Relevant ProMundis Blogposts
[Bibliographical details are found at the end of each section.]
The Yasukuni Shrine
Over the course of my research on the glorification of soldiers, revolutionaries, and terrorists as saints or martyrs in various religions (see my recent visit in Edinburgh Castle), I have visited a number of shrines in Tokyo, among them the Yasukuni Shrine in the heart of the city.
The Yasukuni Shriene was founded in 1882 as a center of state Shintoism. The final state rites took place in Yasukuni in November 1945. Present were Emperor Hirohito, the Prime Minister, the entire Cabinet, and heads from the Army and Navy. After that, state Shintoism was ended by the so-called Shinto Directive issued by the American occupation forces. Initially, the Yasukuni Shrine was even going to be completely razed. However, the occupation forces then only insisted upon complete privatization (details in John Breen’s “A Yasukuni Genealogy,” p. 19). Repeated motions on the part of the Democratic Party in later decades in Parliament to repeal this were rejected by the majority (details, ibid., p. 20).
Members of the Japanese military are revered as ‚kami‘ (= invisible spirit). They were members of the Imperial Japanese Army and have died in battle for the Emperor since the time of the so-called Meiji Restoration, beginning around 1860, until the end of World War II or, more specifically, the War in the Pacific. The 2,466,532 souls lost as listed by the Yasukuni Shrine itself – the number is still rising – consists of 2,133,915 fatalities in the War in the Pacific (1941-1945), 191,250 in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), and 17,176 in the First Sino-Japanese War (“Manchurian Incident”) (1894-1895).
Included are the kamikaze suicide bombers of 1944/1945 and the members of the notorious “Unit 731,” which in the Manchurian war (i.e., in China) conducted experiments with biological weapons on prisoners of war and civilians. Above all, there are 1,068 members of the Imperial Army, who in what were the Japanese equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials (the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, i.e., the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, or IMTFE) were convicted as war criminals. Among them were 14 Class A convicted offenders (“crimes against peace”) – who correspond to ‚leading war criminals‘ of Nazi Germany (e.g., Göring).
These last ‚kamis‘ were, however, secretly taken up within the shrine – Emperor Hirohito has not visited the shrine again since he learned of this in 1979. Astonishingly, his son, who otherwise has reintroduced Shinto ceremonies with respect to his divinity, has also held to this since 1989. The shrine’s military museum, in its inscription, its brochures, and on its website (see below on this point), refers to the Tokyo War Crimes Trials as show trials.
Literature on the Shrine
- Kalus Antoni. Der Himmlische Herrscher und sein Staat: Essays zur Stellung des Tennô im modernen Japan. München: iudicium, 1991. S. 155–166
- John Breen. “The Dead and the Living in the Land of Peace: A Sociology of the Yasukuni Shrine”. Mortality 9 (2004) 1 (Febr): 76–93.
- John Breen. “Yasukuni Shrine: Ritual and Memory”. Japan Focus vom 3.6.2005.
- John Breen. “A Yasukuni Genealogy”. S. 1-21 in: John Breen (Hg.). Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
- John Nelson. “Social Memory as Ritual Practice: Commemorating Spirits of the Military Dead at Yasukuni Shinto Shrine”. Journal of Asian Studies 62 (2003) 2: 445–467.
- Michael Pye. “Religion and Conflict in Japan with Special Reference to Shinto and Yasukuni Shrine”. Diogenes 50 (2003) 3: 45–59.
- Sven Saaler. “Ein Ersatz für den Yasukuni-Schrein? Die Diskussion um eine neue Gedenkstatte für Japans Kriegsopfer”. Nachrichten der Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens (NOAG) 175/176 (2004): 59–91.
- Mark Selden. “Japan, the United States and Yasukuni Nationalism: War, Historical Memory and the Future of the Asia Pacific”. Japan Focus vom 10.9.2008.
Even though there have been all sorts of attempts since 1952 whereby individual Prime Ministers have in one form or another attempted to honor the ‚kamis‘ (a list can be found in Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto, pp. 58-64) and between 1969 and 1974 (unsuccessfully) submitted laws to Parliament five times on the reestablishment of the Yasukuni Shrine as a holy state shrine (Peter Fischer. “Versuche einer Wiederbelebung von Staatsreligion im heutigen Japan …”, pp. 238-240), the actual breaking of the tabu was when Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro visited the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, 1985 upon the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II. He did this despite the fact that the primary war criminals are exalted there, paid the offering out of government coffers, and declared his visit to be an official one. This visit, however, unleashed so many protests that nothing similar to this has occurred since (see Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto, p. 61 and Kalus Antoni. Der Himmlische Herrscher und sein Staat , p. 156).
