On Sunday, March 17, arsonists torched the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris soon after midday mass. Such incidences have become prevalent in France, where on average two churches are desecrated every day. Pictured: The Church of St. Sulpice. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
When it comes to violence between Muslims and non-Muslims, March news was dominated by the Christchurch massacres in New Zealand, where, on March 15, an Australian man killed 51 Muslims in two mosques. A statistical report that did some number-crunching, however, found that "a Christian living in a majority Muslim country is 143 times more likely to be killed by a Muslim for being a Christian than a Muslim is likely to be killed by a non-Muslim in a Western country for being what he is."
The report — citing that "at least 4,305 Christians ... were murdered by Muslims because of their faith in 2018" and that "300 million Christians, overwhelmingly in the majority-Muslim countries, were subjected to violence" — refers to the persecution of Christians by Muslims as "the most egregious example of human right violations in today's world. The report also found other, similar disparities. In France, for example, "Frenchmen are exactly ten times more likely to be murdered by a Muslim than a Muslim being killed by a non-Muslim terrorist anywhere in the Western world."
The Massacre of Christians
Nigeria: As in previous months, dozens of Christians were massacred and churches destroyed at the hands of Muslims in the West Africa nation. A partial list follows:
On March 4, Muslims slaughtered 23 Christian villagers. "It was bad," said a local in reference to the incident. "Some were killed by gunshots and some by machete hacks!... The displaced persons are scattered all over..."
Three days later, the Muslim terrorists launched another raid in the same area during which three people were killed. Commenting on that attack, a local pastor said, "Even today, they attacked. One of my members came to report that his father was killed, and another member said his son-in-law was also killed."
On March 11 Muslim tribesmen slaughtered more than 70 Christians and injured 28 in another region in Kaduna State. According to eyewitnesses, the terrorists were "torching houses, shooting and hacking down anything that moved." About 100 houses were destroyed in the attack. Another report noted that "[t]he victims included women and children. According to survivors, their assailants divided into three groups; one group was shooting, another set fire to homes as people ran away, and the third waited in the bush to intercept fleeing villagers."
On March 16, Muslim herdsmen killed another 10 Christians in southern Kaduna state, "bringing the lives lost in the past five weeks to 140 with 160 houses destroyed," according to the report. "We were all asleep in our various homes when at about 4 a.m., we heard gunshots everywhere in my village," said a local Christian. "Everyone ran out of their homes to escape from the Fulani herdsmen. Three hours after the herdsmen left, those of us who survived the attack returned to the village to find that [30 of] our houses were destroyed and 10 of our villagers killed."
On March 14, Boko Haram jihadis attacked another predominantly Christian village. Although most people managed to flee into the bush, the jihadis killed one person, kidnapped two sisters, and burned down a church and six homes. A church leader said the local pastor had called him soon after the raid: "I could hear desperation in his voice, just coming out of the bush. His voice sounded completely demoralized as he was saying only God... We don't know what else to do! There's no security presence here." The church leader further "regrets that these attacks are rarely reported on by the local media anymore. As a result, their people continue to suffer in silence, with minimal help from others."
On March 23, right after "beating, raping and killing a 19-year-old Christian woman," Muslims attacked two predominantly Christian villages, and burned down 28 Christian homes and two churches. Joy Danlami and her younger sister and brother, 16 and 14 respectively, were ambushed while walking home from a Christian community feast; the two younger siblings survived with machete and gunshot wounds. According to their father, "The armed herdsmen chased them with dangerous weapons. Joy's nose and face was battered, and then she was sexually assaulted by the herdsmen before being killed. She was shot."
After finding the slaughtered body of a kidnapped Catholic priest who had been abducted two weeks earlier, two other church leaders were also kidnapped on March 25. One of the men, the Rev. Emmanuel Haruna of the Evangelical Church Winning All, was seized at gunpoint outside his church. Earlier, in 2016 he had spoken out against Muslim tribesmen raids on Christian communities: "Fulani herdsmen take their cattle to farms of our church members and destroy their crops, and security agents have not been able to take measures to stop them." The report adds that "It is estimated by the United Nations Centre for Peace and Disarmament that of the 500 million illegal weapons that flooded into West Africa after the Libyan crisis in 2011, 350 million (70%) ended up in Nigeria, supplying the predominantly Muslim herders with added teeth in their campaign against Christian farmers."
