Christian Persecution in the Muslim World: Christians as ‘Target Practice’
Mideast Christian: "Where are the leaders of the West, Ban Ki-Moon, the EU, WHO, and other Christian organisations?”
Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
More reports of the brutal treatment that Christians and other minorities experienced at the hands of the Islamic State (SIS) emerged during May. One account told of a couple who, after their children were abducted by ISIS militants, answered their door one day to find a plastic bag on their doorstep. It contained the body parts of their daughters and a video of them being brutally tortured and raped.
Another Christian mother from Mosul answered the door to find ISIS jihadis demanding that she leave or pay the _jizya_ (protection money demanded as a tribute by conquered Christians and Jews, according to the Koran 9:29). The woman asked for a few seconds, as her daughter was in the shower, but the jihadis refused to give her the time. They set fire to the house; her daughter was burned alive. The girl died in her mother’s arms; her last words were “Forgive them.”
The Islamic State reportedly beheaded another Christian leader on February 18. No media reported it, except for one Italian paper in May: “There are reliable reports are that Father Yacob Boulos, was beheaded by the terror group’ militants after he prayed on the altar of his church. He was punished for his faith.”
According to another report, “In yet another disturbing example of the genocide facing Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, on 12-13 May a group from Islamic State (IS) entered a town near the city of Hama in Syria, populated only by Christians and Alawites, killing an as yet unspecified number of men, women and children. Men were beheaded, whilst women were raped and then murdered. Many children were also killed. It is not yet clear exactly how many people have been killed.”
A local Christian leader said, “Where are the leaders of the West, Ban Ki-Moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations), the EU, WHO (World Health Organization), and other Christian organisations? How long will my nation tolerate and stay. We don’t hold arms and weapons, but we are melting like a candle! Is it possible for our voice to reach to all others?”
Father Douglas Bazi, an Iraqi priest, who was kidnapped by ISIS in 2006 but later escaped, recounted his experiences as a captive: “They destroyed my car, they blew up my church on [sic] front of me. I got shot by AK-47 in my leg. The bullet is still in my leg. And I [have] been kidnapped for nine days. They smash my nose and my teeth by hammer. And they broke one of my back discs.”
He was released after his church paid for his ransom, but eventually had to flee the region after continued persecution by ISIS. “To be Christian in Iraq, it’s an impossible mission,” said Father Bazi, adding, “But even so, I’m not actually surprised when they attack my people. I’m surprised how my people are still existing. Please talk about our stories. Let the world know what happens to us.”
The rest of May’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
More Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Uganda: A Christian pastor was poisoned to death by a Muslim. Micah Byamukama, 61, pastor of a Baptist Church, died on May 15, after ingesting an insecticide that a Muslim, Ahmed Mupere, had put into his food. Ahmed was upset that the pastor challenged his belief in jinn, supernatural creatures attested to in Islamic literature, including the Koran. “The true God is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered the power of Satan including the Islamic Jinn… the Islamic Jinn are acts of Satan and should be denounced,” the pastor had apparently said. Soon, unidentified persons believed to have been hired by Ahmed attacked and wounded the pastor with knives. Five days after the knife attack, Ahmed, pretending not to be angry, came to visit the pastor, a widower with no children. According to the report, “Feigning reconciliation as he dined with the pastor from a shared dish, Ahmed secretly put poison on the food and stopped eating as Pastor Byamukama continued.” Shortly thereafter, the Christian man began having stomach pains, was rushed to the hospital and soon declared dead. Earlier, the pastor had told his neighbor, “Ahmed took a little food with me and then stopped. When I asked him why not continue with the food, he said he had eaten at his home, and that he wanted [to] go back home because it was getting late.” A nurse said the pastor died from ingesting a highly toxic insecticide. Once investigations began, Ahmed fled. The incident is the latest in a series of attacks, including other poisonings, by Muslims against Christians in eastern Uganda.