The most severe protests did not come from China or Korea. Rather, they came from Christian churches, Buddhist and other religious groups in Japan, parties, unions, scholarly associations, and almost all mass media in Japan. The most extensive criticism came from (and comes) from the left end of the spectrum and the so-called liberal historical school, to which the Tokyo history professor Takahashi Tetsuya, above all in his Japanese book Yasukuni (in English “The National Politics of Yasukuni Shrine,” op. cit.; Can Philosophy Constitute Resistance? op. cit.; about him see Kevin M. Doak. A History of Nationalism in Modern Japan, op. cit., pp. 124-125).
The private visit by Prime Minister Jun’ichirō Koizumi at the Yasukuni Shrine on October 17, 2005 attracted considerable media coverage in Japan (investigated by Philipp Seaton. “Pledge Fulfilled,” p. 163ff.).
Japanese society is, at the same time, split when it comes to this question, whereby what was once a majority of people who advocated such visits has shrunk so much that today more than half of all Japanese are against such visits. In 1985, 25% of adult Japanese were against such visits, while in 2001 it was 34% (and in other surveys 40%). In 2005 – which was at the time of Koizumi’s visit – a survey in Japan indicated that 45% of Japanese were against the visit by the prime minister and 45% in favor of it. In 2006, the number of opponents had risen to 53% (ibid., p. 183 with source references).
In 2007 the newspaper Asahi commissioned a survey among Japanese regarding what their stance is regarding colonialism in Asia. The results were as follows: 32% were of the opinion that a large amount of remorse was necessary, 53% some remorse, 9% little remorse, and 2% no remorse (ibid., p. 183).
Literature on Yasukuni Visits
- Japanese Prime Minister’s website on the Yasukuni visits.
- John Breen (Hg.). Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
- John Breen. “A Yasukuni Genealogy”. a. a. O.
- Kevin M. Doak. A History of Nationalism in Modern Japan. Handbook of Oriental Studies 13. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2007.
- Peter Fischer. “Versuche einer Wiederbelebung von Staatsreligion im heutigen Japan unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Entwicklungsgeschichte des Staats-Shintō”. S. 209-247 in: Peter Schalk. Zwischen Säkularismus und Hierokratie: Studien zum Verhältnis von Religionen und Staat in Süd- und Ostasien. Stockholm: Uppsala, 2001, hier S. 234-241.
- Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto: Eine Einführung. München: Juridicium, 2001. S. 58-64 u. ö.
- Philipp Seaton. “Pledge Fulfilled: Prime Minister Koizumi, Yasukuni and the Japanese Media”. S. 163-188 in: John Breen (Hg.). Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
- William Daniel Sturgeon. Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine: Place of Peace or Place of Conflict? Regional Politics of History and Memory in East Asia. Dissertation.com, August 2009.
- Takahashi Tetsuya. Can Philosophy Constitute Resistance? Tokio: UTCP, 2008.
- Takahashi Tetsuya. “The National Politics of Yasukuni Shrine”. S. 155–180 in: Philip A. Seaton. Japan’s Contested War Memories. London: Routledge, 2007 (also chapter 7 in his book „Can Philosophy Constitute Resistance?“ Tokio: UTCP, 2008, and elsewhere in the web).
The Tenno as the highest Shinto Priest
The Japanese Emperor is the „symbol of the state and of the unity of the Japanese people.” ‚Tenno‘ actually means ‚the ruler (coming) from heaven.‘ In 1945, Emperor Hirohito dropped the claim to divinity (‚arahitogami‘).
“The Tenno also continues to be the highest Shinto priest. On the palace grounds there are, as it stands, ‚3 shrines of the imperial court‘ . . . in which . . . the sun goddess, the imperial ancestors as well as all gods are revered. . . . About 20 Shinto ceremonies occur there annually with the participation of the Tenno, of which he conducts the most important ones himself. The leaders of the state participate in at least one of these, the niina-mesai, a thanksgiving ceremony: The prime minister, the presidents of the Lower and Upper Houses, and the president of the Supreme Court” (Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto. S. 46).
