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January Today in Terrorism

January 12, 2018: Bombings in Chile

On this day in 2018 four churches in Santiago, Chile were attacked on the eve of a papal visit with homemade bombs that caused minor damage

SANTIAGO, CHILE – The Catholic Church may indeed be responsible for heinous crimes over its 2,000 years, but how does bombing a church make things better?

Religion is an interesting human phenomenon. Capable of inspiring many to the heights of artistic creation and humanitarian benevolence and the depths of violence and horror. Faith has been part of the human experience for many millennia and I think the jury is still out on whether its actions are a net benefit for us.

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If the church ran Monty Python skits I bet it would be more packed! (Photo: Python (Monty) Pictures)

Referring specifically to the Roman Catholic Church (RC), there is a lot that that institution has to answer for. The Crusades. The slaughter of indigenous people around the world. The subjugation of women. Endemic child sexual abuse. The list is a long one.

The Church’s history in Latin America is not a pretty one. Spanish ‘conquistadors’ carried the sword and the cross to the ‘new world’ and took it over through force of arms and the spread of diseases to which the original inhabitants had no immunity. Latin America may indeed be majoritarian RC today but the Church has a lot of blood on its hands.

Not surprisingly, some are not too happy with this history. A few have acted out their opposition to the Church violently. As this incident in the Chilean capital three years ago illustrates.

On this day in 2018

Four churches were attacked before dawn with homemade bombs that caused minor damage and notes were left threatening Pope Francis just three days ahead of his visit to Chile. In one of the pamphlets left behind, there was a stark message: “Pope Francis, the next bomb will be in your robe.”

The fourth church was attacked with what appeared to be an explosive device, but no damage was sustained: no one was hurt in any of the attacks. The perpetrators were not identified, although anarchists were suspected.

In a democracy, people can express themselves as long as it’s done in a pacifist way. What happened last night is very strange. It’s not something that we can tie to a particular group.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet

The papal visit went ahead although it was overshadowed by child sexual abuse accusations against almost 80 members of Chilean clergy. Sigh.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. and Programme Director for the Security, Economics and Technology (SET) hub at the University of Ottawa’s Professional Development Institute (PDI). Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of five books on terrorism.

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