A Muslim man broke into Holy Cross, a historic Armenian cathedral on Akhtamar Island in eastern Turkey, and proceeded to recite the adhan — the Islamic call to prayer— and to scrawl graffiti on the church walls, according to a July 2 report. (Image source: Mishukdero/Wikimedia Commons)
The following are among the abuses that were inflicted on Christians throughout the month of July 2020:
The Slaughter of Christians
Uganda: A group of Muslims beat and drowned a pastor and another Christian for sharing the Gospel with other Christians. Peter Kyakulaga, pastor of the Church of Christ, and church member Tuule Mumbya, had begun to sail across Lake Nakuwa, where they would meet and evangelize to Muslims. More "hard-line" Muslims disliked this: "We have discovered that your mission is not to fish but to hold Christian meetings and then convert Muslims to Christianity," a man told them. "We are not going to take this mission of yours lightly. This is our last warning to you." The next day in late June, Christian villagers came knocking on the door of David Nabyoma, a local leader:
"They were requesting help, saying Muslims from Lugonyola had invaded the area around the lakeside, and several Christians were reported to have been injured, including my son. Immediately we rushed to the scene of the incident with several Christians. We hired four boats and drove to the lake and found out that two of the Christians had been badly beaten and drowned in the lake and died instantly."
Kyakulaga, 25, is survived by a wife and two children, aged 2 and 4; Mumbya, 22, is survived by a wife and a 2-year-old child.
Mozambique: Islamic militants have been responsible for "escalating extremist violence" in Cabo Delgado Province, where they are attempting to carve out an Islamic state [Note: on August 14, ISIS captured the port], and "where multiple churches have been burnt, people beheaded, young girls kidnapped, and hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the violence," according to a July 23 report. More than a thousand people have been slaughtered since 2017, when the Islamic uprising began. In one week in June, 15 people were beheaded in the Christian-majority nation. Discussing the situation, Bishop Lisboa said: "The world has no idea yet what is happening because of indifference. We do not yet have the solidarity that there should be."
One of the worst incidents occurred on Good Friday, when the terrorists torched a church and massacred 52 people. After explaining how five or six chapels were torched in just one recent month, the bishop described what happened to the historic Sacred Heart of Jesus mission:
"They attacked the church and burnt the benches and a statue of Our Lady, made of ebony. They also destroyed an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom the parish is dedicated. Fortunately, they were unable to burn the building itself, only the benches."
What is happening is "an injustice that is crying out to heaven" he concluded. Paulo Rangel, a Portuguese Member of European Parliament, also discussed the situation in Mozambique: "The international community is nowhere to be seen in regard to the problem," he said:
"The people were already living in extreme poverty, facing grave difficulties. [The] problem is that at the present moment these people are facing the threat of death, of losing their homes, of becoming uprooted.... At present we know that there are young girls who have been abducted and enslaved, forced into sexual slavery by some of these guerrillas, these insurgents, these terrorists...We know that the recruitment of boys and adolescents, some of them very young, aged 14, 15, 16, is also happening. It is obvious that these young boys are under coercion. If they refuse to join the group, they could be killed."
Nigeria: In a 35-second video posted July 22, Islamic terrorists executed five men, three of whom were Christians. Blindfolded and on their knees, with the executors standing behind them, one of the terrorists said,
"This is a message to all those being used by infidels to convert Muslims to Christianity. We want you out there to understand that those of you being used to convert Muslims to Christianity are only being used for selfish purposes. And that is the reason whenever we capture you, they don't care to rescue you or work towards securing your release from us; and this is because they don't need you or value your lives. We therefore, call on you to return to Allah by becoming Muslims. We shall continue to block all routes you travel. If you don't heed our warning, the fate of these five individuals will be your fate."
Then the speaker says bismillah — meaning, "in the name of Allah" — and the executioners shoot their captives in the backs of their heads.
In addition, at least 171 Christians were slaughtered by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in the space of roughly three weeks. Summaries of some follow:
- On July 10, Muslim herdsmen massacred 22 Christians — "mostly women and children" — and torched many homes. "They killed two of my children [and husband]," recalled Bilkisu James from her hospital bed. They also "hacked another five of Bilkisu's relatives to death with machetes including a mother and her baby daughter and a mother and her two sons."
- On July 11, a neighboring village was raided: "ten women, a baby and an elderly man were burnt to death in a house where they had taken refuge. Another seven villagers were injured and four houses burnt out."
- On July 19, people attending a wedding celebration were among at least 32 Christians massacred in Fulani attacks.