At the beginning of 1989, the Showa Kaiser (the official designation) died. In 1990, the Daijosai (the great food-offering ritual) was conducted as the high point of the crowning rites in the shrine at the imperial palace. During this ritual, the new Emperor became one with the Amaterasu Omikami, the mythical creator god of Japan, which elevated him to the status of a divine being“ (Yoshiaki Yui. “Kehrt der Kaiserkult zurück?“ pp. 1 and 158; comp. Kalus Antoni. Der Himmlische Herrscher und sein Staat, p. 11). “The ceremonies upon the occasion of royal succession were of a more or less deeply religious character.” What is at the same time central is the ceremony in which the Tenno becomes one with the sun goddess and thereby truly becomes a Tenno (Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto, p. 47).
This ceremony stood in a long list of ceremonies in the imperial house which were celebrated in the style of the Meji Era prior to 1945, above all the burial of the empress mother in 1951, the coming-of-age ceremony of the crown prince in 1952, and his marriage in 1959. On May 2, 1952, four days after achieving independence, Japanese who died in World War II were honored in the presence of the Tenno in a Shinto ceremony (details in Peter Fischer. “Versuche einer Wiederbelebung von Staatsreligion im heutigen Japan . . .“ pp. 238-240).
Literature on the ‚heavenly‘ Emperor
- Kalus Antoni. Der Himmlische Herrscher und sein Staat. a. a. O.
- Peter Fischer. “Versuche einer Wiederbelebung von Staatsreligion im heutigen Japan …”. a. a. O. S. 216–234.
- Christoph Kleine. „Religion im Dienste einer ethnisch-nationalen Identitätskonstruktion: Erörtert am Beispiel der ‚Deutschen Christen‘ und des japanischen Shintō”. Marburg Journal of Religion 7 (2002) 1 (sept): 1-17.
- Yoshiaki Yui. “Kehrt der Kaiserkult zurück? Zur aktuellen Lage der Religionsfreiheit in Japan”. Querschnitte 15 (2002) 5: 1-4; wieder abgedruckt in Max Klingberg u. a. (Hg.). Märtyrer 2003: Das Jahrbuch zur Christenverfolgung heute. Bonn: VKW, 2003. S. 158–161.
From the Japanese Constitution:
“Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity”.
“No public money or other property shall be expended or appropriated for the use, benefit or maintenance of any religious institution or association, or for any charitable, educational or benevolent enterprises not under the control of public authority”.
Christian Opposition to a State Yasukuni Cult
It has already been mentioned that resistance on the part of Christians was a significant factor in the prevention of the resurgence of the state Yasukuni cult. That is astonishing since the almost 2 million Christians only make up 1.54% of the inhabitants of Japan (roughly stated, there are about one-quarter each Catholics, Protestants, independent Protestants, and special groups).
What is interesting at the same time is the attitude of the Catholic church. While two popes in 1951 and 1980 (in 1980 it was, mind you, in the course of a papal visit to Japan) indicated that Catholics in Yasukuni could pray and show respect to the dead as long as they did not worship or idolize the dead, the (Catholic) Japanese bishops‘ conference ruled out all visits to Yasukuni and were among the most severe critics of visits made by prominent political figures to the Yasukuni Shrine (see John Breen. “Popes, Bishops and War Criminals”; comp. the essay of a Catholic American Kevin Doak. “A Religious Perspective on the Yasukuni Shrine Controversy,“ which demonstrates much understanding for veneration of the dead and for the criticism of the war crimes trials).
Literature on the Catholic Church and the Yasukuni Shrine
- John Breen. “Popes, Bishops and War Criminals: Reflections on Catholics and Yasukuni in post-war Japan”. Japan Focus vom 3.6.2005,1.3.2010.
