A document drafted by members of the global Christian community convening at the 3rd International Christian Forum, held in Moscow, detailed how over the past ten years the Middle East's Christian population has shrunk by 80% and warned that unless current trends are reversed, Christianity "will vanish" from its ancient homelands in a few years' time. Around the year 2000, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; today there are only 100,000 -- roughly a 93% percent drop, the document notes. In Syria, the largest cities "have lost almost all of their Christian population."
Other experts offered similarly dismal statistics. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts, had predicted that by 2025, the percentage of Christians in the Middle East — which in 1910 was 13.6% — could go down to around 3%.
Christians seeking to return to areas in Iraq and Syria liberated from the Islamic State (ISIS) continue to face discrimination from local Muslim and Kurdish communities. Andrew White, also known as the "vicar of Baghdad," had said that, "the time has come where it is over, no Christians will be left. Some say Christians should stay to maintain the historical presence, but it has become very difficult. The future for the community is very limited."
Others, such as Former Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), are more optimistic: "Now is the time. We have an administration that's open to doing something," he said, indicating the US Trump administration.
Meanwhile, ISIS continued to harbor high hopes. In a video released by the terrorist organization in August, an extremist tore up a photo of Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, while saying, "Remember this, you kuffar [infidels] — we will be in Rome, we will be in Rome, inshallah [Allah willing]." The narrator of the video also vowed that, "After all their efforts, it would be the religion of the cross that would be broken. The crusaders' enmity toward the Muslims only served to embolden a generation of youth." When asked about this, the pope's top aide said, "Pope Francis hasn't changed a thing in his agenda, nor is he going to. Furthermore, he'll continue to foment dialogue, creating bridges, defending peace. With Muslims and Christians."
August's roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Kenya: Islamic terrorists hacked four Christian men to death for refusing to renounce Christ and embrace Islam. On Friday, August 28, jihadis from the Somali-based group, Al Shabaab, rounded up three men (two in their forties, the other 17) and held them at one of the Christians' homes. They ordered them to recite the shahada — that "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger" — and thereby renounce the Trinity and become Muslim. When the men refused, the Muslims hacked them to pieces with machetes. They then went and slaughtered the mentally handicapped older brother of one of the slain. According to the "severely traumatized" wife of one of the men, "Al-Shabaab knew these men as Christians, and Joseph [her slain husband] as a church elder."
Nigeria: Gunmen massacred as many as 50 Christian worshippers inside St. Philip's Catholic Church in Amambra State during a Sunday morning service. Initial reports claimed that "the gunmen were hunting for a drug baron, traced him to his house but were told he had gone to church." When they found he was not in the church, "out of anger, probably, they rained bullets on worshippers in the church." However, not only does the attack closely follow the pattern of other jihadi terror attacks on churches in Nigeria, but at least one group, Act for Biafra, a Biafran independence organization, issued a statement referring to the attack as a "jihadist slaughter" of Christian churchgoers.
Separately, during an attack on a Christian community in a Muslim majority region that enforces Sharia (Islamic law), Muslim terrorists slaughtered a Christian father and his son, and abducted three women and a baby. Aside from habitual attacks on Christians "in northern Nigeria, [which is Muslim majority] Christians who have already been displaced by Boko Haram extremists are being forced out of their refugee camps and denied access to vital aid," according to human rights activists.