- On July 23, a "horrific night attack [was launched] during a torrential rain storm ... [A]t least seven Christians died... as militants brutally hacked unarmed men and women and children to death with machetes." The report adds that "This was the second attack on the village within days, with seven murdered in an attack days earlier."
- On July 29, Muslim herdsmen murdered another 14 Christians — 13 of whom belonged to one extended family. Only one member of the family remained alive; his wife, all his children, aunt, uncle, brother and other relatives were slaughtered.
Attacks on Christian Churches
Turkey: A Muslim man broke into Holy Cross, a historic Armenian cathedral on Akhtamar Island in eastern Turkey, and proceeded to recite the adhan — the Islamic call to prayer traditionally made from mosques — while others videotaped him. He repeatedly chanted "Allahu Akbar," and proclaimed the Islamic creed or shahada. He also scrawled graffiti on the church walls: "Raising the Adhan in the church's sanctuary has brought life back to it." The July 2 report adds that,
"Most churches and monasteries in Turkey have been left abandoned following the genocides of Christian peoples in the early 20th century and the mass emigration of Christians from the country due to decades of persecution. As a result, many churches in Turkey were left to ruin or turned into mosques or stables for animals."
In a separate incident, right before the start of Sunday worship service on July 12, a Turkish man appeared at the Antalya Bible Church and asked to speak to church leadership. He was told to return on the next day, and did so — only to issue death and arson threats to a pastor: "You and Özgür [another church leader] are dead. I broke the window of this church a few months ago, will attack again and, if necessary, burn it." Security personnel intervened and he was asked to leave before police were involved. It was later revealed that police had apprehended him when he first broke the church's windows, but released him because he had expressed "regret."
Pakistan: A church in a village near Baloki was forced to take down its cross. Barnabas, a Christian resident of the village, explained:
"We constructed three floors of minarets on a church and fixed the cross on top of that. However, it was removed after we received threats from local Muslims. The Muslims demanded we remove the cross and all three floors of the minarets, therefore, we had to obey them. Now, the building does not look like a church. It's just a room and therefore we are sad."
"With broken hearts," a local pastor added, the congregation agreed to take the cross down—even though "it was an illegal demand against Pakistan's constitution, which guarantees religious freedom to all citizens."
"We took this decision for the safety and protection of Christians in the village.... Muslims threatened that if we don't remove the cross, they will ban the prayer services and take the church property.... The authorities must look into this matter and ensure freedom of religion to all the segments of society."
In a separate incident, police violently interrupted a Christian prayer service. According to a brief July 13 report,
"A priest was leading a prayer before providing a free meal for the poor when police officers appeared, and without further notice, they started damaging the stuff for prayer service.... Policemen turned down the meal, thrashed the pastor and people present. They captured the small sound-system, and beat men and women".
Another report offers more details concerning the fate of Raja Walter, the event organizer, who works to "raise funds to help people who are unfortunate or who have been severely affected by the coronavirus":
"[A]rmed policemen without a badge identifying them came to the food point and attacked him. He was beaten and tortured. Agents also smashed the loudspeaker he uses to motivate people and recite prayers before handing out food. The attack began as Raja was handing out food. As they struck him, the agents threw away his heart medicines and mobile phone. When they tried to arrest him, women present at the scene began to cry and pray for Walter, who by then had lost consciousness."
"It is ridiculous to treat Mr. Raja Walter like that," a beneficiary of the free food said: "He has never done anything wrong to anyone. He is like an angel; he supports the poor and needy."
The attack, notes the report, "was likely caused by the use of speakers for praying."
Canada: On July 28, a 16-year-old Muslim refugee from Syria pleaded guilty to four counts of terrorism. His schemes — including "a solo operation in the next few days" — were shared with and exposed by an undercover FBI agent posing as a fellow ISIS supporter online. "Churches," the Muslim youth had written, and other "crowded places filled with crucifix believers" were among his primary targets. "Detonators, containers filled with white powders that turned out to be explosives, and diagrams of improvised explosive devices were among the 95 exhibits they seized. It was a bomb lab," the report said. His sentencing is set for September.
France: After fire broke out in the Cathedral of Nantes — caused by an asylum seeker — "Muslim [social media] users, mostly of Arab origin, and their leftist fanboys in Central Europe express[ed] their enthusiasm and glee online," according to a July 19 German-language report. Such expressions appeared all throughout social media, but "especially Facebook," where "the sympathizers of Islamization bluntly celebrated their satisfaction: through laughing or smiley emoticons or 'like' clicks they expressed what they think of burning Christian houses of worship." The report further observed that "this type of expression of opinion ... does not lead to the deletion and blocking of the users by social media teams — whereas masses of [other types of] comments are deleted as 'hate speech.'"