- Kevin Doak. “A Religious Perspective on the Yasukuni Shrine Controversy”. S. 47-69 in: John Breen (Hg.). Yasukuni, the War Dead and the Struggle for Japan’s Past. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008
The Yushukan Museum at the Yasukuni Shrine
The Yushukan Museum, which was established 13 years after the fouding of the Yasukuni Shrine in 1882 and by 2002 had been elaborately expanded, renovated, and in part furnished with English inscriptions, refers to itself as the first and largest Japanese military museum. Even if it is privately maintained by the Yasukuni Shrine, it must be recognized that there is no state equivalent in Tokyo and that Yushukan contains large and unique artworks, as only the government or the military is able to make available. Examples are an original one-man kamikaze submarine or a rocket-driven kamikaze airplane, both of which were produced at the end of 1944 – almost all of the units produced had been destroyed in the course of attacks.
The sacrifice of oneself for the Emperor and the fatherland is presented as a sacred offering in the Yushukan Museum. This is made just as clear in the English version of the impressive and official website as it is in the English translation of the official guide (Records in Pictures of Yasukuni Jinja Yushukan. Tokio: Yasukuni Shrine, 2009) – that the Japanese version should be even more clear in this regard is something I cannot verify due to a lack of language skills.
See pp. 66-67 in particular on suicide attacks [“Special Attack Corps (October 1944-August 1945)”], pictures with captions on p. 73 (rocket-driven airplane for suicide attacks, first delivered in September 1944), and p.83 (one-man suicide submarine beginning in November 1944).
The orientation of the entire facility is provided in a bronze plaque unveiled in 2005 at the 40th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor:
“Almost six thousand men died in suicide attacks, and their tragic heroism, for which there is no precedent, struck the hearts of our enemies with awe. The entire nation shed tears of gratitude in the light of their unswerving loyalty and their self-sacrifice.”
A sign next to the bronze statue of a kamikaze fighter next to the entrance is dedicated to the same, and it has been translated by John Breen as follows (here excluding a list of how many soldiers belonged to which unit):
„In the last stage of the Greater East Asia War when the war situation increasingly worsened, a total of 5,843 men in the Army and Navy gave their lives by bravely plunging into enemy warships and making other types of attacks. These men who became the cornerstone of today’s prosperity included: … These utterly pure and noble spirits who gave their lives for our country should be honored and remembered equally by our nation, and their stories should forever be passed on to future generations.
June 28, 2005 Tokkotai Commemoration Peace Memorial Association“
There was an addition monument erected in the courtyard between the Yasukuni Shrine and the Yushukan War Memorial Museum in 2005 for the Indian judge Radha Binod Binod Pal. He voted against the judgments of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. (The other judges came from Australia, China, France, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Philippines, the Soviet Union, and the USA.)
The suicide attacks take up only a small portion of the museum. Much more problematic is the overall orientation of the museum since it reflects the point of view of nationalist circles which do not accept Japan’s war guilt. Thus, one sees the following on the website:
“Japan’s dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia” (translated from Japanese by John Breen).
According to the information in the museum, colonialism and the Pacific War took place solely due to the wishes of the other Asiatic countries or for their or Japan’s protection and defense. The opponents or enemies are practically not mentioned at all (also according to John Breen. “Yasukuni Shrine: Ritual and Memory”), which is a strange way for a museum to operate. Nowhere is there reference to the fact that non-Japanese also died, to measures the opponent took, or to how things went for civilians, for instance in Korea.
In the museum bookshop there are many devotional objects available for purchase dealing with the topic of sacrifice for the Emperor or which make heroes out of the suicide squads. Thus, children are able to buy kamekazi pilots as key chains and in many other forms.
Websites on Yushukan & Kamikazes
- John Breen. “Yasukuni Shrine: Ritual and Memory”. Japan Focus vom 3.6.2005, http://japanfocus.org/-John-Breen/2060 or http://hnn.us/articles/12297.html
- http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pazifikkrieg (Abschnitt 7.2.1)
- http://wgordon.web.wesleyan.edu/kamikaze/museums/yushukan/index.htm (zuletzt Stand 19.4.2008)
- Amerikanische und japanische Sichtweise zu Kamikaze.
This can only be understood if one occupies oneself with state Shintoism, which was binding until 1945. Since then, it has been forbidden as a state activity. Influential Shinto shrines seek to reinstate Shinto’s former importance as well as to win back individual political power.
“One can characterize Shinto as a mixture of having much to do with nature worship and with some ancestor worship, with both being enriched by a strong political component. This is indeed a vast simplification, but at its core it is accurate . . .“ (Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto, p. 12). At the same time, one finds a high number of revered gods and spirits. The almost unlimited proliferation of gods is a striking characteristic of Shintoism; it has gone so far that through that one looks into the essence of the religion having to do with kami“ (Edmond Rochedieu. Der Schintoismus, p. 69). At the same time, the idea of “the hero cult” (ibid., pp. 80-82) plays a central role.
