Reports of Christian persecution by Muslims around the world during the month of February include (but are not limited to) the following accounts. They are listed by form of persecution, and in country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity:
Egypt: Once again, soon after Friday prayers, a throng of Muslims in Fayoum province destroyed a Coptic church. The reason cited this time was that the church is "an unlawful neighbor to the Muslims who live adjacent to it and must therefore be moved." According to AINA, "The mob climbed to the church dome and started demolishing it and setting it on fire. The dome collapsed into the burning church and caused great damage. Muslims used bricks from the dome and the holy cross and hurled it at the altar inside the church, causing part of it to be demolished; all the icons of saints were destroyed. Muslims tried to assault Father Domadios and threw stones at him, but he was saved by a Muslim family who brought him away from the village in their car." Local Christian families were reported as staying indoors for fear of being assaulted by the Muslims. And, once again, although state security was present throughout this entire proceeding, it did nothing to prevent it. None of the perpetrators was arrested. Two days later, hundreds of Copts demonstrated, demanding a halt to the ongoing attacks on their churches. In response, the church was attacked again, by Muslims hurling more Molotov cocktails and stones while shouting "We do not want the church." Some Muslims climbed atop the church again to destroy completely the remains of the wooden dome.
Indonesia: Four churches were firebombed with Molotov cocktails in the world's most populous Muslim nation. Two were attacked on a Sunday morning in South Sulawesi. Another two churches were attacked a few days later. All the churches suffered various degrees of fire damage. According to Barnabas Fund, the same region was earlier "ravaged in a bloody anti-Christian campaign by Islamic extremists between 1997 and 2001. Hundreds of churches and thousands of homes were destroyed; according to some estimates 30,000 Christians were killed and about half a million driven out in what amounted to ethnic cleansing…. The beheading of three girls as they made their way [to] their Christian school in Central Sulawesi in 2005 was among the most egregious." Elsewhere, in the village of Mekargalih, some 50 members of the Islamic Defenders Front descended upon a Pentecostal church, scaling its gates, vandalizing the building, and assaulting the church's minister, including strangling him with his own necktie. The reason cited for this assault was that the church was operating without a permit. Two days later, the only person arrested and currently serving a three month prison sentence, was the minister, for continuing to hold services without a valid permit. The church, which has been running for 26 years, has made repeated attempts, at significant financial cost, to obtain the required permit but has been obstructed by local authorities. This was the third violent attack against the church by the Islamic party in the last two years. According to the minister's wife, who has also been threatened and harassed, this latest attack has "traumatized" the 400-strong congregation; many Christians are now too afraid to attend services.
Libya: A Coptic Christian church located in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by armed Muslim militants. Initial reports indicate that at least one priest, Fr. Paul Isaac, was injured, as well as his assistant. This was the second church to be attacked in two months. Earlier, on Sunday, December 30, an explosion had rocked a Coptic Christian church near the western city of Misrata, where a group of U.S. backed rebels hold a major checkpoint. The explosion killed two people and wounded two others, all Egyptians.
Zanzibar: Arsonists set the Evangelical Church of Siloam aflame on the island, populated 99% by Muslims. The church was under construction following a previous attack in January 2012. The current attack follows a string of other attacks on church leaders and Christian property across the country. Two days earlier, a Catholic priest was shot dead on his way to church for Sunday worship. Two Muslim youths at the church entrance shot him in the head. A message signed by "Muslim Renewal" later appeared saying, "We thank our young men, trained in Somalia, for killing an infidel. Many more will die. We will burn homes and churches. We have not finished: at Easter, be prepared for disaster." A few days before the slaying of the Catholic priest, an Assemblies of God pastor was beheaded by Muslims on the Tanzanian mainland. And on Christmas Day, gunmen shot and seriously wounded another Catholic priest as he was returning home from church.
Apostates, Evangelists, Murder and Slaughter
Cameroon: Two Muslim converts to Christianity were shot dead and two others wounded, in the Christian-majority African nation where Muslims make up approximately 20% of the population. One of the converts was previously threatened by the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram ["Western Education is a Sin"] to return to Islam or "face Allah's wrath." The attack occurred when these two Muslim converts to Christianity and two others were travelling together around Lake Chad. Their vehicle was stopped by armed men who forced the four Christians out of the vehicle and opened fire on them. The slain Christians leave behind wives and several children.