In a separate incident in Uganda, a Muslim man strangled his wife to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity. Awali Kakaire, 34, began to suspect that his wife Mariam Nakiriya, 30, was a Christian a month earlier, when the local imam asked him why his wife and children had not been attending the mosque or madrassa (Islamic school). According to one of Kakaire’s sons: “Our father questioned us why we have stopped attending the madrassa, but we told him that we were busy with school work as our mother had instructed us This made my father to cool down his tempers.” Then, on May 8, Kakaire awoke at 6 a.m., and after his Islamic cleansing ritual, woke his wife to join him in morning Islamic prayers: “Our mother refused, and our father started strangling her as she cried for help,” his son said. After killing her, Kakaire left the house only to return two hours later and force his five children, ages 5 to 12, into a hole he had dug in a nearby garden. “We resisted and began screaming, and neighbors arrived immediately, but he had already dumped us into the hole that he had dug. Seeing the neighbors, he tried to flee but he was overtaken and then began to be questioned by those who surrounded him.“ Kakaire was heard shouting “My family has no respect for Islam.” Thanks to some local Muslim, Kakaire managed to escape the murder scene.
Syria: Up to 200 Christians were reportedly killed during sustained bombardments of the city of Aleppo. Between April 22 and April 30, approximately 1,350 rockets hit the Christian region. The attack killed 132 people, half of them women and children. Another 65 were killed on May 3, and hundreds more injured. Islamic rebels had earlier, on April 22, issued a direct threat against Aleppo’s large community of Armenian Christians, and warned, “We will show the Armenians and the Christians who we are… We have been ordered not to leave any Armenians in the area.”
Bangladesh: “Fighters from the Islamic State assassinated a doctor who called to Christianity in Kushtia, western Bangladesh,“ announced in a brief statement issued in Arabic. Doctor Sanaur Rahman, 58, was riding home on his motorcycle along with his friend when they were attacked by machete-wielding terrorists. Rahman was hacked to death, while Zaman was critically wounded in the attack. The doctor was popular in his village because he used to treat and offer medicine to poor people free of charge and ran a free clinic on Fridays.
Congo: Muslim terrorists killed scores of villagers in the east of the Christian-majority nation. The attackers carried machetes and axes into a village in North Kivu province during the evening of May 3. According to the local administrator, “the enemy managed to get past army positions and kill peaceful residents in their homes, slashing their throats. The 16 bodies are in front of me, killed by machete or axe.” Another source said that as many as 38 were slaughtered, including two Evangelical Christian leaders and their wives. According to the report,
“The MDI [Muslim Defensive International] has repeatedly attacked the majority-Christian population in eastern DRC for years. Kidnapping and murder are common. It is alleged to have support from the Islamic government of Sudan… The MDI is known to have attracted foreign recruits and to have forced Christians to convert to Islam. The local population in the related area is overwhelmingly Christian (95.8%) and the impact on them has been immense.” In a letter released a year ago, Congolese Bishops denounced a “climate of genocide” and the passivity of the Congolese government and the international community: “Does the situation have to deteriorate even more before the international community takes measures against jihadism?” asked the Bishops in May 2015.
Philippines: Islamic jihadis attacked the “Crusaders” of the Catholic-majority nation. The recently-established ISIS branch in the Philippines claimed responsibility for a terror attack on a military position on Basilan Island. The attack killed one soldier and injured another. Basilan Island has long been a stronghold of local Muslim terror organizations that aim to topple the government and establish a Sharia-compliant government.
Muslim Rape and Humiliation of Christian Women
Bangladesh: A 26-year-old Catholic high school teacher was raped on May 12 by her Muslim principal and his friend, Shariful Islam. Afterwards, they threatened to post the video of the rape on Facebook, if she reported them. According to parish priest Fr. Domenic K. Halder, “The girl is very frightened. We pray for her, she is still in hospital.” Hundreds of Christians also protested in the streets of Dhaka and demanded justice.