State Shintoism was established in order to produce patriotism and loyalty towards the Japanese nation. It was a brilliant move (according to Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto, pp. 54-55). Religions were separated from the (alleged) areligious Shinto cult and was able to expect the fulfillment of Shinto duties without touching poeple’s religion. That many Christians, Buddhists, and others in Japan (and in Korea, for instance) have viewed this completely differently has certainly not been surprising.
The contradiction between religious freedom and the claim to a cultic worship of a heavenly ruler, participation in obligatory Shinto ceremonies as well as school instruction in Shinto mythology has been solved in a rather peculiar way. One declares Shinto, so to speak, to be a non-religion and transforms it into the status of an areligious state, national, and people’s cult. Participation in this cult has been a natural duty beyond all questions of religious confession. Thus, one has been able to justify religiously legitimate rule by the divine Emperor within the framework of a family state increasingly construed through the means of biologism without injuring freedom of belief. The divine ruler counted as the head of the state organism, to whom belonged the natural leadership over the members and organs of this organism“ (Christoph Kleine. “Religion im Dienste einer ethnisch-nationalen Identitätskonstruktion . . .“, p. 13).
Literature on Shintoism in general
- Peter Fischer. “Versuche einer Wiederbelebung von Staatsreligion im heutigen Japan …”. a. a. O.
- Hirose Kazutoshi. Beruf: Shinto-Priester. Tokio: OAG, 1997.
- Ernst Lokowandt. Shinto. a. a. O.
- Edmond Rochedieu. Der Schintoismus und die neuen Religionen Japans. Die großen Religionen der Welt. Genf: Edito-Service S. A., 1973.
“In 1944, when the defeat of the Japanese Empire in the Second World War began to loom, the Japanese Army leadership put squadrons of flying suicide bombers into action who crashed their aircraft into American war ships. It was dishonorable for a pilot to return alive. One could speak of a systematic institutionalization of suicide as a weapon of war. Although the use of ‚kamikaze pilots‘ was unable to effectively halt the advance of American troops, their use had a great influence on their fighting morale” (Volker Trusheim. “Selbstmordattentäter“).
The Japanese knowledge that has been amassed from the suicide attacks undertaken by kamikaze fighters has continued to live in certain circles in Japan and in particular in North Korea and was first used again in a suicide attack by the ‚Japaneses Red Army‘ terror organization for Palestinians on May 30, 1972 at Lod International Airport in Israel. It was a devastating bloodbath conducted on civilians (Joseph Croitoru. Der Märtyrer als Waffe, pp. 73-75). There was dismay in the Arab world that non-Muslims advanced against the enemy more daringly than Muslims and that Arafat and the Palestinians let themselves be informed by Asians with historical knowledge about suicide attacks.
Literature on the Legacy of Japanese Suicide Attackers
- Joseph Croitoru. Der Märtyrer als Waffe: Die historischen Wurzeln des Selbstmordattentats. München: Carl Hanser 2003.
- Christoph Reuter. Mein Leben ist eine Waffe: Selbstmordattentäter. Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 2002.
- Joseph Croitoru. “Qantara.de – Selbstmordattentate ursprünglich nicht islamistisch”. 3.3.2004.
- Volker Trusheim. “Selbstmordattentäter”. (Artikel vom 27.8.2007)
Please note that this article is not to be understood as a culturally insensitive scolding of Japan. From the ashes of the defeated nation of Japan, as in Germany, a functioning democracy has arisen. If something contained within the aforementioned is astonishing, then it is not that the Japanese honor their war dead – as almost every people does – and use traditional ways to do so. Instead, it is the fact that a suggested return to a pre-war cult has never truly happened and that the broad population desires religious freedom as it is found in the Constitution of Japan and seeks to protect that and deny support for a return to a national or state religion.
There is no ‚kamikaze‘ mentality on the part of the Japanese, just as there are also other cultural stereotypes about Japanese circulating among us. They unfortunately were ‚parroted‘ immediately after the flood disaster and the nuclear accident on a daily basis and have nothing to do with the real Japan. Ethnologist and Japanologist Till Philip Koltermann has made this clear in an excellent essay.
