Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: As we in Northern Ireland know only too well, even our places of worship aren't safe from terrorists of the world

Mary Travers
Mary Travers

Editor's Viewpoint

The horror of the terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand was magnified for two reasons - it was so unexpected in what is a very inclusive society and, secondly, the victims were people at prayer, worshipping their god.

But as Ann Travers - whose sister Mary was shot dead by the IRA in 1984 as she walked home from church in south Belfast - pointed out, we in Northern Ireland have greater empathy than most with the people of New Zealand at this time. The IRA had intended to kill Ann's father Tom, a magistrate, and picked a time when he was at his most vulnerable, leaving Mass.

She could also have highlighted the INLA gun attack the previous year on the small Mountain Lodge Pentacostal Church in south Armagh, where three Protestant worshippers were killed and seven others wounded when the building was raked indiscriminately with gunfire.

Anyone with any touch of humanity recoils especially at the notion of attacks on places of worship. Through the centuries churches have been places of sanctuary, and worshippers of many faiths have gone to extraordinary lengths to practice their religion in times of persecution.

It matters not whether the targets of terrorists are Christians or Muslims or any of the myriad of other faiths, their deaths seem especially heinous.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quick to point out that those attacked were as much a part of the country as any other citizens, even if some were immigrants or refugees.

This was a heinous crime - 49 killed and 48 injured - by a man who described himself as a fascist and who grotesquely streamed his murderous rampage live on social media. He apparently preyed on those at prayer to sate his bigotry and warped world view.

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To most people it was a crime which is almost incomprehensible. Sadly, mass shootings and bombings on political or religious grounds have become far too prevalent in today's world, even in perceived safe havens like New Zealand.

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