Pakistan: Javid Masih, a Christian man who sold himself into slavery to a Muslim family for two years to buy his family a home, was regularly abused, kept from going to church, and finally murdered in August. When the two-year contract was nearly up and Javid told one of the family that he looked forward to getting married, he was told, "There is no way you will ever be free from us and leave this place." When his term was up and he asked for his freedom, he was severely chided by the family's sons: "You filthy Chura ["worthless thing"], how dare you ask for your freedom. Your life is ours. You will clean our excrement every day of your life from now on or you and your family will die." Afterwards, "he was grabbed by the brothers, tied up, beaten and spat upon for a whole day. He had never told his family about this because he was both embarrassed and fearful of the repercussions on his family if they got involved. Other employees were made to see the brutal torture of Javed to instill a sense of fear amongst them." He continued as a slave but his productivity dropped, and the Muslim family decided to do away with him. They poisoned him and then dumped him in front of his family's home. When his widowed mother begged them to drive him to a hospital, they spat on her. He died; the police reported the death a "suicide." Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"Despite anti-slavery laws in Pakistan bonded labour proliferates and is destroying the lives of many Christians. The Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act 1992 is not worth the paper it is written on and the Government's clear apathy to enforce the law illustrates the low value placed on Christians and other minorities... There is a very small suicide rate in Pakistan of around 300 victims over two years—Pakistanis are hardy. It is inconceivable that Javed committed suicide when he expressed no such desire to anyone he knew and remained stoic for two years despite the pain inflicted on him."
Another Christian man, a prisoner who was offered but rejected Islam, was found dead "under mysterious circumstances in police custody," according to a report. Indaryas Ghulam, 38, was among 42 Christians arrested for the lynching of two Muslims associated with a 2015 church attack that killed nearly 20 Christians and wounded 70. Indaryas had denied involvement in the lynching and was one of the prisoners promised "release in exchange of reneging Christ."
"He could have saved his life, but decided to bear witness to his faith onto death.... The prison administration attributed his death to poor health; he had tuberculosis. But his wife Shabana and daughter Shumir, who saw the body, said that he had burns and cuts everywhere, clear signs of torture and of the brutality to which he had been subjected. What is more, they add that although he was severely ill, he never received adequate medical care behind the bars."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
Iran: Approximately five hundred Muslim converts to Christianity have faced persecution in Iran, and fled to Turkey in search of asylum, notes an August report. One young convert who said he could not be who he wanted to be if he remained Muslim, added that he is now feeling "comfortable" as a Christian. Another said:
"I changed my religion because I did not see anything in Islam. Whatever I saw was wrong. It is a fact that the government of Iran is an Islamic one, yet our youth are getting executed. In Iraq the same.... There is ISIS and [they] are killing people in the name of Islam, and there are vulnerable people who are being beheaded there. They have fled to Turkey, and we came to Turkey. That is why I did not see any good from Islam."
Open Doors USA, which monitors Christian persecution around the world, confirms that "Converts to Christianity from Islam make up the largest group of Christians and experience the most persecution."
Morocco: An August report reveals that earlier in 2017, a popular Arabic language newspaper attacked Morocco's Christian activists for their faith and, considering that virtually all Christians in Morocco are converts from Islam, ended with the message: the "Koran requires the killing of apostates." "Morocco is home to several thousand Christians who live across the nation, many of whom are new converts and forced to worship in secret churches," the report adds. "Christians are regularly harassed by authorities, and societal pressure to renounce their faith is commonplace throughout the country."
Pakistan: Another Christian minor was beaten and charged with "blaspheming" against Islam. After a Muslim man, Muhammed Nawaz, accused Asif Stephen, 16, of stealing at a local bazaar, he beat the boy, then told the local imam, who, according to the report, "has a history of preaching hatred towards minority Christians," that the youth had also burned a Koran. Muhammad and the imam tracked down the boy and attacked him again. When a passerby saw the violence and contacted police, "instead of protecting the teenager from his attackers, [police] arrested and booked him into prison on blasphemy charges." Hours later, the imam and "a mob of more than 300 Muslim fundamentalists surrounded the prison and called for a public lynching of Stephen."
"As the mob overwhelmed local police, Stephen was removed from his cell and handed over to the mob, who consequently beat him until reinforcement officers stepped in to calm the situation. Police then moved Stephen to a higher security district jail where he plead guilty to blasphemy in what his family believed was a coerced confession."
Uganda: On August 7, Sophia Nakisaala, 35, a Muslim woman, embraced Christianity after her daughter was healed by a street preacher:
"My child got healed instantly from high fever, which had caused several convulsions. The evangelist shared with me about Issa [Jesus], whom he said to be the healer and Savior. I then decided to accept Him as my Lord and Savior and then returned back home."