- Till Philip Koltermann. “Das deutsche Japanbild: Klischees oder Nächstenliebe”. evangelisch.de vom 23.3.2011.
- Katja Triplett. “’Religionsfreiheit‘ und die religiöse Vielfalt Japans”. S. 256-259 in: Christoph Elsas (Hg.). Interreligiöse Verständigung zur Glaubensverbreitung und Religionswechsel. Berlin: EBVerlag, 2010.
(Bonn, 13.05.2016) Stefan Feller, UN Police Adviser and Director, United Nations, addressed several Members of the German Parliament and the Director of the International Institute for Religious Freedom about efforts to rebuilt just police structures in countries of concern. Feller pointed out that functioning and unbiased police is vital for upholding human rights and a just court system in a country.
On 18 April, 2013, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Stefan Feller of Germany as the new United Nations Police Adviser in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Mr. Feller has more than 36 years of professional experience in national and international policing, in particular strategic planning, operations and policy development. He served in the State Police of North-Rhine Westphalia for more than 21 years, where he rose to the rank of Director of Operations. Since 2000, Mr. Feller has pursued an international career in peacekeeping. Among other posts, he was the Police Commissioner in the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, the Head of the Police Unit in the Council of the European Union, and from 2008 to 2012, the Head of the European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
German Ambassador to the UN, Dr. Harald Braun, represents Germany since March 2014. Before this, he was undersecretary of state in the German State Department 2011 to 2014.
Downloads and Links:
- Photo: Ambassador Dr. Harald Braun and Thomas Schirrmacher
Dispelling the legend of evangelical violence: Taking Issue with Ramelow’s Urban Legend: No Evangelical has ever Shot and Killed an Abortion Doctor
The Prime Minister (equivalent to a U.S. governor) of the German state of Thüringen, Bodo Ramelow of the Left Party, made the following statement on a television program about Islamist violence:
“In America there are self-appointed evangelicals who are of the opinion that they can attack … abortion clinics and kill people.”
This was a surprising and frivolous comment in the middle of a serious discussion of Islamist terrorism. But more importantly, where did he get this idea? Who are these “self-appointed evangelicals” who believe in murder? A closer look reveals that Ramelow is repeating a false charge against Christians that must be laid to rest.
I published a comprehensive report on this issue in 2009 for the World Evangelical Alliance (available on the Internet in both English and German) because reputable evangelical pastors and leaders would want to know if there were potential murderers in their midst. Comments such as Ramelow’s have caused me to update my research. I maintain the point that I made in 2009: there is not a single case in which a practicing evangelical has been accused of killing an abortion advocate. Rather, people who have a personal interest in discrediting the Christian church are repeating a myth without doing their homework.
In the last 18 years, there have been two fatal attacks on abortion clinics, in 2009 and 2015. Although every murder is terrible, this is hardly a pattern worthy of comparison to Islamic terrorism.
Going back further, we find that in the last 40 years, from 1977 to 2016 there have been 11 murders in abortion clinics or of abortion doctors in North America, for an average of slightly more than one murder every four years. Since 1995, there have been six fatalities, three of them in a single attack in 2015. The most frequent cause is mental instability, followed by membership in white supremacy groups. Christian churches or believers have played no role.
For my 2009 report, I examined publications of the National Abortion Federation, the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF). These publications describe all attacks on abortion clinics, as well as the backgrounds of the offenders. As you might guess, these groups are nor particularly fond of pro-life Christians. Nevertheless, they report honestly that evangelical pro-life groups have sharply distanced themselves from violent crime.
These major pro-abortion organizations have never claimed that evangelicals are shooting abortionists. I checked their 2016 reports, which do not hold evangelical Christians responsible for any criminal act.
Moreover, although there were earlier instances of violence in Canada and Australia, since 2009 the handful of attacks on abortion clinics or doctors have all occurred in the United States. There is no basis for drawing a parallel between these isolated incidents and the wave of religious terrorism threatening Europe.
The lone 2015 incident is typical. On November 29, a shooter with a long criminal history killed three and injured nine at an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs. He surrendered after a long siege. He was not associated with any evangelical church or organization, although he may have had religious delusions, as is common among psychiatric patients. No one has blamed the tragedy on Christians.
