On May 19, four gunmen stormed the Church of Michael the Archangel in Grozny, the capital of Russia's Muslim-majority Republic of Chechnya, and killed three people -- a churchgoer and two police officers. The attackers were also killed in the gunfire exchange with security forces. (Image source: Alexxx1979/Wikimedia Commons)
The Extremists' Slaughter of Christians Inside Churches
Indonesia: Six suicide bombers from one Muslim family attacked three churches on May 13, during Sunday Mass services; at least 11 worshippers were killed. The suicide bombers consisted of a father, mother, and four children, two boys and two girls, aged 9,12, 16, and 18. According to the report:
"More than 40 people were injured in the blasts. The first attack that killed four people, including one or more bombers, occurred at the Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church... The father of the family accused of carrying out the suicide bombing had detonated a car bomb during his attack. The incident was followed by a second explosion at the Christian Church of Diponegoro that killed two people. In a third attack, at Pantekosta Church, two more died, police said."
A witness described one of the attacks, where the mother and the two youngest jihadis detonated themselves. Because she was carrying two suspicious bags (apparently of explosives), "officers blocked them in front of the churchyard, but the woman ignored them and forced her way inside. Suddenly (the bomb) exploded." The father "was very active in the mosque," said an acquaintance; "he never missed any of the five daily prayers, but he avoided discussing religion." "The four children were studying in schools run by the Muhammadiyah," long thought the most moderate Islamic school in Indonesia, said a family neighbor. "To me they were normal people," he added.
Russia: Four gunmen stormed a church in Grozny, the capital of Russia's Muslim-majority Republic of Chechnya, and killed three people, a churchgoer and two police officers, on May 19. The attackers — who were also armed with knives, hatchets and homemade explosives — were also killed in the gunfire exchange with security forces at the Church of Michael the Archangel. According to the report:
"It was not immediately clear whether there was any link between the attackers and extremist groups. But Chechnya has experienced attacks by Islamist extremists before, including those who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Women and men from majority Muslim areas of Russia, including Chechnya, have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight alongside the Islamic State there, and dozens have begun to return as the group has lost most of its territory.... Grozny once had a substantial ethnic Russian, Christian population but most of them fled during the wars. The church that was attacked Saturday is in the center of the city and was at the heart of some of the battles of the 1990s."
Three months earlier, a report entitled, "ISIS Tells Muslims to Kidnap and Murder Christians in Russian-Occupied Areas," had been published.
Central African Republic: Armed Muslims opened fire on, and hurled grenades at, a Catholic church on May 1. They killed between 16 and 24 people and injured 170. According to one report:
"Former members of a Muslim militia killed at least 16 people in an attack on a church in the Central African Republic... Notre Dame of Fatima, a Roman Catholic church in the capital, Bangui, was attacked Tuesday morning with grenades and gunfire by men allied with a rebel group once known as Seleka, an Islamic faction whose takeover of Bangui five years ago set off the country's continuing conflict."
A later report said, "at least 24 were killed and 170 injured by militants who sprayed bullets into the crowd and detonated grenades." This is "the second Catholic priest to be killed in about a month in the CAR [Central African Republic]. The murdered priest's church lies just outside the predominantly Muslim PK5 district of Bangui..." The New York Times reported:
"It was the second time in four years that Notre Dame of Fatima has become a symbol of the violence that has cleaved the country, often along religious lines. In 2014, Seleka rebels followed the same pattern, first throwing grenades and then opening fire indiscriminately, targeting people who had sought protection at the church from ongoing clashes."
Nigeria: Armed Muslim herdsmen raided a Catholic seminary in Jalingo. According to a priest who was shot, "Fulani herdsmen who were armed to their teeth stormed the school premises" and "opened fire at my window and destroyed my telephone set and other valuables." They then "forced the students to lead them to my room and beat me with their sticks and immediately I fell down [and] one of them shot me in my leg." Discussing such raids, the local bishop said that "it is regrettable as a church because we are only modeling the children to be good citizens of Nigeria and the world at large."
