Why Attacks on Christians Increase During Ramadan
At the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, retired General Jack Keane ominously warned Fox News viewers that “We’re going to have a wave of attacks worldwide, unfortunately,” Keane said. “Attacks always go up during Ramadan.”
Most Americans have heard warnings like this before, but the reason why attacks seem to coincide with Ramadan—and what Ramadan even is—can be unclear. To help, here are the answers to three questions you may have had about the Muslim holy month, and what it means for persecuted Christians around the globe:
WHAT IS RAMADAN?
Ramadan is a celebration of the first revelation of the Quran to Mohammed, according to Islamic belief. Considered one of Islam’s “five pillars” all Muslims are expected to fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the Islamic calendar’s ninth month. Since the calendar is based on lunar cycles, the exact dates of Ramadan fluctuate. This year Ramadan takes place May 26 to June 24.
Similar to some Jewish rituals, Ramadan is a time that separates the faithful from the unfaithful, reminding them of their distinctive place in the world. It is a time of moral cleansing, spiritual rest, and—in theory—a time of peace.
WHY DOES VIOLENCE INCREASE DURING RAMADAN?
While some claim violence doesn’t substantially increase during Ramadan, there’s no getting around the intentional connection between several terrorist attacks and the holy month. The bus attack in Egypt that killed 28 Coptic Christians happened on the first official day of Ramadan. Last year’s Orlando nightclub massacre occurred during Ramadan’s first week. And Christians living in Muslim-majority countries around the world report an increase in hostility during the holy month. So why does a holiday supposedly about peace trigger increased violence?
The answer has everything to do with whether you believe the Quran teaches violence. For those who believe a jihadist mindset is fundamentally rooted in the religion, an increase in violence during a month of religious piety makes sense. However, most Islamic experts would say Ramadan highlights whatever sectarian tendencies a Muslim group has. Muslim communities in places like Egypt or the Philippines—where Muslims have rallied to the aid of their Christian neighbors—truly do see Ramadan as a time of peace and reflection; however, followers of militant Islamic sects see it as an opportunity.
A core concept of Ramadan is that good deeds done during the month receive a special blessing. During this month, Muslims believe “the devil is chained” making a holy life more accessible than normal. It’s also believed those who die during Ramadan are more likely to make it to heaven than hell. So an Allah-fearing Muslim who has been taught the strict institution of Sharia law, or in jihad, or that the infidels in the West are a blight on the earth, will believe he or she will be more rewarded for acting on this radical belief.
WHAT DOES RAMADAN MEAN FOR CHRISTIANS?
For persecuted Christians already living in threat of violence from Muslim extremists, Ramadan can be a terrifying month where hostility toward them is increased. Because of this, it’s particularly important the global church is praying for our persecuted family around the globe.
To help encourage prayer Open Doors created a downloadable prayer guide for Ramadan. This guide will not only prompt you on how to pray for other Christians but also encourage you to pray for the Muslim community. There are many stories of Muslims having profound visions of Jesus that lead to their conversion, and many of these stories happen during Ramadan.
So our prayers aren’t just that God would keep His children safe, but that God would take this Muslim holy month and use it for His purposes and for His Kingdom.