When she returned home and began telling Muhammad Lubaale, her husband, what had happened, "He got angry and slapped me. I kept quiet and did not respond to his interrogation about my new faith in Jesus." Three days later, word of his daughter's healing and confirmation that his wife had indeed embraced Christ reached Muhammad. "My husband arrived home on Aug. 10 and started beating me and injuring me with bruises on my head and right hand, using a stick," Sophia explained. "Neighbors came to my rescue and housed me that very night." The following morning, while her husband was away, she gathered her four children—aged 3, 5, 8 and 11—and went to an area pastor, who helped her find refuge.
Sweden: The Western nation most renowned for taking in — and suffering from — Muslim migrants, Sweden, decided to deport a female Iranian convert to Christianity. When the convert, Aideen Strandsson, pleaded that she could face the death penalty as an apostate, Swedish officials told her, "it's not our problem if you decided to become a Christian, and it's your problem." Meanwhile, Sweden, which is reputed as "the world's humanitarian conscience and a safe haven for refugees," continues accepting Muslim refugees, some of whom have helped make it known as the "rape capital of Europe."
Sweden recently decided to deport Aideen Strandsson, a female Iranian convert to Christianity. When Strandsson pleaded that in Iran she could face the death penalty as an apostate, Swedish officials told her, "it's not our problem if you decided to become a Christian, and it's your problem." (Image source: Facebook/Aideen Strandsson)
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Egypt: Authorities closed down the 1,300-member Virgin Mary and St. Paula Church in the Minya governorate. The closure came in response to local Muslim opposition groups who protested the existence of the church, which had served Christians from three separate villages. The Coptic Bishop of Minya, Anba Makarios, issued a public statement chiding officials for siding with the aggressors against the victims:
"The security apparatus has prevented Copts from practicing their rites in Kedwan, Minya, claiming that it was because of objections of some opposing factions in the village, and that it was necessary to be considerate of their feelings. However, this means that there is no consideration for the feelings of the Copts and those who do not ask for anything but to pray, as if the decision belonged to the opposing factions and not to a great state such as Egypt, which should have authority and law."
The Virgin Mary and St. Paula Church in Kedwan is just one of at least 15 Christian churches that have been closed in Minya province alone. "We have more than 15 places [of worship] closed on the order of the security apparatus, despite the existence of formal requests that are imprisoned in [desk] drawers," Makarios added in his statement. "Also, there are 70 villages, farmsteads and hamlets without places for prayers."
Separately in August, security officials prevented Christians from meeting and worshiping in a private home in the village of Forn, in Minya. They said the home lacked a permit for worship. In a letter entitled, "We were prevented from prayer like criminals," frustrated Christians wrote to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi:
"We were surprised to find police forces surrounding and entering the village to prevent the Egyptian Copts from prayer and were prevented from going out of our homes. We were attacked with inappropriate words ... As if we are criminals or outlaws and wanted for justice, accused of performing religious rituals. And is performing religious rituals a crime?"
Iraq: Christians returning to the Nineveh Plain continued to encounter the remains of the Islamic State's handiwork, including graffiti all around and inside their desecrated churches, such as "There is no place for the Cross in Islamic lands" and "The Cross is under our foot." The following German writing was found in one church:
"Oh you Cross worshippers, we'll kill you all. Germany is an Islamic land. You are weak and don't belong here.... Oh you Cross worshippers, you have no place in Islamic lands. Either you leave or we'll kill you."
"They'd [ISIS] used the statutes of Jesus and Mary for target practice," said one man of another church. "The altar was also destroyed. Daesh [ISIS] knew that the West would be reluctant to bomb a church, so [it] stored food and ammunition here." Much of the graffiti has since been removed and altars are being restored. "To see our Christian symbols again is almost as important as food for us," commented one Christian man.