The Extremist Muslim Slaughter of Christians Outside Churches
Pakistan: A Muslim family beat, tied down, raped, and then murdered a Christian teen in front of her father, because she, their live-in maid, did not do her household chores to their satisfaction. On May 5, her father and another relative went to visit the girl at her employer's home. According to the report:
"When they entered the house they saw Muhammad Asif, Muhammad Kashif, Muhammad Tariq Pasran, Muhammad Ismael and wife of Muhammad Asif and another lady were torturing Kainat [his daughter]... Asif Gujjar and his wife were seizing the legs of Kainat while Muhammad Kashif and Muhammad Tariq Pasran had grabbed her arms. They had tied a rope around her neck and were trying to strangle her. Salamat Masih said that they begged not to kill his daughter but they did not pay any heed to his plea. They killed Kianat in front of his eyes. ... Salamat Masih claims that his daughter was killed for not cleaning the house properly."
A separate report said that "a post-mortem study ... also found evidence of rape on the teenager." Because they and their families are usually condemned to lives of extreme poverty, "Christian girls are too frequently placed into domestic servitude contracts from ages as young as 10. Many of these girls suffer cruel beatings and rape from depraved men and jealous wives," the British Pakistani Christian Association said while discussing this latest atrocity.
Uganda: Not content with killing a Muslim convert to Christianity, Muslim villagers also mutilated his corpse, according to a May 4 report. After Kuzaifa became a Christian two years ago, his family instantly ostracized him. He, his wife, and two young children fled to, and found refuge with, a pastor, and eventually moved more than 100 miles away from their home village. "You think you are safe in Kampala," the text messages started coming in. "We shall soon come for your neck." Then, on April 1, while returning from work, he was attacked and killed by unidentified persons. When his wife went to her husband's family to inform them of his death, her father-in-law received her coldly, saying, "My son thought that he can run away from Allah, but he could not." According to the report, "On April 4, family members and other Muslims took the body from the mortuary and buried it in an indecent manner." "Word went around that Kuzaifa's body was mutilated and not properly buried," said his wife. "His body was not washed, several pins were inserted into his body, they dug a very small grave for the body, and several cuts were made on his corpse." Christians responded by exhuming his body; "[t]hey washed it and provided a decent burial service." Now it is his wife's turn to be targeted: "If you continue with Christianity," came one text message, "you will go the same way of your husband."
Mozambique: Suspected Islamic terrorists beheaded 10 people with machetes in the Christian-majority nation on May 29. "There are 10 citizens who have been hideously killed," said a police spokesman. "The environment is scary." Although it was not immediately clear who was behind the atrocity, "local sources blamed the attack on Islamists," said the report; "Cabo Delgado province has seen a number of attacks by suspected radical Islamists since October ." The group, known as Al Shabaab — Arabic for "the Youth" — is not believed to be affiliated to the other Islamic terror group of the same name in Somalia. "On the one hand the rate of attacks appears to intensify," said one analyst, "on the other hand, the methods seem to be radicalized, with decapitations becoming more and more common."
The Legal Jihad on Christian Churches
Algeria: Authorities shut down "two more Protestant churches, amidst growing pressure on the country's Christian minority," according to a May 29 report. Police sealed off the two churches in an area "where much of the growth in the Church is happening." One of the churches was established in 2005 and was attended by more than 200 worshippers. In the words of one of its leaders, "The officers came in on Friday morning. They simply sealed off the main entrance without a prior notice, as was the case before with other ... churches." A leader from another church had also received a similar telephone call from a police officer who said, "I'm calling to inform you that we have received an order to close your church." Soon after, a group of officers appeared and sealed off that church, too. According to the Christian advocacy group, Middle East Concern:
"The Algerian government has been criticized for discrimination against the country's Christian minority. Churches and individual Christians have faced increased restrictions in recent months, raising concerns that these pressures signal a coordinated campaign of intensified action against churches by the governing authorities."
Tanzania: After Muslim sheikhs from a mosque in the Muslim-majority, semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar complained that the Sunday services of a nearby church were too loud, authorities shut it down — even though, unlike the mosque, the church did not employ loudspeakers. As the bishop was in the middle of a sermon, a plainclothes police officer and other local officials walked into the church. "One of the police officers in civilian clothes walked through the church's door, stepped up to the podium and then grabbed the bishop by the arm," a church member said. "The bishop pleaded with him to allow him finish the preaching." According to a May 24 report,
"The congregation of the Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church in Kisauni ... was gripped with fear that day (May 6) as the pulpit microphone picked up Bishop Daniel Kwileba Kwiyeya's plea. The regional and local district commissioners ordered him to stop the worship service as the officer dragged him into a police car..."