On Sunday, March 10, "Boko Haram Suicide bombers tried to enter a Catholic Church service," says a report:
"The two bombers, who were women, tried to enter the church through a clinic before being stopped, and then detonating the bombs a short distance outside the church. Despite the two bombs going off, only one person other than the bombers was reportedly injured..... It is very likely that the two bombers were captives of Boko Haram who were forced to commit this attack. Boko Haram is known for kidnapping women and children and forcing them to act as suicide bombers for their attacks. In 2017, between January and August, UNICEF reported on at least 83 children having been used by the group as suicide bombers."
Democratic Republic of Congo: "Islamic militants," notes a report, "attacked the dominantly Christian village of Kalau in the North Kivu province." Six Christians, including three women and a 9-year-old child, were slaughtered. The rest of the villagers, "an estimated 470 families evacuated their homes following the incident." The terrorists are part of the Allied Democratic Forces, "a group that was designed to overthrow the Ugandan government in the 90's and replace it with an Islamic regime. The group has been known for associating with other terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda. They are responsible for thousands of deaths..."
Attacks on Churches
Ethiopia: In a rampage that lasted five hours, large Muslim mobs shouting "Allahu Akbar" ("Allah is the greatest") attacked ten churches, "destroying one and burning the property inside all the structures," notes a report. The attacks, which were apparently sparked by a false rumor that a local mosque had been attacked, occurred in "a predominantly Muslim town with nearly all Christians there having moved from surrounding villages for work reasons, creating an underlying tension." Several Christians were injured and required hospital treatment. One of the desecrated churches has since been vandalized again, and its Christians threatened and harassed. Although only one church was destroyed during the rampage, "the other nine church buildings were not set ablaze only because of the risk to neighboring Muslim-owned properties," the report stated. Instead, "[t]he contents of all the churches were removed from the buildings and set on fire on the street.... Huge amounts of property were destroyed, including Bibles, song books, instruments, benches and chairs."
The report incorrectly refers to these attacks as "unprecedented." Last year, for example, 19 churches were torched — and 15 Christian priests killed, four burned alive — during Muslim uprisings in the east, where most of Ethiopia's 33% Muslim population is centered. Similarly, in 2011, after a Christian was accused of desecrating a Koran, "Muslim extremists set fire to roughly 50 churches and dozens of Christian homes."
Sudan: A report by the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), a UK based NGO, found that 72 churches were either torched or demolished in the Nuba Mountains region in 2018. Elaborating on these developments, a separate report noted that the
"Nuba Mountains is home to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North, a rebel group fighting the oppression of the Sudanese National government. Due to this, the Sudanese government has been committing genocide against the people living in the Nuba Mountains for years.
"They indiscriminately bomb the region, trying to clear it of the rebel army. However, they often just kill and maim the local civilian population who has nothing to do with the fight. They also destroy homes and churches in the attacks. The people living in the Nuba Mountains are primarily traditional believers or Christians. This also contributes to the attacks, as Bashir, the countries president, believes that the country is only for Muslims ever since South Sudan gained its independence."
Sudan is considered the sixth-worst nation in the world in which to be Christian.
Germany: Four separate churches were vandalized or torched in March. "In this country," the report explained, "there is a creeping war against everything that symbolizes Christianity.... Crosses are broken, altars smashed, Bibles set on fire, baptismal fonts overturned, and the church doors smeared with Islamic expressions such as 'Allahu Akbar.'" In the Alps and Bavaria alone, around 200 churches were attacked and many crosses broken: "Police are currently dealing with church desecrations again and again. The perpetrators are often youthful rioters with a migration background."
France: On Sunday, March 17, arsonists torched the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris soon after midday mass. Such incidences have become prevalent in France, where on average two churches are desecrated every day. In the previous month, February, vandals plundered and used human excrement to draw a cross on the Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in Nimes and desecrated and smashed crosses and statues at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur . In 2018 alone, 1,063 attacks on Christian churches or symbols (crucifixes, icons, statues) were registered in France.
