The Islamic State (ISIS) published the names and addresses of thousands of churches across the United States, calling on adherents to attack them during the holiday season, Vocativ reported. The list was posted late Wednesday night in the social media group “Secrets of Jihadis.”
A user by the name of “Abu Marya al-Iraqi” posted a message in Arabic calling “for bloody celebrations in the Christian New Year,” and announced the group’s plans to utilize its network of lone-wolf attackers to “turn the Christian New Year into a bloody horror movie.”
The ISIS messenger might have been referring to New Year’s Day, when the new year is celebrated in the West. In the liturgical calendar, the Christian New Year is the first Sunday in Advent, which has already passed (November 27). But Advent is the period leading up to Christmas, so the terrorists might mean December 25 as “Christian New Year.” This would make the most sense, as churches tend to be packed for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, and much less so for New Year’s Day.
The messages appeared on the Islamic State’s “foolproof” messaging app, Telegram, which also provides manuals for the use of weapons and explosives. The list, distributed in a number of posts, was previously available online and included a public directory of churches in all 50 states.
In another post, a member summoned “the sons of Islam” to target “churches, well-known hotels, crowded coffee shops, streets, markets and public places.” This member also shared a list of addresses in the United States, Canada, France, and the Netherlands.
This week, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a truck attack at a Christmas market in Berlin, Germany, which injured 48 people and killed 12. The suspect, Anis Amri, was linked to Salafist teachers in Germany.
As for the list of churches to attack, the Islamic State has published such lists before. In June, ISIS released a “kill list” that included more than 8,000 names and addresses, including many police officers in the U.S. This June list, however, resulted in no known attacks.
Let us pray none of the churches on this most recent list get attacked. We may want to stay vigilant during this Christmas season.