"Why are you arresting my father without giving us the reasons for his arrest?" the bishop's daughter cried. "This is very inhumane." The local district commissioner responded by slapping her and pushing her into the police vehicle, which hauled her and her father to the police station. They were released on the next day. "We have the right to worship God just like our brothers the Muslims who worship God using loudspeakers, but no one terms their worship a nuisance," said a church member. "We as the church are of the opinion that the order to close the church is tainted with favoritism and unconstitutional."
Saudi Arabia: Although a number of mainstream media including Fox News and Al Jazeera announced that the Vatican and Saudi Arabia had made a "historic" deal allowing the existence of churches on Saudi soil
s, the Vatican denied it as fake news. As one report explains, Saudi Arabia would have to completely remake itself before such a scenario can occur:
"The country follows a strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam and it is impossible for anyone living in the country to openly practice Christianity. There are hundreds of thousands of Christians from other nations, such as the Philippines, other parts of Asia, or African countries, who are living and working in Saudi Arabia. But they must meet in private homes to worship, and risk harassment, arrest and deportation if they are caught doing so..... The Kingdom's administrative laws state that its constitution is the 'The Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Sunnah (traditions),' and the judicial system operates on a strict interpretation of sharia law, which officially carries the death penalty for any Muslim citizen who converts to Christianity. Adult males and females are both subject to the death penalty for apostasy from Islam under the Sunni Hanbali form of sharia law practiced in Saudi Arabia."
Muslim Threats to Christian Churches
United States: A Muslim man disrupted two separate church services, one at Saint Matthew Parish, and another at BlueStone Church, in the course of a week, in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. According to John Stange, who was leading the service at BlueStone Church:
"[W]hile I spoke this evening about the sacrificial love of Jesus and how Jesus calls us to love one another with that same kind of sacrificial love, I noticed that a man pulled his car up to the entrance of the church and he sat there during the course of the message for over 35 minutes. ...As I was wrapping up the message, he began yelling into the building. I wasn't sure what he was saying at first, so I stopped speaking and walked toward him so I could engage in conversation with him. It quickly became clear that he took great offense to what I was preaching about, and in the midst of yelling at me he stated, 'You press on my nerves. You press on Muslims' nerves. You're going straight to Hell on the day of judgment.' Apparently, he was Muslim and he wanted to make sure that I knew he had a problem with the Christian message I was preaching. Needless to say, this experience made all of us uncomfortable."
France: A Muslim man walked into a cathedral and threatened to blow it up for preaching the Gospel and not the Koran. According to the May 3 report (original French here), the 37-year-old man, known only by his first name, Ahmed, "barged into local landmark St Vincent's Cathedral of Chalon-sur-Saône," and started yelling that "It is the Quran that must be read!" and that he had a "grenade and would blow up the church." During his court trial, it was revealed that Ahmed "has a long history of criminality with 27 prior criminal convictions including three cases of death threats and seven convictions for theft." The report continued:
"Father Thierry de Marsac, who heads the Roman Catholic parish of Saint Vincent, said that everyone in the cathedral at the time remained calm but he expressed he was concerned at the time, thinking of the brutal murder of Father Jacques Hamel who was killed by radical Islamic terrorists in 2016."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
Indonesia: On May 7, a court sentenced a Christian pastor, Reverend Abraham Ben Moses, 52, to four years in prison for "blasphemy" against Islam's prophet Muhammad. A former Muslim, Abraham, after his conversion, was known to enjoy evangelizing and debating with Muslims. He was arrested in December 2017, after a video he posted of himself sharing his new Christian faith with a Muslim taxi driver went viral. The video apparently prompted the Muhammadiyah ("Muhammadans"), a leading Islamic group in Indonesia with nearly 30 million members, to lodge a complaint against him. Because in the video, he criticized marriage as taught by Muhammad and in the Koran, apparently compared to Christian monogamy, "Abraham was," according to the report, "convicted under Electronic and Information Transactions Law No. 11/2008 as he intentionally spread information intended to incite hatred against an individual, group and society based on religion." A Muhammadiyah spokesman responded by saying that, "This decision should be appreciated and should serve as a valuable lesson for all parties." Conversely, human rights groups such as International Christian Concern say that:
"The Indonesian government should revisit the country's blasphemy law, as it is increasingly being exploited by radical Muslim groups to target individuals who they find to be offensive and theologically 'out-of-line.' To honor religious freedom as enshrined in Indonesia's constitution, the government must respect all religions and stop criminalizing Christians when they are merely exercising their right to free speech."
