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There is a recurring pattern: The perpetrators are young, Arab men who reside illegally in Europe and have not yet been repatriated. They act alone, armed with a knife, and have learned about jihad online, through WhatsApp groups and other social media networks. Although all “infidels” are considered the enemy, their primary targets are Christians. Two years ago, the Islamic State ordered its followers to attack churches in Spain. Now, it seems that the call is being heeded.

On January 25, a Moroccan man attacked two churches in Algeciras, Cadiz, in southern Spain. Armed with a machete and clad in a djellaba, the man seriously wounded a priest at the church of Maria Auxiliadora y San Isidro, attacked those attending Mass, destroyed sacred artifacts, and praised Allah. At Nuestra Señora de La Palma, he killed the sacristan, likely mistaking him for a priest. The perpetrator then unsuccessfully attempted to break down the door of a third church. He walked through the city, brandishing the machete and inciting terror, until the authorities apprehended him.

The jihadist crossed the Strait of Gibraltar on a jet ski in 2019. At the time of the incident, he was residing in Spain illegally and had been issued a deportation order, which had yet to be carried out.

Two hours before the attack, an FBI tip-off led the Spanish police to arrest another Moroccan jihadist in Gerona. He had been plotting to attack tourists in the Spanish town of Benidorm and attempted to buy an AK-47 and explosive belts on the internet.

Ten days before the attack, Spanish police had dismantled an Islamic State terrorist cell in Almeria, also in southern Spain. And in the days following the attack, a man shouting in Arabic was arrested for breaking into a basilica in Oviedo, northern Spain (though the Spanish authorities do not consider this a jihadist attack).

These incidents follow on the heels of the terrorist attack at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris on January 11, when a man from Libya with an active deportation order stabbed six people while shouting “Allah is great.” Before that, in September, two people were stabbed in Ansbach, Germany.

Since 2014, around sixty jihadist terrorist attacks have claimed three hundred lives in Western Europe. The attacks usually occur in waves; the recent aggressions seem to indicate the beginning of a new wave. Up until now, church attacks mostly occurred in France. Nice has suffered the most jihadist attacks on churches in recent years. But Spain is seeing more and more of these attacks.

In 2019, the police prevented a major attack on the famous Easter Holy Week in Seville. The 2017 terrorist attack in Barcelona was supposed to be an attack on the Sagrada Familia, but the accidental explosion of the bombs forced a change of plans.

The progressive Spanish government is doing nothing to prevent the influx of illegal immigrants. Moreover, it has actively promoted massive regularizations, and its lousy diplomacy with Morocco is further complicating the task of cutting off the flow of illegal African immigrants entering Europe through the Spanish coasts. 

The government has also been downplaying recent events, choosing instead to be more concerned about not criminalizing Muslims or illegal immigrants. We’ve seen all this before, especially in France: Time and again, European social democracies minimize jihadist attacks and acts of vandalism against churches, to the detriment of both Muslims and Christians alike.

Following the attack in Algeciras, a group of civilians—former policemen or self-defense experts—banded together in the city of Valencia, to patrol the main churches of the city during times of worship. Many Christians do not trust a government that exhibits its Christophobia on a daily basis, that has not missed a single opportunity to harass the Church, that promotes the advance of Islam in education while removing Christianity from the classrooms, and that is taking advantage of its controversial Historical Memory Law to demolish crosses in numerous Spanish towns.

Europe hasn’t learnt much from the last decade of jihadist harassment. Massive illegal immigration, the proliferation of permits for new mosques, sometimes without control (in Spain, there has been a 22 percent increase in mosques in six months), and the exponential growth of no-go areas (Muslim neighborhoods governed by Sharia law), where the police cannot even step foot, are creating a breeding ground for jihadist ideology. Add to that the rejection of the Old Continent’s Christianity, and you have the perfect recipe for aggression against faithful Christians. 

Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist and the author of nine books. 

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Image by Pablo Valerio licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 

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