Somaliland: After agreeing to the reopening of a Catholic Church, which had been closed for nearly 30 years, the government of the Muslim nation reversed its decision. Spokesmen cited public anger, fomented by Islamic religious leaders who claimed the church reopening was part of the government's conspiratorial plan to Christianize Somaliland. Explaining their decision during a press conference, Religious Affairs Minister, Sheikh Khalil Abdullahi Ahmed, said, "The Government of the Republic of Somaliland has decided to respect the wishes of its people and religious leaders and keep the church closed, as it has been for the past 30 years." The Catholic church was one of many churches built 70 years ago when Somaliland was a British Protectorate.
Sudan: The day after the Khartoum Parliament rejected the Ministry of Education's call for Church Schools to operate on Sundays and follow only the Muslim week—a decision "viewed by Christians in Sudan and around the world as another means of harassment and discrimination against the minority group" — on August 2, the Sudanese government demolished yet another church in Omdurman, just west of Khartoum, from their list of 27 churches to be demolished.
Muslim Contempt for and Abuse of Christians
Iraq: More reports indicating that Christian suffering is hardly limited to ISIS appeared in August. According to one, Chaldean Archbishop Habib Jajou said "that the remaining Christian families in Iraq fear that a new ISIS could come to power. He accused Baghdad of failing to foster religious tolerance amid the years of sectarian war and said a lot of people have been brainwashed by the terror group." He also pointed out that the education ministry should begin to acknowledge Iraq's Christian heritage and roots instead of falsely claiming that it was always Islamic and that Christians are essentially foreigners and agents of the West.
Pakistan: The Islamic nation's senate unanimously approved a bill requiring the compulsory teaching of the Koran to all primary and secondary school students, including non-Muslim ones. In part, the bill is meant to help the state discharge article 31(2) of the Pakistani constitution, which states that the "State shall endeavour to make the teachings of the Holy Qur'an and Islamiyat [all things Islamic] compulsory." However, according to Nasir Saeed, the director of a Christian human rights organization, the bill "will have a negative impact on the non-Muslim students... It will promote bigotry and hatred against non-Muslims in Pakistani society, something which is already on the rise."
Bangladesh: In the name of "fighting terrorism," the Muslim nation made changes to a law that forced approximately 200 Christian organizations to shut down. The Foreign Donations Regulation Bill, which is meant to be a check on terrorist cells receiving funds outside of Bangladesh, has especially created economic problems for Christian NGOs "geared specifically for the Christian community" explained one missionary. Because a majority of Christian organizations in overwhelmingly Muslim Bangladesh are economically supported from outside sources, 200 were no longer able to secure external funding and to close permanently.
Sudan: The Islamist government arrested seven church leaders for refusing to comply with a court order to turn over leadership of their congregation to a government appointment committee in an effort to dissolve the church. They were interrogated for several hours and then released on bail. "Police said that in arresting them they were implementing orders from the Ministry of Guidance and Religious Endowments to impose its committee as new SCOC leadership, presumably to sell off the church property in Sudan's bid to rid the country of Christianity," notes the report, adding that "the arrests were seen as part of a recent upsurge in harassment of Christians."
Separately, in order to help a wealthy Muslim businessman take over church property, police evicted two more pastors and their families from their homes and onto the streets. The pastors "were terrorized when police pounded on the doors shouting threats," "They came and knocked on the door strongly, they said, 'Should you not open, we will have to break it by force to get in," Pastor Nalu, 47-year-old father of a one-year-old boy, said. "The situation is very difficult, and we are living on the street."
Nigeria: Fulani terrorists, some allied with the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram, have been known to invade Christian farms and settlements and slaughter Christians. In August, when few such attacks were recorded, and (mostly Muslim) politicians portrayed the problem as settled, a Christian leader explained that, when not directly slaughtering Christians, Muslim Fulani herdsmen resort to "economic terrorism": "As we gleefully wallow in the false sense of peace on the Plateau," he said, "know it today that a deliberate economic terrorism and land-grabbing strategy is being launched on Christians of Riyom and Barkin Ladi on a daily basis with the sole aim of making them poor, weak and destitute in their own land."
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).
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