Attacks on Converts to Christianity
Kenya: A group of seven Muslims beat Fozia, a Christian woman, aged 21, until she lost consciousness. They also broke the teeth of her sister, Asha, aged 19, and beat their 18-year-old brother. Problems began when "Muslims started questioning us why we were not attending Friday worship at the mosque," Fozia explained. "This interrogation continued for several months." Then one day, when the siblings went outside their home to restore its water supply, they saw a raucous group of Somalis approaching: "There were noisy shouts calling us infidels," recalled Fozia:
"They said, 'We know you do not belong to us. We have got hold of you today – we have no mercy on you people. You need to return to where you came from.' They began hitting me with sticks and a blunt object, which injured my back and my right hand. There I fainted for five hours and regained consciousness at the hospital [where she remained for two days]."
"The attackers injured me by hitting my head against the wall," her sister Asha added. "My two front teeth got broken, and the attack caused the left side of my body to swell..." According to their widowed mother, the family has been "running for their lives from Muslims of Somali descent who have attacked them for nearly 10 years:
"[And now we] are receiving threats that my children should withdraw the case from police if we are to remain safe. But we demand compensation for my three ailing children and medication for them. Three weeks have now gone by, and my children are constantly on pain killers."
Apparently these were not the first attacks on the apostate family; according to the report,
"In 2016 Somali Muslims attacked another of her adult sons, beating him unconscious. Muslim Somalis in Nairobi had seriously injured the same son on Oct. 27, 2011, after they learned that family members had become Christian. The Somali neighbors hit him with a metal bar on his forehead and face, and he lost two teeth and sustained knife wounds to his hand. They left him for dead. Her family has suffered various attacks since embracing Christ. After she filed a police complaint about an attack by Somali Muslims in Kenya in 2014, no fewer than 10 Islamic elders visited her to warn that she was risking her life by doing so. Somalis generally believe all Somalis are Muslims by birth and that any Somali who becomes a Christian can be charged with apostasy, punishable by death."
Morocco: "Converts to Christianity in Morocco have been repeatedly arrested by police as part of a campaign clamping down on the Faith," says a July 17 report; some have been arrested as many as three times in one week. Jawad Elhamidy, president of the Moroccan Association of Rights and Religious Liberties, elaborated:
"Most are released after interrogation—but are often put under pressure to return to Islam, and face abuse when they refuse.... The penal code holds that all Moroccans are Muslims, so those who convert to Christianity face legal problems, beside threats to their security."
As one example, he gave the story of Mohamed al-Moghany, who converted to Christianity, and "whose employer had waved a gun at him and threatened to kill him."
"When Mr. Al Moghany filed a complaint with police, he was told not to speak about his conversion and threats were made against his family. Six months later, following an argument with his employer, he was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison. His wife was interrogated as well.... If a Moroccan enters a church, one of two things can happen—either a policeman sitting in front of the church arrests him or her, or the cleric in charge of the church asks the person to leave, unless the purpose is tourism....Moroccan Christians worship in secret house churches to avoid state sanctions or harassment from society."
The report elaborates:
"[I]t is even more dangerous for Christian converts when allegations of blasphemy are made—Christians have been held for several days and there have been incidents of violence.... Unlike foreign Christians, converts do not enjoy freedom of worship under the law.... Foreign clergy are said to discourage Moroccan Christians from attending their churches because of fear of being criminally charged with proselytism. Under Moroccan law, proselytising or converting to another religion is a criminal offence punishable by between six months and three years in prison."
Generic Abuse of Christians
Pakistan: A group of 12 Muslim men, led by one Muhammad Irfan, broke into a Christian man's household, "and tried to kidnap his [13-year-old] daughter, Noor, who they planned to rape and forcefully convert to Islam," says a July 26 report. When the man and his family intervened, the Muslims thrashed them. "He often teased and disturbed my daughter in the streets, but we always ignored," said the girl's mother:
"Finally, Irfan forcibly entered into my house and intended to kidnap my daughter. However, we resisted. In response, he attacked and beat my entire family who got multiple injuries. My husband and others got injuries in the attack. However, police have not registered the case against Irfan and medical staff have not provided medical aid to the injured."
