As Easter, one of the highest Christian holidays, comes in April, Christian persecution in Muslim nations—from sheer violence to oppressive laws—was rampant: In Nigeria, where jihadis have expressed their desire to expunge all traces of Christianity, a church was bombed during Easter Sunday, killing some 50 worshippers; in Turkey, a pastor was beaten by Muslims immediately following Easter service and threatened with death unless he converted to Islam; and in Iran, Easter Sunday saw 12 Christians stand trial as "apostates."
The persecution of Christians has come to regions not normally associated with it. As in Nigeria, Muslim militants are now also running amok in Timbuktu, Mali—beheading a Christian leader and threatening other Christians with similar treatment. Sharia law has been imposed, churches are being destroyed, and Christians are fleeing Timbuktu in mass.
Categorized by theme, April's assemblage of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed in alphabetical order by country, not severity:
Azerbaijan: A church in the Muslim-majority nation has "become the first religious community to be liquidated by a court since the country's harsh new 'Religion Law,' requiring all previously registered religious institutions to re-register, came into force in 2009. Greater Grace Protestant Church in the capital, Baku, "was stripped of its registration at a 15-minute hearing on 25 April. The decision, which was made in the absence of any church representatives, makes any activity by the church illegal and subject to punishment."
Indonesia: Gunmen opened fire on the GKI Yasmin church, causing much damage, in the latest attack on the building, which has been illegally sealed off by authorities since 2008 in response to Muslim demands. Another Protestant church unlawfully sealed off by the authorities—despite meeting all requirements for a permit—was met with violent opposition from Muslims when its members tried to hold a service on the street in front of their sealed-off church building. Muslim residents made death threats, played loud music, and rode a motorcycle through the congregation. A church spokesman said: "We are constantly having to change our location because our existence appears to be unwanted, and we have to hide so that we are not intimidated by intolerant groups… We had hoped for help from the police, but after many attacks on members of the congregation, we see that the police are also involved in this."
Kenya: Two separate grenade attacks on churches took place: 1) Muslims threw grenades into an open-air Christian church gathering, killing a woman and a boy, and wounding some 50 other Christians: Muslims had been holding a meeting near the gathering, and Christians could hear their preachers railing against Christianity right before the attack took place. 2) In a separate incident, a Muslim man pretending to be a worshipper at a church threw three grenades during service, killing a 27-year-old university student and injuring 16. The terrorist, who, according to eyewitnesses, appeared to be of Somali origin, "looked uncomfortable and always looked down. He threw three hand grenades and only one exploded. He took off, and he fired in the air three gunshots."
Nigeria: An early morning attack on a Christian church service left at least 16 people dead: Jihadi gunmen on motorcycles stormed Bayero University in the city of Kano Sunday morning during a Catholic mass held in the school's theater hall, hurling improvised explosive devices, and opening fire as people fled. "The attack follows a string of violent incidents against Christians in the predominantly Muslim north."
Sudan: A Christian compound in Khartoum was stormed by a throng of Muslims "armed with clubs, iron rods, a bulldozer and fire," the day after a Muslim leader called on Muslims to destroy "the infidels' church." Shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is Greater!"], and "No more Christianity from today on—no more church from today on!" the jihadis stormed the Bible school bookstore, burning Bibles and threatening to kill anyone who tried to resist. "What happened could not be imagined—it was terrible," said an eyewitness. "They burned all furniture of the school and the church as well." As usual, "Police at the compound stood back and did nothing to prevent the mob from vandalizing the compound."
Tunisia: Members of the Christian Orthodox Church in Tunis, one of very few churches in the nation, are being "abused" and receiving "threatening messages." Church members are "living in a state of terror," so much so that the Russian ambassador in Tunis specifically requested the nation's Ministry of Interior to "protect the church." The abuse has gotten to the point where "Salafis covered the cross of the church with garbage bags, and told the church members that they do not wish to see the vision of the Cross anywhere in the Islamic state of Tunisia." Separately, a Muslim burst into a church to deliver a letter from an Islamist party inviting the archpriest to convert to Islam or to take down the church's crosses and pay jizya, the Islamic subjugation tax.
Apostasy and Blasphemy: Death and Prison
Algeria: A Christian was sentenced to five years in prison for "shaking the faith" of Muslims. He had discussed his faith with a Muslim man at a food court when the Muslim became angry and accused the Christian of "insulting Muhammad." Police arrested the man and found a large amount of Christian material in his apartment. The judge gave him the maximum sentence of five years in prison, even though the prosecutor himself had recommended a lesser sentence.
Bangladesh: A former Muslim prayer leader who converted to Christianity was "welcomed by threats and violence." Members of his Muslim community "beat him almost to death," causing him to be hospitalized for almost two months: "the same Muslims who followed him and held him in high esteem when he was their imam now cannot accept his new status."
Egypt: Two incidents of "blasphemy" convictions took place: 1) A juvenile court sentenced a Coptic Christian teenager to three years in prison for allegedly "insulting Islam," on claims that he posted unflattering cartoons of Muhammad on Facebook. When the incident came to light, Muslims rioted, fire-bombing his home and at least five other Christian-owned homes. 2) Another judge upheld a six-year prison sentence for a Christian convicted of "blasphemy": after a Muslim had told the 49-year old Christian convict that Jesus had illegal sex with at least ten women, the Christian countered "by stating that Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic religion, had more than four wives—a view commonly held by Islamic scholars." Police subsequently arrested him and, in a 10-minute mock trial with no defense attorney present, the judge sentenced him to six years in prison for "insulting the prophet."
