On Sunday, families across the world celebrated Easter, a Christian holiday meant to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
What was meant to be a joyous occasion became a horrifically gruesome day for those on the island nation of Sri Lanka, where a series of bombings ripped through Christian worshipers celebrating Easter at churches and hotels popular with tourists.
According to Sri Lankan officials, the attacks killed at least 359 people and wounded more than 500 others, making the terrorist attacks the worst violence the country has seen since its 26-year civil war ended a decade ago.
While the rhetoric used by President Donald Trump and other populist leaders is that the threat of terrorist attacks comes from foreigners or “them,” the real threat stems from domestic individuals radicalized by extremist ideologies.
The Sri Lankan attackers were not poor, desperate individuals who sought jihad, a term often used to represent the fight against those who reject the message of Islam, as is generally the case for most suicide bombers radicalized by the Islamic State.
These were suicide bombers from mostly educated, middle-class backgrounds who carried out the attacks. Two of them came from a prominent family in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo.
In March, white nationalists carried out a shooting spree, targeting two Mosques in New Zealand and killing 50 people.
Again, these were not foreign nationals, but rather cowardly individuals radicalized within their own country.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of hate groups operating across the United States rose to a record high of 1,020 last year.
The number of hate crimes reported to the FBI increased almost 30% over a three year period, ending in 2017.
The terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and New Zealand, as well as elsewhere in the world, are a teaching moment the world should have learned from the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks carried out by al-Qaida; by not stopping the attacks early on, they will continue to get worse.
Each of these groups, whether right-wing extremists, Muslim extremists or terrorist groups, are driven by their perverted ideology which motivates their actions and members.
The Sri Lankan minister of defense, Ruwan Wijewardene, told the Sri Lankan parliament Tuesday that authorities have information showing the Easter attacks were carried out “in retaliation” for last month’s attacks in New Zealand.
Reports indicate that the Sri Lankan government had warnings prior to these attacks but did not act on them due to lack of information.
The most worrisome part of these attacks is that they could be precursors to more, larger attacks. The size, scope and coordination by the terrorists are a clear indication of greater logistical capability and structure.
Someone is vying for the top terrorist spot. It is up to not only the intelligence communities to prevent further slaughter of innocent civilians, but the global community as a whole to stop the spread of extremism in any form.