The report adds that "Local supporters of Irfan have issued threats against the family... [They] have threatened to burn down their house if they pursue legal action against Irfan and the other attackers."
Yemen: "Christians living in Yemen," a July 28 report says, "request prayer as they experience persecution amidst ongoing war, food shortages, and COVID-19."
"These challenges have created a significant burden of isolation, both spiritually and physically. The Christian population, which once numbered approximately 40,000, is reduced to only a few thousand. Most live unaware of each other's existence and in great fear of discovery from their neighbors... [The current] environment has led to persecution that keeps the church underground."
Germany: Two knife-wielding Muslim men attacked and injured a Christian refugee from Syria in the streets of Berlin. According to the July 7 report, the victim, Kevork Almassian, of Armenian descent, had started receiving death threats a year ago, after "Syrian Islamist activist" Nahla Osman began accusing the Christian refugee of spreading "hate" through his work at a German magazine. The executives at the magazine eventually capitulated to Islamist protests and fired Kevork.
Lebanon/Turkey: As a sign of growing Turkish influence, Neshan Der Haroutiounian, a Lebanese television host of Armenian descent, will stand trial in Lebanon for "insulting the Turkish president and the Turkish people," apparently in the context of mentioning the Ottoman Empire's genocide of Armenians. Turkey's authorities responded by calling on the Lebanese Foreign Ministry to take measures against the television host; the Turkish Embassy mobilized protesters in front of the television station. They "raised Turkish flags, chanted slogans in support of the Ottoman Empire and Erdogan and called on Al Jadeed TV and those in charge of the programme to 'apologise for what happened.'" The Beirut public prosecutor responded by announcing that charges would be filed against Haroutiounian, who is scheduled to stand trial in October. The report notes:
"A Lebanese journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that there were no grounds for the judicial charges against Der Haroutiounian. 'This is a matter of a historical dispute that has no prospect, knowing that it is about a great crime against the Armenian people — a crime that Turkey refuses to recognise. This in itself continues to provoke Armenians wherever they are,' the journalist told The Arab Weekly.... Some Lebanese Armenians' harsh criticism of Turkey seems to embarrass Lebanese authorities, who have tried to intimidate them into observing certain 'red lines.' There are numerous external forces pressuring Lebanon, starting with Iranian proxy Hezbollah. Turkey is now attempting to curb Lebanon's hard-fought freedoms, of which its citizens are rightly proud, by also exerting pressure on Lebanese authorities."
Egypt: A Christian woman who disappeared for nearly three months — supposedly because she had willingly converted to Islam and no longer wanted any connection to her "infidel" husband and three young daughters — was finally returned to her family. Ranya Abd al-Masih, 39, a high school teacher of English, had disappeared on April 22. A few days after her family contacted state security, she appeared in a one-minute video dressed in a black niqab (Islamic head covering). In the video, and in between tears, Abd al-Masih insisted that she had finally and formally converted to Islam, which — "praise be to Allah" — she had been secretly following and concealing from her family for nine years. Accordingly, she no longer wanted anyone — her husband, children, family — to bother about her anymore. From the start, her family refused to believe the video and gave compelling reasons why. "We've no problem for her to go [to Islam] of her own free will—based on conviction—but not as a person who is threatened and coerced into doing so," her brother, Remon, explained: "She was definitely kidnapped and forced to make that video, due to threats against her or her husband and children if she refused to comply."
For nearly three months, Abd al-Masih's family and the Coptic Church pleaded with local authorities — even sending a special petition to President Sisi — until she was finally returned, on July 15. A Christian spokesman said that Abd al-Masih and her reunited family are currently staying in an undisclosed location, "until calm returns" to the region. Due to the delicate nature of the situation, the spokesman gave no other details concerning her disappearance and reemergence, other than to say that "Ranya remains a Christian who never once converted to Islam."
Tunisia: A July 21 report sheds light on the "lack of full citizenship" rights and "societal stigmas" surrounding the Christians of arguably the world's most tolerant Arab nation. According to its abstract:
"Although Tunisia is usually presented as ethno-religiously homogenous when compared to other countries in the region, its minorities have long undergone a process of invisibilisation and/or assimilation into the dominant Arab-Muslim identity. Moving from a status of dhimmi [second class, tolerated citizens] under Muslim empires ... is the quest of Tunisia's religious minorities for full citizenship still ongoing?... [T]he research shows that religious minorities, although having acquired a certain set of rights, still lack full citizenship to some extent and face societal stigma."
Raymond Ibrahim, author of the recent book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, 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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