Why has the myth of evangelical violence against abortion advocates traveled so widely, even internationally? Perhaps, since Christians are the most prominent voices upholding the sanctity of every human life and thus opposing abortion, it is natural for people to assume that those who take up arms against abortion providers must be Christians. But it is also possible that some people are seizing upon these tragedies for political purposes, seeking to damage Christians’ public reputation.
This is very unfortunate. Not only are evangelicals and other Christians unfailingly peaceful in their opposition to abortion, but they are responsible for much of the best and most caring public service around the world, even in an age of government-funded safety nets. They support women in crisis, promote adoption and foster care, and give generously (much more generously than secularists) to aid children and families in poverty. They give selflessly to others because they serve a Lord who did the same.
To falsely besmirch evangelicals’ public image does a great disservice not just to evangelicals themselves, but to all of society. We would all be impoverished without their contributions. We will always have political differences, but let us negotiate them honestly and with mutual respect.
Bodo Ramelov in German: In den USA gebe es “selbst ernannte Evangelikale, die der Meinung sind, sie könnten Abtreibungsgegner oder Abtreibungskliniken überfallen und Menschen umbringen, erschießen, die sich für Abtreibung einsetzen”. Quoted by Katholische Nachrichten, “Vorwurf: Bodo Ramelow verunglimpft Lebensschützer,” April 2, 2016.
About the Colorado shooting in German and then in English:
- Bewaffneter tötet drei Menschen in Abtreibungsklinik (welt.de)
- Colorado Springs: Schießerei vor Abtreibungsklinik – mehrere Verletzte (SPIEGEL ONLINE)
- For Robert Dear, Religion and Rage Before Planned Parenthood Attack (New York Times)
- ‘No more baby parts‘: Reclusive suspect’s words draw focus (Chicago Tribune)
- Planned Parenthood shooting suspect ruled incompetent (CNN)
- Source: Suspect spoke of ‘baby parts‘ after Planned Parenthood shooting (CNN)
- Planned Parenthood Suspect: ‘I Am Warrior For The Babies‘ (WOODWORKING information)
- Planned Parenthood Shooting Suspect Found Incompetent To Stand Trial (WOODWORKING information)
- Planned Parenthood shooting suspect found incompetent to stand trial (USA Today)
Reports from pro-abortion organizations:
- National Abortion Federation: April 2016, Statistics for 2015: 2015 VIOLENCE AND DISRUPTION STATISTICS (PDF)
- NARAL: Fact sheet dated January 1, 2016 (PDF)
Our report on this problem from 2009:
At the moment, Among the cheapest and most promising ways to defame those who think differently is to throw them into the same pot as ISIS and Islamist terrorism. While it has almost become normal for dictators around the world to declare unwelcome movements and forces to be terrorists or to be the breeding ground for the same, it is astounding that this is also happening in Germany. And as of late, it has been happening to Evangelicals, among others. In the process, a completely innocent group of people has been found to be guilty by association for three decades. This runs according to the following principle: Little strokes fell big oaks. The latest example:
A self-declared IS adherent kills 50 guests in a gay bar which he himself had frequently gone to. The newspaper Die WELT even speaks of a gay self-hatred.
The newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote the following on the incident: He could just as well have been an Evangelical Christian and have committed this act.
- What is it, besides hatred for Evangelicals, that could make such a statement intelligible?
- Do Evangelicals often shoot and kill homosexuals? I am not aware of a single case anywhere in the world.
- Do Evangelicals often defect to ISIS? This also yields a negative report.
- Do Evangelicals often conduct shootings in public? The web has also not revealed any such case.
- Do Evangelicals at any rate shoot and kill abortion doctors?
This is also purely fictional, although it has been repeated in public so often that people on the street actually believe it. The leading associations of abortion clinics in the USA do not even bring this charge!
- And finally: Are there Evangelical churches even just hinting at advocating such things? Although I have often asked: No one has yet provided any evidence that Evangelicals are dangerous.
I would humorously suspect that the author grew up in an Evangelical monastery under medieval educational methods and has not yet processed that. However, there are no such monasteries. What have Evangelicals done to him that they are accused of the worst crimes one can think of without good cause, of indiscriminately killing people on a massive scale without any recognizable reason? Which Evangelical advocates such a thing, let alone allows it or carries it out?
