It happened in a moment. The bursts of fireworks in celebration of a nation's independence were replaced with bursts of gunfire, shots fired to fell a man bent on the destruction of innocent lives. The giggles and gasps in wonderment at the colorful display turned to screams and wails as people wandered through bodies left bleeding in the street.
The Bastille Day massacre happened in a moment. But the pain it caused will last a lifetime for those who lost a loved one, who sustained an injury or who witnessed the horror.
Here in the U.S., people are reacting with disbelief, heartbreak and anger. How could something like this happen? What kind of hate motivates this level of destruction and devastation of human life?
While details about the perpetrator or perpetrators of this attack are still coming together at this point, most agree that the attack was committed by one or more Islamic extremists. As the leader of an organization that works with one of the world's most persecuted groups, Christians, I believe I can guess the motive fairly accurately.
Here is the Islamic terrorist's line of thinking:
Europe is in the West.
The West is full of Christians.
Christians must be killed.
To be clear, we are talking about extremists, not all Muslims.
Now many will argue that much of Europe has abandoned its Christian faith and traditions. That can't possibly be right. To them I say you don't understand how Islamic extremists understand religion.
For these terrorists and the groups they represent, religion isn't a matter of belief but of identity. In their minds, you are Christian by virtue of the fact that you were born into a family that either practiced the Christian faith or whose ancestors practiced the Christian faith. They hate you because you are you. You don't have to do, say or believe anything for them to take your life. They simply despise the fact you are you.
But for those who do believe in the Christian faith, for those who publicly identify with the Name and teachings of Christ, their enemies don't just want to kill them; they want them to suffer.
Every day, I hear the stories of those who are killed because they refuse to renounce their faith in Christ. They decline to save their own lives if it means denying the One they call Savior. Earlier this week, a mother of seven was hacked to death in Nigeria while preaching about the love of Jesus. Earlier this month, Sudan detains 14 evangelical Christians for the crime of... being evangelical Christians. And earlier this year, I met with a woman whose husband had been burned alive while out sharing his faith.
Their stories are unique, but they are also far too familiar. Their stories are woven into a tapestry of persecution taking place around the globe.
What happened in France is a tragedy. But it is a tragedy that can and must be understood through the lens of Islamic extremism and its hatred for Christianity. Until this connection is made, the leaders of free nations will never understand the ongoing threat these terror groups pose and will never develop effective strategies for defeating them.