by Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute — September 21, 2015
Not only is the Islamic State (IS) persecuting Christians but so are the U.S.-supported “rebel” forces, which the Obama administration assures are “moderate.” According to a recent NPR report, “With backing from U.S. allies, like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, this [U.S. supported] rebel coalition fights both the Syrian regime and the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS. But the coalition has extremists in its own ranks who have mistreated Christians and forced them out of their homes”—just as IS has done.
In response, Mideast Christian leaders made clear that, far from expecting the West to intervene on their behalf, they merely wish that the West stops arming, supporting, or simply facilitating the Islamic terrorists making their lives a living hell—as plainly spelled out in a Christian Today article titled, “Syrian Christian leader tells West: ‘Stop arming terror groups who are massacring our people.”
According to the Patriarch of Antioch, Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II, “If the West wants to do something about the present crisis, the most effective thing would be to support local governments, which need sufficient armies and forces to maintain security and defend respective populations against attacks. State institutions need to be strengthened and stabilized. Instead, what we see is their forced dismemberment being fueled from the outside.”
Another Christian leader had another message to the West. According to Iraqi priest Fr Douglas Bazi, once a torture victim who takes care of thousands of refugees forced to flee Mosul since the Islamic State took over the city last year, the West needs to “Wake up!” During celebrations of St Peter and St Paul, the Iraqi priest further reflected that “We cannot celebrate the feast of two martyrs without remembering the living martyrs of our time.”
Nor are these martyrs limited to the Middle East. Among the many Christians slaughtered in Nigeria in July was a young girl who was stoned to death for refusing to renounce Christ and convert to Islam. Pastor Mark lost his daughter, Monica, in the Chibok abduction which involved almost 300 predominantly Christian girls kidnapped at the hands of the Islamic organization, Boko Haram. He was told that his daughter refused to change her religion, and so was buried from the neck on down and then stoned to death.
The rest of July’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following accounts, listed by theme.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Nigeria: Dozens of Christian churches were attacked in the Muslim-majority northern regions of the nation, where Boko Haram is headquartered:
- Thirty-two churches and 300 houses were burnt when Boko Haram jihadis attacked Mussa community in Borno State. Thirteen people were also killed in the jihad.
- A female Muslim suicide bomber blew herself up in the Redeemed Christian Church of God on Sunday, July 5, in the town of Potiskum. The priest and a woman and her two children were killed. “People were just going to the church when the bomber entered, otherwise the casualty figure would have been higher,” said a Red Cross worker. Earlier it was revealed that some of the nearly 300 Christian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram last year were being beaten, forced to convert to Islam, and indoctrinated into believing that their mission is to “slit the throats of Christians and to carry out suicide attacks.”
- On Sunday, July 12, explosives planted at a church in Jos went off but there were no casualties as the bomb was detected by the church’s security personnel.
- In response to a mosque explosion that killed 20 people—part of Boko Haram’s “Ramadan killing spree”—rioting Muslims burned down two churches on July 6 in Jos. According to the report, the mosque attack “has revived historic tensions between members of both faiths in Jos. Christians in Nigeria now not only fear Boko Haram, but also attacks from their Muslim neighbors.”
Iraq: The Islamic state blew up another Christian church under its authority, the Mother of Aid Church which had stood in central Mosul for thousands of years. The blast also killed four children who were near the church at the time. IS also transformed the St. Joseph Church, an ancient Chaldean church in Mosul, into a mosque. Pictures of St. Joseph show that the dome has been painted black and the church has been stripped of all crosses and Christian symbols and images.
Egypt: Three church related attacks occurred:
- The Fathers Church in eastern Alexandria was attacked on July 21 by unknown assailants who hurled Molotov cocktails and other homemade bombs at the church. No one was injured, although the facade of the church was damaged from the attack. Security discovered a bag with more firebombs on the scene from where the assailants fled. According to El Watan, the incident created a “state of panic” in the area, especially because the Fathers Church is considered the most important church for the Coptic Catholics of the region.
- Muslims suspended prayer in a church in the village of Arab Asnabt in Abu Qurqas, Minya, and called for demolishing it in an effort “to prevent Coptic Christians from practicing their religious rites.”
- Dozens of “incensed” Muslims congregated before the house of a Christian on the accusation that he was trying to use his home as a church. Security arrived in time to disperse angry Muslims. Coptic Christians trying to—or merely being accused of—turning their homes into churches in Egypt is not an uncommon occurrence and ultimately reflects the difficulties Christians face in building or even renovating their existing churches, all in accordance with Islamic law.