Algeria: Throughout March, Algerians protested against a fifth term for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. In an attempt to exploit the unrest, al-Qaeda publicized new content, calling for Sharia governance in the North African nation, and referred to those protesting against Bouteflika as the "sons of Islam," while presenting Bouteflika as "loyal to the Jews and Christians." According to the report, "Terrorist groups have a long history of attempting to take advantage of political unrest to capitalize upon and increase hardline Islamic sentiment. Christians are often used in their propaganda as part of their efforts." In reality, nevertheless, "Algerian Christians have faced heavy persecution at the hands of the government."
On March 3, in fact, the French Parliament "officially opened an inquiry into the persecution of Christians in Algeria," according to a separate report:
"The inquiry specifically points to Algeria's closure of churches and legal proceedings held against Christian leaders, including those who imported Christian books. Algeria uses building safety committees to shutter churches indefinitely. The authorities also create substantial obstacles for the opening of new churches, making it impossible and leaving Christians to worship in buildings intended for other uses. Algeria has cracked down against churches since 2017, increasingly forcing Christians out of the public sphere. The authorities have not only closed churches, but have also targeted Christian leaders. Algeria's constitution provides for the freedom of worship but declares Islam to be the state religion. Insulting or offending Islam is considered a criminal offense. In addition to imprisonment, convicted Christians can also face hefty fines if convicted of blasphemy."
Kazakhstan: Police raided two unregistered churches on two consecutive Sundays. Several members were fined; one had to pay the rough equivalent of two months wages. Discussing these developments, a separate report says:
"Since 2011, when the government introduced a new religion law, Christians have faced heightened restrictions on meetings and 'missionary activity.' To obtain registration, churches are required to provide the names and addresses of at least 50 members, an impossibility for smaller congregations. Kazakhstan is officially a secular state; around 70% of the population are Muslim, with Christians comprising about 26%. Many Christians are from a Russian background and some are ethnic Kazakhs who have converted from Islam. Protestant Christians, and especially those from a Muslim background, are viewed with great distrust."
Attacks on Apostates, Blasphemers, and Preachers
Netherlands: As evidence that "Christian refugees in the country are being threatened or bullied on a regular basis, especially when they used to be Muslim," a March 14 report recounted the experiences of three such Christian refugees:
"Directly after my conversion to Christianity" in 1999, after reaching the Netherlands, Faradoun Fouad from Iraq "received the first threats. People who I thought were my friends, became my enemies.... Even Muslims who are not very conservative told my wife that they would kill me.... I'm still getting threats every single day."
"After my conversion" to Christianity, "the threats started," said Esther Mulder, whose Muslim family fled Somalia. "Most of the time they're coming from other Somalis. They write to me in Somali, so no one else is able to understand what they're saying. We once posted [on Facebook] a picture of a Somali conference where everyone was standing in front of a cross. People didn't like it and we received several threats. I was really sorry about that." When Mulder visits her family, "my father leaves the house. The last thing he ever said to me, is that I'm no longer his daughter."
"In 2015 I became a Christian," said Jassim, from Morocco. "My mother taught me to respect everyone and to be kind. That was in stark contrast to what Islam was teaching me. I had to hate and curse Jews and Christians. Muhammed was my big role model, but his life was bad. He killed Jews and married a girl of six. How could he be my role model?" Due to the large volume of threats he was getting, "I went to the police with eight pages full of threats.... The police advised me to delete my picture from my website.... It's strange isn't it: I'm not doing anything wrong, why would I need to hide? I live in a free country."
Afghanistan: A former Islamic child soldier, Jahan, 24, who converted to Christianity — despite "threats to his life" — said he was taught to kill people who were Christian because they were "infidels and no good." He eventually, however, began "reading the Bible for himself," an experience he described as "eye opening." He discovered that "what he had been taught about Christians and Christianity was wrong" and eventually converted — only "to flee from his family who threatened to kill him when they heard about his new faith." According to the report, "Persecution in Afghanistan is extreme for the country's tiny Christian community. Most Afghani Christians are converts from Islam and face extremely real and extremely deadly threats because of their conversion. In some cases, Christian converts are attacked by their own family who are ashamed that one of their own has become a Christian." Afghanistan is considered the world's second-worst persecutor of Christians.