Egypt: On May 20, a 70-year-old Christian woman was stripped naked, savagely beaten, spat upon, and paraded in the streets of Minya to jeers, whistles, and yells of “Allahu Akbar,” after a mob of some 300 Muslim men descended on her home. Her crime was that her son was accused of having a romantic relationship with a Muslim woman, an intimacy that is banned under Islamic law, Sharia. It is the same body of teachings that prescribes collective punishment to non-Muslim “infidels”: Accordingly, seven Christian homes were also torched during the attack. Earlier that day her husband and she had gone to local police and complained that they were being harassed and threatened by neighborhood Muslims. The police responded by also threatening and ordering them out of the station. A few hours later, the attack occurred. It took the same local police over two hours to appear, giving the mob “ample time,” as one Christian clergyman put it, to riot. Minya’s most senior Christian cleric, Bishop Makarios, said during a televised interview concerning the 70-year-old woman’s ordeal that if a Muslim man were pursuing a Christian woman, the police response “would not have been anything like what happened…. No one did anything and the police took no preemptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks.”
Uganda: After a 22-year-old Christian woman accused a mosque leader of murdering her father earlier in the year, local Muslims responded by beating and raping her. The woman, whose name was withheld, said she was beaten and raped on April 19 for telling a court what she had witnessed. She was found unconscious in a pool of blood, with cuts on her body. One of the three Muslims who assaulted her told her, “We shall kill you today because you are the one who made our sheikh to be imprisoned.” According to the woman, speaking from a hospital bed,
“I was able to identify the sheikh because we are neighbors, and my father had been questioning him about the Islamic faith not leading one to salvation with God. The sheikh had said to him, ‘You have no respect of our religion, and we have come for your life today.’ They started strangling my father as well as hitting him on the head with a big stick. When my father fell down, I managed to escape through the window.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Tanzania: Another church was burned to the ground. The Roman Catholic church in the Kagera region is the third church in four months to be burned down in the nation. According to a local pastor, “Since 2013 we have had over 13 churches torched here in Kagera and no-one has been held accountable. This is not acceptable.“ Fortunatus Bijura, a priest at the church, said: “Those who think that destroying our church means we won’t pray, they are wrong … We have a big tree near the church and will continue meeting there for prayers.” Tanzania is approximately 35% Muslim.
Pakistan: The government announced its plans to demolish four historic churches in order to make way for the construction of a metro train. On May 3, Christians gathered in front of the Lahore High Court to protest the decision. “These churches were built pre-Pakistan and these all [sic] churches are located at very expensive and prime locations which politicians and Islamists are jealous of,” said Nasir Saeed, director of the Center for Legal Aid. “They cannot stand that Christians have such prime property and … so try to use any excuse to grab the land and belittle Christians.” While the community is still mourning their loved ones who perished during the Easter Sunday attack on Christians that left 69 dead and more than 340 injured, Saeed said they now face a new threat by the government to their churches: “There is no respite for them and one problem after the other seems to follow Pakistani Christians.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Apostates, Blasphemers and Preachers
Pakistan: A fatwa, or Islamic decree, was issued against a Christian after Muslims accused him of watching an anti-Islamic video on his phone. Imran Masih was last reported on the run after a $10,000 bounty was put on his head. As a form of collective punishment, fellow Christians in his village were prevented from buying food from Muslim shopkeepers and given three options: “convert to Islam, leave the village forever, or hand over Imran so he can be burnt alive.” Speaking of this incident, a Pakistani human rights activist said,
I cannot believe that such things are still happening in this world. Such treatment towards Pakistani Christians is a slap on the face of the Punjab and central government, and to all those who never tire of telling the world that minorities are protected and enjoying equal rights in the country. I don’t understand how watching a video on the internet can be criminalised as an act of blasphemy…. I believe this is not an act of blasphemy and if people still think Imran has committed blasphemy then he should be punished according to the law. No one has any right to take the law into their own hands, harass local Christians, threaten them, burn Imran alive or force Christians to convert to Islam or leave the village. Such conditions from lay people make a mockery of the law. The Government of Pakistan must take this matter seriously, provide protection to the local Christians, and those who are breaking the law should be dealt according to the law.
Separately in Pakistan, police arrested a Christian man in Punjab province for allegedly posting messages on his Facebook account that were considered blasphemous by Muslims. According to Liaquat Usman’s wife, “My husband stopped some [Muslim] boys from teasing girl students. A couple of days ago the boys manhandled Usman. Instead of arresting the boys, police arrested Usman saying a complaint against him has been lodged for committing blasphemy.” Initial investigations showed that the “blasphemous” messages were posted on Usman’s Facebook account a year earlier, and that someone else living abroad tagged them on his account.