Niger: Approximately 70 Christian churches and an orphanage continue facing a lack of resources and difficult conditions in rebuilding six months after thousands of Muslims attacked and destroyed them in “revenge” for the offensive Muhammad cartoons published by the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo—a secular magazine based in France that also habitually mocks Christianity. “Since these incidents, it is as if life had stopped,” said Baptist pastor Jacques Kangindé. Discussing when he entered his destroyed church—his home was also destroyed during the riots—the pastor said: “I felt very bad, such an indescribable feeling when I saw my ripped-up Bible on the ground. For a pastor, it was like my entire life was torn apart. I could not stop shedding tears.”
Muslim Violence and Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: Boko Haram jihadis shot and killed 29 people in two Christian enclaves of northeast Nigeria. Most people in Dille village ran but those who could not were gunned down and many homes were set ablaze. Separately, a woman suicide bomber blew herself up at a busy market in northeastern Damaturu town, killing 15 people and wounding 50. And in Maikadiri village, at least 14 people were killed and 500 cows were slaughtered.
Iraq: Christians kidnapped and held for ransom continue to be slaughtered even after their ransom is paid. The body of Quais Abdul Shaya was returned to his family—after they had paid the demanded ransom of $25,000 USD. Saher Hanna, who worked at the Ministry of the Interior, was also killed after his Islamic abductors received his ransom. Killing Christian hostages, including children, after receiving payment is not limited to the Islamic State and occurs in other Muslim nations such as Egypt.
Libya: Unconfirmed reports, including from the Libyan Herald, say that the Islamic State executed another Egyptian Coptic Christian they had seized. Bekhit Nageh Efrank Ebeid, a 25-year-old laborer, was kidnapped along with two other Christians, Kofi Frimpong Sekyere from Ghana and Ibrahim Adeola from Nigeria.
Egypt: An unknown man attacked a Coptic nun in the Muslim-majority nation. According to Fr. Abdel Quddus, “An unknown person stalked a sister in the diocese of Fashn, Beni Suef, and attacked her last week with a bladed weapon while she was outside her residence. He then hit her head against the wall and fled.” And Wadie Ramses, a Christian who was kidnapped and held for 92 days by Islamic militants in the Sinai desert, managed to escape. During his time in captivity he was blindfolded and handcuffed, beaten and abused. According to his account, the most terrifying moments came when he would overhear his Muslim kidnappers debating whether to behead the Christian doctor or keep him alive to ensure a ransom. The police, though given many opportunities, never put forth the effort to rescue him, said the Copt.
Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytism
Uganda: Muslims once again tried to kill a Muslim convert to Christianity. Last year, Hassan Muwanguzi, a former Muslim Sheikh and now born-again Christian, survived a poisoning attempts by Muslim relatives, but lost his twelve-year old daughter in a separate attack. Most recently, Muslims broke into his house with knives and clubs in another attempt to assassinate the apostate. Muwanguzi was at a prayer meeting at the time, but the foiled assailants stole thousands of dollars’ worth of his possessions. Despite the fact that Uganda is a majority-Christian nation, Muwanguzi lives in a majority-Muslim region, and faces regular death threats (read more about his travails here).
Pakistan: Muslims again used the “blasphemy” accusation to persecute Christian minorities:
- Two Christian women and the husband of one of the women in the Punjab were tortured by Muslim villagers. Afterwards, they painted the women’s and man’s faces black, put shoes around their necks as “garlands”—shoes are deemed ultra-degrading symbols in Pakistan—and paraded them around the town on donkeys, while the Muslim mob continued to taunt and beat them. The two women, identified as Rukhsana and Rehana, were accused of committing blasphemy after they got into an argument with a Muslim woman who wanted to buy a carpet for a low price, to which the Christians refused. The Muslim woman then accused the Christians of committing blasphemy by saying that the carpet had images of Holy Books and Koran verses on it, which prompted the mob to drag the Christians out of their homes and beat them.
- Another Christian couple was nearly lynched by a Muslim mob after they were accused of “blasphemy.” The illiterate couple were using a banner that also allegedly carried scriptures from the Koran. After a local barber and two clerics denounced the couple, they were beaten and about to be hanged when police intervened. A few months earlier, another couple was thrown into an oven and burned to death when they too were denounced of blasphemy.