Kenya: Muslims beat the Christian pastor of an underground church with wooden clubs on March 6. He suffered, among other injuries, a broken thigh bone. According to the report, "Pastor Abdul (surname withheld for security reasons), a 30-year-old father of three, had finished leading a prayer gathering at 9 p.m. on the outskirts of Garissa and was on his way back to his house when several ethnic Somali Muslims attacked." As the Muslims approached, one said, "We have been following your movements and your evil plans of changing Muslims to Christianity." "Immediately," continues Pastor Abdul, "several assailants began hitting me with wooden clubs, and I became unconscious. I woke up and found myself surrounded by neighbors. I was rescued by the neighbors who found me in a pool of blood." They rushed him to a hospital: "Apart from the thigh pain, I now feel pain all over my body, especially the waist, the back and my left leg near the ankle. I'm almost unable to bear the pain. My family is in great fear, and Christians have located us to another place. Our prayer for now is to get a safe place for my family. My life and that of my family," a wife and three children, 8, 5, and 3, "is at stake."
Pakistan: A mentally ill Christian man was apprehended for blasphemy. Stephen Masih was arrested after Muhammad Rafiq and Muhammad Imran told Muhammad Mudassar—a renowned hafiz, one who has memorized the entire Koran—that the Christian "had made derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)," the report states. Stephen, 38, is unmarried and lives with his mother and sister. After contracting typhoid fever as a child, and receiving little medical attention due to his family's poverty, the family noticed changes in his behavior; he was eventually taken to a "doctor [who] declared him mentally disabled." On March 10, Stephen got into a loud quarrel with his mother and sister. Female Muslim neighbors soon got involved and before long "a few Muslim men ... pulled Stephen out of his house and started beating him brutally, gradually joined by others." Police eventually arrived and arrested Masih based on the testimony of the local cleric. Afterwards, his sister Alia "went to the police station. She says her brother only shouted and used abusive language against the local ladies but did not utter any derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but the police didn't believe her." If convicted, Stephen could face the death penalty. According to Section 295-C of Pakistan's penal code, "Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine."
General Abuse and Rape of Christians
Pakistan: A Muslim man abducted, tortured and forced a married Christian mother of three to convert to Islam and marry him. When her original husband, Naveed Iqbal, reported the matter to police, the only action they took was "to alert the suspect, Muhammad Khalid Satti, that he [Naveed, the Christian husband] had filed a report against him for abducting his wife, Saima," says the report. Then, "[o]n March 5, police informed me, said Naveed, that Saima had been found ... but that she had converted to Islam and married Satti," and that "a local Muslim cleric had solemnized" their marriage. Local police further counseled him "to forget about his wife and stop pursuing the case," even though they had been married and raising children for 15 years. "Satti is a hardened criminal, and this is not the first time he has targeted Christians," the 40-year-old Catholic husband elaborated. "Some 300-400 Christian families live in the area, and almost everyone has been bullied or tortured by Satti and his accomplices over the years." It was only after Naveed threatened to set himself on fire before senior officers, that police arrested Muhammad. However, before the hearing, "the accused and the IO [Information Officer] both threatened Saima to say that she had converted to Islam and married Satti of her free will, otherwise her family would suffer severe consequences. Fearing for our lives, Saima said what she had been forced to say, resulting in grant of bail to Satti." The wife later told her husband how she was kidnapped, raped, tortured and then forced to sign a marriage certificate. "She also showed me the torture marks on her body, and how she had been coerced into submitting to the demands of her tormentor." Naveed decided to do all he could to get her justice, including uploading a widely watched video of his wife tearfully explaining her ordeal and appealing to Prime Minister Imran Khan for justice. "The video was a desperate attempt to get the attention of senior government officials, because the police were openly siding with the accused." It worked, and Muhammad was arrested again. Although reunited with her husband and three children, aged 4, 8 and 13, Naveed said his wife is suffering from post-traumatic stress: "She is not the same person now, but I have faith that the Lord will heal her spirit with time."
In a separate incident, three Muslim men kidnapped a 13-year-old Christian girl, forced her to convert to Islam and marry one of her abductors. When the girl's distraught family finally discovered her whereabouts, her new Muslim family insisted that she had willingly become Muslim and produced a forged marriage certificate falsely indicating that she was 18, the legal age of marriage.