Germany: A new report claimed that as many as 40,000 Christians – including Muslims who wish to convert to Christianity – are being attacked and harassed by Muslims in migrant homes. According to the report,
Many converts [to Christianity] wished to do so in their homelands, but in places like Iran and Afghanistan the penalty for leaving the Islamic religion can be death and so they fled to Europe. Now in European asylum homes they are finding more and more that they are in as much danger from radical Muslims in Europe as they were in their home countries. The most prevalent form of abuse was verbal insults with 96 people saying that had received abuse or threats. Eighty-six said they had been physically assaulted and 73 said they had been subjected to death threats against themselves and family members. Three quarters of the migrants also said they had been victims of multiple attacks. The perpetrators of most of the attacks were fellow migrants who look down on converts and believe them to be apostates. Perhaps, more interestingly was the prevalence of Muslim security guards who participated in the attacks. Almost half of those surveyed said they had received abuse from security guards and in the German capital of Berlin the figure rose to two-thirds.
Azerbaijan: Christian activists called attention to the plight of a frail evangelist from Azerbaijan who has spent a year behind bars in neighboring Georgia on what his supporters say are “trumped-up charges” for the possession of drugs. If convicted, the man could face 14 years imprisonment. The Azeri evangelist says he has been framed by people who are angry about his evangelism work among Muslims. Local sources said “His health is very bad and he needs urgent help – medical, spiritual and materially.” Fears also exist that the man will not be able to return safely to predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan after an eventual release from prison. According to a human rights organization,
Officially, the country is secular and religion is tolerated. However, the level of surveillance is so incredibly high that Christians in Azerbaijan do not know whom to trust anymore. Persecution of Christians has gone up markedly since last year due to ever-increasing government controls,” added Open Doors. Another sign of the government pressure is the fact that Azeri Christians find it easier to evangelize in countries like Georgia and Iran than in their own country.
Muslim Hate for and Violence against Christians
Syria: The Islamic State released an online video on May 16, showing an ISIS fighter desecrating the graves of Christians and showing off the damage that was done to the Christian cemetery. The video was allegedly filmed in the city of Deir ez-Zor. The ISIS militant is shown touring the cemetery, showing shards of stone and wood, while in the background are destroyed headstones and corpses of Syrian soldiers – some torn to pieces – who apparently tried to stop the desecration.
Eritrea: Thousands of Christians are fleeing the nation due to extreme persecution, according to a report which describes Eritrea as “one of the world’s fastest emptying nations” and the “North Korea of Africa.” The majority of the 40,000 who fled to Italy last year are Christians. The report added that “all evangelical and independent churches have been closed.” Dawit, who was among hundreds of Christians jailed and tortured for his faith, said: “There is no law and no justice. When I was living in Eritrea I was arrested because of my Christian faith. That’s why I left. In Eritrea almost every Christian faces imprisonment. That’s why I was in prison.“ Berhane, another Christian who managed to escape said: “We believe there are over 300 Christian prisoners at the moment. Most of them have been in prison for over ten years and they are suffering for lack of food and proper hygiene and proper medical care and even some of them have lost their lives.”
Turkey: United States ally and NATO member Turkey is aiding and abetting the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Syria that kill Christians, by providing them with aerial cover and “safe haven,” said Mindy Belz, an activist and senior editor of WORLD magazine:
We have to have a new approach to our ally, Turkey. Turkey is a country that is in transition and is becoming more and more radicalized. There is strong evidence, as I interviewed people at the border who had escaped to Lebanon. I sat down with them in Beirut. They were up at the border when Turkey shot down the Syrian jet that crossed the border [in 2015]. … The people who witnessed it said, “Turkey is providing air cover for these Islamic militant groups”…. There has been strong evidence that they have provided air cover and provided safe haven at their borders for ISIS…They have aided and abetted extremist groups, not only ISIS but Al-Nusra Front and some of the others. These are groups that are killing Christians and America ought to not tolerate allies that support groups that kill Christians.