- Two Christian brothers, Qaisar and Amoon Ayub of Lahore, were arrested on blasphemy charges after one of them was accused of posting material offensive to Islam on his website. According to Qaisar, he closed his account in 2009 but one of his Muslim colleagues, Shahryar Gill, somehow managed to restore the website, while ownership remained in Qaisar’s name. Apparently in revenge for some office quarrel, the Muslim framed the Christian, reported the “blasphemy” to the authorities, prompting the two brothers to flee Pakistan. Years later, thinking things had cooled down, they tried to return to their wives and children, only to be arrested.
Sudan: Two imprisoned Presbyterian pastors are on trial and facing a possible death sentence. Rev. Yat Michael and the Rev. Peter Yen Reith of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church are being charged with espionage and blasphemy under the Republic of Sudan’s Islamic laws. Other church leaders say that Christians are often targeted for their faith and that the government’s accusations are pretexts: “This is not ‘something new’ for our church. Almost all pastors have gone to jail under the government of Sudan. We have been stoned and beaten. This is their habit to pull down the church. We are not surprised. This is the way they deal with the church,” said Rev. Tut Kony.
Egypt: Three young Christians were arrested in Alexandria on charges of “contempt for Islam.” The previous evening, the Christians were seen handing out bags of dates to Ramadan fasting Muslims. Some Muslims reported them to authorities, saying that the pamphlets contained “the teachings of Christ” were found in the bags of dates. They were all arrested and charged with contempt for Islam. The three Christian youth pled that the pamphlets were for their own personal use and not meant to be placed in the bags of dates. They were ordered to pay 10,000 Egyptian pounds and released.
Dhimmitude: Generic Muslim Abuse of Christians
Pakistan: Christian girls continued to be abducted and raped in the Muslim majority nation. A new report indicates that 1,000 non-Muslim girls are abducted, raped, forced to convert to Islam and/or “marry” their abductors every year. Cases reported in July include:
- Tarfa Younis, a 12-year- old Christian orphan girl, was sold to a 55-year-old Muslim man who “repeatedly raped” her for over a year; the man’s nephew also abused her. The traumatized girl managed to run away and reach the home of an uncle. According to The Voice, a human rights organization involved in the case, “the practice of raping and forcing Christian girls into marriage continues in Punjab, especially in suburban areas.”
- Fouzia, a 25-year-old married Christian woman and mother of three children, was abducted on July 23 by Muhammad Nazir, another 55-year-old Muslim man. He forced her to convert to Islam and become his wife. Her family asked Muhammad for her return, but he insisted that she voluntarily converted and married him—and that if they made any trouble “there would be serious consequences.” According to human rights lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill:
Usually episodes like this proceed in the following manner: the family of the victim presents a complaint. The abductor lodges a counter-complaint affirming that the woman made a voluntary decision. In most cases the victims are minors, young adolescent girls. They suffer sexual violence, forced prostitution, domestic abuse and even sold to human traffickers.
Gill concluded that it is rare for such cases to end with the return of the girls to their original families.
Indonesia: A group of Muslims attacked and disrupted a Christian scout camp that had brought together thousands of young people and was organized by a Protestant group in Yogyakarta, central Java. The Muslim assailants argued that the Christian group was not authorized to organize any public activity—especially since it was Ramadan and public activities that violate the Islamic nature of the month are forbidden. On the second day of the event, local Muslims stormed the site and brought everything to a halt. As a result of the raid, thousands of Christian participants from around the country were forced to leave the area. According to the Christian camp manager, “organizers said they had official permission [to hold the event], but suddenly scores of radical Muslims arrived ordering everyone to clear off.” Commenting on the expulsion of Christians, Muhammad Fuad, head of the local branch of the Islamic Community Forum, expressed satisfaction that the Christian event was shut down: “It is good because everyone should understand how to behave towards the Muslim community.”[i]
Iraq: The Islamic State issued a call to its members at the University of Mosul to burn all books written by Christians—whether researchers, writers, or academics—that are found in the Central Library at the University of Mosul.
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
[i] According to Asia News:
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has often been the scene of attacks or acts of intolerance towards minorities, whether Christians, Ahmadi Muslims or people of other faiths.
In Aceh, Islamic law (Sharia) is enforced, the only Indonesian province to do so. This is the result of a peace agreement between the central government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).
However, more radical and extreme versions of Islam are growing in many other parts of the country, like Bekasi and Bogor, in West Java.
In addition, legal loopholes have been used to prevent Christians from building their places of worship, like the case involving the Yasmin Church in West Java.
Indonesia’s constitution recognizes religious freedom, but Christian communities, Catholics included (3 per cent of the population) have been the victims of religious violence and persecution.