Algeria: The appeal of a Christian pastor -- a 37-year-old father of three -- who was found guilty of "undermining the faith of a Muslim" was rejected by a court of law on May 16. His troubles began when someone informed a security checkpoint to inspect his vehicle thoroughly; the officers seized 56 books, including the Gospel of Mathew, Bibles, a Bible commentary, a book on church history and some pamphlets. Pastor Nouredine Belabed, a former Muslim, explained that he "meant to distribute them free to other Christians or any other person who wanted to know Christ." During his sentencing "the judge was harsh," and "used intimidation," according to Belabed. The judge, he said, repeatedly upbraided him: "Why do you carry those Christian books? Are not you ashamed? You're not ashamed to do that? Algeria is a Muslim country." "I did not do anything wrong, judge," Belabed responded. "The Bibles I carried were intended for members of our community, our Tiaret church, which is affiliated with the EPA [the formally recognized church of Algeria]. I did not give them to others or try to evangelize anyone."
According to the verdict, "Nouredine B. alone was found guilty for carrying and distributing Christian articles in order to undermine and destabilize the faith of a Muslim, in accordance with Article 11/02 of Law 03/06, and for that he is ordered to pay a fine of 100,000. DA [dinars]." The fine, equivalent to about $ 862 USD, is considered very large. "I am tired," says Belabed. "The police keep watching us, my wife and me. They watch all our movements. I do not want to inflict more on my family than that; I decide to choose to pay the fine."
Law 03/06 calls for a prison term of as much as five years and a fine of up to one million dinars ($8,687 USD) for anyone who:
"incites, constrains, or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion, or using for this purpose the institutions of education, health, social, cultural, or educational institutions, or other establishment, or financial advantage; or makes, stores or distributes printed documents or films or other audiovisual medium or means intended to undermine the faith of a Muslim."
Separately, on May 3, a court fined Idir Hamdad, a 29-year-old Muslim convert to Christianity, 20,000 dinars ($172 USD) for "importing unlicensed goods" — a reference to the Bible and crucifix keyrings which were donated to him by a church when he was visiting Jordan, and which custom officials confiscated from him at the airport when he returned in late 2017. "After they opened my luggage, suddenly I found myself surrounded by multitudes of police and customs officers," Hamdad explained.
"The customs officer began to gesticulate in all directions to attract attention. And I, still in astonishment, still did not understand what was happening to me."
One after another, sometimes at the same time, the officials peppered him with questions, he said.
"It fell on me like a rain: 'Are you a Christian? Where do you come from? Who gave you these objects? And those Christian books, who gave them to you? Who is it for?'" he said.
Two police officers grabbed him and forced him to follow them out of the international terminal to the national terminal, where they held him for eight hours without food or water, he said.
"In this quarantine, the representatives of the law did not fail to abuse their authority to insult me," he said. "They had repeatedly tried to persuade me to renounce my Christian faith and return to Islam: 'If you renounce now your Christianity and you do the chahada [Islamic conversion creed], we will let you leave right away, and there will be no prosecution against you.'"
"To condemn a Christian...with about 20 keychains, including four or five bearing crucifixes, and six scarves ... is ridiculous in view of Article 365 of the Code of Customs," his attorney said, adding that none of the items violated Algerian customs law.
Somalia: A small community of about 30 elderly Christians live in constant fear that their relatives — particularly their grandchildren — will slaughter them in what is arguably the worst Muslim nation in the world in which to be Christian. According to one man, speaking under the pseudonym of Moses:
"Violence is in [our] homes and we, who are few, we risk our lives every day.... Those born in the 90s have become intolerant and do not understand their elders who profess Christianity. Therefore the elders flee, go away from their children and grandchildren."
He added that some of these Christian grandparents have already been "killed by their children's children."
Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
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