Iran: Despite the nuclear deal made with the Obama administration, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has found that religious minorities in Iran, including Christians, continue experiencing severe human rights abuses. The report, released only a couple of months shy of the one-year anniversary of the nuclear deal reached in July 2015, found that religious freedom conditions “continued to deteriorate” over the past year, with Christians, Baha’is, and the minority Sunni Muslims facing the most persecution at the form of harassment, arrests, and imprisonment.
Under President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, the number of religious-based arrests has increased, despite Iran’s continuous denial that it is violating people’s human and religious freedom rights. The report states: “The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.“ The report notes that as many as 550 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2015, and at least 90 Christians remain in prison or detention as of February due to their religious beliefs and activities:
During the reporting period, human rights groups inside Iran reported a significant increase in the number of physical assaults and beatings of Christians in prison. Some activists believe the assaults, which have been directed against converts who are leaders of underground house churches, are meant to intimidate others who may wish to convert to Christianity.
A report from May indicates that one Christian prisoner in Iran, Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran, who earlier underwent heart surgery, is suffering from illnesses, including nausea, ear pain, and chronic pain in her joints and spinal cord, which were diagnosed as caused by lumbar disk, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Regardless, prison officials have refused to transfer her to a hospital to receive proper medical care. Mrs. Zargaran was initially summoned to an Iranian intelligence office for interrogation in March of 2011. Interrogators constantly threatened her and her family, insulted her and questioned her Christian activities.
Pakistan: According to Sardar Mushtaq Gill and fellow attorneys who represent the family of the Christian couple burned alive by a mob for allegedly desecrating a Koran, “Witnesses and lawyers are [being] threatened…. There are many concerns about the possible impunity for the perpetrators.” Because witnesses have refused to recognize those most responsible for the killing of the Christian couple, they have already been released on bail. “There are 106 detainees accused of this lynching and if the trial continues in this direction, it seems that everyone will be freed.”
Nigeria: Gunmen shot at a car carrying Roman Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan in the country’s southern Edo state. The attack on the cardinal comes amid increasing violence and kidnappings of Christian clergy by Muslims for ransom. Three other Christian leaders were kidnapped for ransom within the same year. The decomposing body of a cleric kidnapped in a Muslim-majority region was found last April.
A separate report tells of the day-to-day sufferings of Christians living alongside Muslims in Nigeria:
For Bishop Matthew Kukah, persecution is not just the history of the Church. It’s a reality that he lives every day. In the diocese of Sokoto, located in northern Nigeria, ministry includes not only the normal sacramental and pastoral concerns of any other diocese. It also includes regularly responding to violence and attacks against the small Christian minority living in the majority-Muslim area. Christians living in northern Nigeria today wonder “why have they and their institutions become target practice,” explained Bishop Kukah told CNA. Christian churches and businesses – as well as the people who frequent them – suffer both targeted violence at the hands of Islamist extremists… And after the attacks, Christian communities face a wall of bureaucratic challenges and lack of government support as they struggle to rebuild…. While some targets of violence find government and societal aid in rebuilding and accessing services such as schools and hospitals, the state in northern Nigeria merely “looks on” as Christian churches and institutions struggle to rebuild.
“[Y]ou live in a state that is less than you expect as a citizen,” said Bishop Kukah. “You don’t know what to expect tomorrow. … Christians suffer disproportionate violence from Muslim extremists. … Our churches are being bombed with no compensation paid for the schools or other properties of the Church.”
Bangladesh: Unidentified attackers hurled crude bombs at the home of a Christian family and left two Christians injured. The attack occurred just after midnight in a mainly Christian hamlet in the western Chuadanga area. Police suspected “attempted robbery” as the motive. But the report notes that “the attack comes amid a string of murders of Christians, Hindus and members of other religious minorities across the country by suspected militants, as Bangladesh reels from rising Islamist violence… Suspected Islamists have murdered at least 30 members of religious minorities, secular bloggers and other liberal activists, foreigners and intellectuals in Bangladesh in the past three years.”
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.
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