Discussing the regular abuses Christian and other minorities suffer in Pakistan, an independent March 28 report says:
"Across Pakistan, women and girls from religious minority communities are targeted by extremists for abduction and forced conversion. According to the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 girls and women, ranging in age between 12 and 25, are victimized by their cruel practice every year. Pakistan's Hindu and Christian communities are most effected.... Forced conversions to Islam remains one of the cruelest abuses suffered by Pakistan's minority communities. Practitioners of this abuse often use rape and forced marriage as a means to cover up their crime. To compound the matter, the majority of victims claim that Pakistan's police force is often unhelpful and regularly sides with the kidnappers because of their shared religious identity."
Egypt: On Sunday, March 17, the ruling court in Minya surprised the Coptic Christian community by recusing itself and stepped down from two ongoing cases concerning victimizing and killing Christians. Due to this unexpected move, both cases — which had already been at court for three and six years — must now be retried anew, a process that will likely take several more years.
The first case concerns Soa'd Thabet, a 70-year-old Coptic Christian grandmother. On May 20, 2016, a mob of 300 Muslim men descended on her home, stripped her completely naked, beat, spit on, and paraded her in the streets to jeers, whistles, and triumphant shouts of "Allahu Akbar." They were angry because her son was allegedly involved with a Muslim woman.
The second case goes back to July 2013, when General Abdel Fattah Sisi ousted then-President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, after massive popular demonstrations against Morsi. Then, Brotherhood sympathizers all around Egypt rioted, mostly targeting Coptic Christian people, homes, and especially churches. Almost one hundred churches were set ablaze or destroyed. During these rampages, rioters randomly killed an elderly Coptic man, Iskandar (Alexander) and dragged his body on the ground to jeers and more cries of "Allahu Akbar" (graphic video here). His corpse was then hurled into a garbage bin. For three days, his children were prevented from retrieving it for burial. An unknown person eventually buried Iskandar in an unmarked grave. His relentless murderers found the grave, exhumed the mangled body, propped it up, and used it for target practice.
In both the case of the Christian woman and the slaughtered Christian man, the names and faces of the assailants and murderers are well known. Commenting on the recusal, Adel Guindy, of Coptic Solidarity told Gatestone, "The judiciary system in Egypt, as well as the rest of the pillars of the state (often referred to as the 'deep state') have become impregnated with fundamentalist Islamic ideology, and are thus decidedly biased against Copts. The political leadership of the country takes no concrete corrective measures and, worse still, lets this ideology shape and dominate the society, through education and media."
United Kingdom: In two unrelated cases, the United Kingdom denied asylum to persecuted Christians by bizarrely citing the Bible and Islam. Both Christians, a man and a woman, are former Muslims who were separately seeking asylum from the Islamic Republic of Iran, the ninth-worst persecutor of Christians, particularly those who were formerly Muslims, as in these two cases.
In his rejection letter from the UK's Home Office, the Iranian man was told that biblical passages were "inconsistent" with his claim to have converted to Christianity after discovering it was a "peaceful" faith. The letter cited several biblical excerpts, including from Exodus, Leviticus, and Matthew, as supposed proof that the Bible is violent; it said Revelation was "filled with imagery of revenge, destruction, death and violence." The rejection letter concluded: "These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a 'peaceful' religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge."
In the second case, an Iranian female asylum seeker was sarcastically informed in her rejection letter that "You affirmed in your AIR [Asylum Interview Record] that Jesus is your saviour, but then claimed that He would not be able to save you from the Iranian regime. It is therefore considered that you have no conviction in your faith and your belief in Jesus is half-hearted." Discussing her experiences, the woman said: "When I was in Iran I converted to Christianity and the situation changed and the government were [sic] looking for me and I had to flee from Iran.... In my country if someone converts to Christianity their punishment is death or execution." Concerning the asylum process, she said that whenever she responded to her Home Office interviewer, "he was either chuckling or maybe just kind of mocking when he was talking to me.... [H]e asked me why Jesus didn't help you from the Iranian regime or Iranian authorities."
These two recently exposed cases appear to be symptomatic of the Home Office's bias against Christians (more fully documented here).
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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