Iran: A Christian convert from Islam has been sentenced to six years in prison. Originally arrested in December 2010 as part of a major crackdown on the country's house church movement, "the married father of two has been held in the notorious Evin prison ever since, spending several months in solitary confinement," and likely goaded to return to Islam. He is accused of "action against the regime's security, being in contact with foreign organizations and religious propaganda." In short, according to Iranian Christians, "his 'crime' was practicing his Christian faith."
Pakistan: Two incidents of "blasphemy" charges occurred: 1) A Christian man was arrested and charged with "blasphemy" for rescuing his 8-year-old nephew from a beating at the hands of Muslim boys who sought to force the boy to convert to Islam. "Seeing the attack from a distance, Masih [the man] shouted and rushed to the scene, rescued his nephew and then went to his work as a painter. Soon after the incident, a Muslim mob of about 55 led by the village prayer leader besieged Masih's house," and insisted that "the blasphemer" be turned over to them. After being threatened and harassed by Muslim inmates and jail officials, he was eventually released from prison. 2) The mother of a newborn baby has been illegally jailed for over a month: authorities have failed to file a charge sheet within the mandatory 14-day period against the 26-year-old Christian woman accused of "blaspheming" the prophet of Islam. The woman was arrested after neighbors accused her of "uttering remarks against Muhammad."
Philippines: Two pastors were slaughtered by Muslim assailants: 1) A former Muslim who became a Christian pastor was murdered in front of his wife in his home: "My husband staggered into our bedroom and I was shocked because he was full of blood," she recalled. "I brought him to the hospital right away. He was operated on for eight bullet wounds, but did not survive." The Philippines is a mostly Christian nation, but in the south, "Muslim fundamentalists are trying to build an Islamic state. Christians there face persecution and even death…. This year, at least four house churches closed down after their pastors and lay leaders were killed by Muslim extremists." 2) Another pastor was shot in the head five times, killed by two unknown gunmen in front of his teenage daughter.
[General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of non-Muslims as "Tolerated" Citizens]
Egypt: A recent "reconciliation meeting" between members of a sword-wielding Muslim mob that earlier brutalized a Christian school proved to be "nothing less than an attempt at legalized extortion." In exchange for peace, members of the mob that stormed the school last month without provocation—holding two nuns hostage for several hours—demanded in the meetings that the school sign over land that included the guesthouse they attacked. "Human rights groups and Coptic rights activists say the meetings are just a way to pressure powerless groups and people into giving away what little rights they have." Likewise, the judges appointed to investigate the Maspero massacre, which claimed the lives of 27 Christians and injured 329, closed the case, due to "lack of identification of the culprits." As one Christian lawyer put it: "We said all along that it [the investigation] was just a show and this is the outcome we got."
India: Muslims stormed and terrorized a home in which a Christian prayer meeting was being held, and beat the Christians, including a 65-year-old widow. The Muslims "called them pagans as they kicked, slapped and pushed the Christians…. The Christians were running in all directions for their lives, including the children who were crying in fear" as one Muslim, "brandishing a sickle, chased many of them, hurling all kinds of insults and attempting to mi=ureder them all…. 500 Muslims had gathered and were watching in amusement as the extremists chased and harassed the Christians for about 90 minutes."
Iran: Historical Christian monuments, including churches and Christian cemeteries, continue to be destroyed or allowed to fall into a state of decay as the Islamist authorities try to wipe out the country's Christian heritage: "It seems that Islamic Republic officials, unsuccessful in stopping the growth of Christianity among the people by pressuring them, arresting them and banning Christian converts from attending church services, want to destroy historical Christian monuments to totally wipe the Christian heritage from the face of Iran."
Pakistan: Yet another study demonstrates that Pakistani school textbooks "promote religious fanaticism, discriminate against minorities and trigger religious conflicts." Christians and Hindus "are obliged to learn the basics of Islam"—studying the Koran is mandatory—while their own religions are openly denigrated. Even in subjects such as social science and linguistics, "about 20% of the content is linked to Islam"; and non-Muslim students receive "bonus points" if they excel in Islamic studies.
Syria: Almost the entire Christian population—nearly 60,000—of the city of Homs, the nation's third largest, have fled as fighting between the government and anti-government, largely Islamist forces continues. Reportedly only 1,000 Christians remain. Opposition forces are attacking churches and other Christian centers; "Muslim neighbors are turning on the Christians. Christians have also suffered kidnapping and gruesome murders. Some Christian families, unable to pay a ransom for their relatives' release and fearing that they may be tortured, have been driven to ask the kidnappers to kill their loved ones at once."
Tunisia: After the Russian ambassador stood up for an Orthodox church under attack (see above, under "church attacks"), the Russian school located behind the church as well as the Christian cemetery in Tunis were vandalized. The walls of the school and religious frescoes were smeared with fecal matter, while the cemetery's crosses were destroyed. Meanwhile, the new "Arab-spring" government has shown its "manifest indifference with regard to minorities' right to protection."
Turkey: The nation's Greek Orthodox citizens living on the island of Gökçeada (Imbros) in the north Aegean cannot buy property on the island, though it is an easy matter for Muslims: "The Land Registry office has admitted to preventing non-Muslims from buying property, citing a National Security Council (MGK) decision, but refused to give further details."
About this Series
Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions, "Muslim Persecution of Christians" was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
- To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.
- To show that such persecution is not "random," but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death to those who "offend" Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or second-class, "tolerated" citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East, and throughout the West wherever there are Muslims—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.