 2001, 2008 and 2010

Jos in Nigeria has always been a hotbed of religious violence and has till date seen several bloodbaths. During 2001 Christians and Muslims clashed with each other after Alhaji Muktar Mohammed, a Muslim politician, was appointed in the capacity of local coordinator of the poverty alleviation program of the federal government. The clashes started on September 7 and went on till September 17 leaving plenty of churches and mosques burnt and around 1000 people dead.

In 2008, the same scenes repeated themselves and this time the reason was local election results. The riots went on from November 28 to 29. More than 761 people died and hundreds were injured. This time too churches and mosques were burnt and damaged. In 2010, the clashes started on January 17. There are no definite reasons known for the chain of incidents and it is believed that the casualty list was anywhere between 326-1000 people. This time too mosques and churches were set on fire and Muslim herdsmen of Hausa-Fulani groups attacked the Christians.

2004 Church Attacks in Kosovo

During 2004, a number of churches were destroyed in Kosovo, which at that time had been going through severe ethnic unrest between Albanians and Serbians. The Saint Elijah Church at Podujevo was demolished and attackers dug up coffins from a Serbian cemetery located nearby. They then scattered away bones of the dead. The Devic Monastery at Srbica was torched and pillaged by Danish soldiers. They also desecrated St. Joannicius of Devic’s tomb. Some other churches destroyed at that time were:

  • Our Lady of Ljevis at Prizren – it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Church of St. Kyriaki and Church of St. Nicolas or Tutic Church at Prizren
  • Church of Holy Salvation at Prizren
  • Monastery of the Holy Archangels at Prizren
  • Church of St. George at Prizren
  • Orthodox Seminary of Saint Cyrillus and Methodius in Prizren

2003 Synagogue Bombings at Istanbul

On November 15, 2003 a couple of synagogues at Istanbul – named Neve Shalom and Beth Israel – were destroyed by a couple of trucks, which were fitted with bombs. 23 people lost their lives in the bombings and most of them were Turks. More than 300 people were injured in the attacks. It was later learnt that Al Qaeda had orchestrated the attacks.

2002 Bombing at Ghriba Synagogue

On April 11, 2002 the El Ghriba Synagogue at Djerba, Tunisia was targeted for an attack by a suicide attacker named Niser bin Muhammad Nasr Nawar, a member of Al Qaeda. A truck of natural gas was used to carry out the attack and it claimed almost 20 lives. This included nearly 14 German tourists, a couple of people from France, and three Tunisians. More than 30 people were injured in the attack, which was found to be a deliberate one following investigations by Tunisia, Germany, and France.

1985 Borobudur Bombing

On January 21, the Buddhist temple at Borobudur, Indonesia was bombed. Fortunately, no one lost his or her life in the attack but the temple suffered damage and nine stupas were in poor state after the terror attack. The commonly-held reason for the attack was retaliation by Muslims of Indonesia following the Tanjung Priok massacre that took place in 1984.