And since the Süddeutsche Zeitung is published in Germany: Which event in Germany entitles this daily newspaper to even hint at sweepingly pushing Evangelicals into the proximity of terrorism and indiscriminate shootings?
Do anti-discrimination legislation and the anti-discrimination agenda not apply to Evangelicals and Pentecostals? Is hate speech against Muslims condemned, is action taken by the media against hate speech against Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and Sinti and Roma but allowed at any time against Evangelicals?
Even if there were a single in-the-flesh Evangelical or Pentecostal terrorist and only a single member of an Evangelical church who had killed an abortion doctor: Does that entitled throwing one-half a billion people into a pot and ridiculing them as disguised terrorists?
Immediately after the attempted Putsch, an eye witness reported Erdogan’s first big appearance:
“It felt like an eternity that Erdogan just stood there while the crowd chanted: ‘Here is the army! Here is the Commander, and ‘Just say it and we will kill! Just say it and we will die!‘ And there was always the following accompanying the chants: ‘Allahu Akbar!‘ – ‘God is great!’”
In Turkey we are experiencing a second Islamist seizure of power, which supposedly is comparable to that in Pakistan and in Iran. Surprisingly, however, nothing has yet come of it.
“‘There are good reasons to think that, in his heart, Erdogan has remained what he was as the mayor of Istanbul, and that he is implementing the Ist agenda with a much more long term strategy than the very clumsy strategy used by the short term Egyptian President Mursi. Mursi wanted to implement Islamism in five minutes and thereby failed because of the opposition of the Army, which Erdogan first checkmated before implementing his larger agenda.‘
In any case, Erdogan’s system is equally as corrupt as all the Islamist systems. He makes absurd demands, such as teaching the Ottoman language in schools, although he cannot speak it. He has absurd goals, such as the reconstitution of the Ottoman Empire—dangerous for all neighboring states! Religious rules are imposed on all citizens of Turkey. The rule of law has been replaced by corruption, while the judiciary and police have become the front line for the rule of power.
In his youth Erdogan was a member of the militant Turkish-Islamist underground organization, Akincilar Dernegi. Since 1970 he had leading positions in the various Islamist parties that took over from one another after they were outlawed, until the founding of the AKP in 2001. As the mayor of Istanbul (1994-1998) he promoted Islamist policies, for example, school busses divided by gender and a prohibition of alcohol at city facilities. In 1994 he described the EU as an association of Christians from which Turkey had nothing to gain. It was, in his assessment, impossible to be Muslim and to tolerate a secular government. In 1998 he was sentenced to prison because he positively quoted the following poem in a speech:
‘Democracy is only a train which we are boarding until we arrive at our destination. Mosques are our military bases, minarets our bayonets, domes our helmets, and believers our soldiers.‘
Should we not have known? Although we must be ready to recognize that people can change, should we not have kept in the back of our minds something about the way in which Erdogan started his career as an Islamist? Should we not have understood the ongoing indications of Islamist leanings by turns of phrases from his mouth against this background? And shouldn’t these questions have been more frequently and extensively discussed among non-Muslim politicians?
There have been many other similar examples where people do not want to perceive Islamism, even when it is standing in plain sight. For example, the King Fahd Academy in Bonn-Bad Godesberg (Germany) has been celebrated by politicians and church leaders as a place of mutual understanding for peoples and religions, as if that had ever or anywhere been the goal of Saudi Arabia. Today central Bad Godesberg has as many business signs and advertisements in Arabic as in German, and Bonn has become a virtual Mecca for Islamists. In comparison by population size, there is no other German city with so many Islamists.
To be sure, this does not have to do with Schadenfreude, nor with claiming, ‚we always knew.‘ Turkey, under the rule of law, protecting human rights, would not only have been extremely desirable, but would also have had enormous effects across the Muslim world.
In any case, whether or not the dream of a democratic Turkey ever had a chance of becoming reality, or if Erdogan is only a polished tactician who is able to hold his breath for a long time: the dream has come to an end, and under President Erdogan, Turkey is seeking to position itself as the leading voice of all Muslims, including violent Muslims, in direct competition with Iran and Saudi Arabia. Turkey is no longer a part of the solution for violence in the Middle East; it is now a part of the problem. Realpolitik must very soberly take that fact into foreign policy calculations.”