Iran: Fox News reported that American pastor Saeed Abedini, who is jailed for his Christian faith in the notorious Evin prison, was "facing physical and psychological torture at the hands of captors, who demanded that he renounce his beliefs." The 32-year-old married father of two, who left his home in Boise, Idaho, to help start an orphanage in Iran, detailed, in a letter to family members, "horrific pressures" and "death threats": "My eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps become very weak and shaky… They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me." Similarly, according to Mohabet News, since four Muslim converts to Christianity were arrested soon after Christmas, "they have been taken to the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz several times in a pitiful condition with their hands and feet chained, where their charges were officially announced as participating in house-church services, evangelizing and promoting Christianity, having contact with foreign Christian ministries, distributing propaganda against the regime and disturbing national security. These four Christian converts were arrested as they gathered for worship in a house church on February 8, 2012." The report goes on to explain the "obvious mental and physical torture" in prison to which Iran's converts to Christianity are routinely subjected.
Kenya: One church leader was killed another wounded during an ambush by the Somali-based Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabaab ["The Youth"]. Abdi Welli, a Muslim who converted to Christianity in 1990, and became a minister, died at the scene. His colleague and former mentor, Pastor Ibrahim Makunyi , another convert to Christianity, survived after sustaining gunshot wounds. Abdi's last words were, "It's good to be in the hands of Al Shaddai," an ancient name for the Judeo-Christian God. He leaves behind a wife and three children. In response to these latest Muslim murders of Christians, Somali's much oppressed underground church declared "The Somali Church is the Lord's and he will protect it from the evil one. No degree of Muslim persecution will destroy the Somali Church."
Libya: Christians from all walks of life were arrested, and some tortured, on the accusation that they were trying to evangelize Muslims. On February 10, in Benghazi, four foreign Christians were arrested, including one with American citizenship, on the claim that they were "missionaries." Three days later, two more Christians from Egypt were arrested. Three days after that, a seventh Christian, also from Egypt, was arrested. Then, on February 27, Benghazi forces raided another Coptic church—rounding up some 100 Coptic Christians and accusing them of being missionaries—simply because they had Bibles and other Christian "paraphernalia," such as icons of Jesus. Many of these Christians were detained and tortured, including by having their heads shaved and cross tattoos removed with acid. Under such torture, one Copt died.
Nigeria: In yet another attack in the Plateau State, Muslim herdsmen used machetes and guns to murder 10 members of the same Christian family; half of the victims were under the age of six, as confirmed by the military and government. According to one official, "Five little children including a two-month-old child were slaughtered." As happens all throughout the Islamic world, the area's Christians accused the military of involvement in violence on behalf of the Muslim tribesmen—some of the attackers were apparently dressed in military uniform—although a military spokesman denied it: "Somehow, some hoodlums and criminals gained access to our old uniforms," he said.
Pakistan: Younas Masih, a 55-year-old Christian, died shortly after being shot five times in an attack that involved his resistance to convert to Islam. According to sources, "Younas' Muslim colleagues had been pressuring him to convert to Islam. Repeated threats and blackmail attempts had been made against him but he had remained firm in his faith. On the day of the shooting, Younas' co-workers made another attempt to persuade him to convert. A heated discussion ensued, with insults and threats issued." This is not the first time a Christian is slaughtered in Pakistan for refusing to convert to Islam. Younas's son tried to register the attack on his father with the police, but, as usual, they refused to launch a criminal investigation. Also, after local Muslims accused a 19-year-old Christian of being in relationship with a Muslim girl (Islamic Sharia law bans Christian men from marrying Muslim women), he was "barbarically assassinated": three Muslim men broke into his home in the early hours while the family was asleep, and smote the teenager on the head with an axe while stabbing him with a dagger. When his father awoke from the screaming, the Muslim assassins fled the scene. Further, in Lahore, Roshan Masih, a 45-year-old Christian, was shot dead after an argument over religion. According to Agenzia Fides, "it was an act of murder in cold blood: Roshan's defence of his Christian beliefs compared to Muslim beliefs, may have been considered 'blasphemous'… Days before the murder he had a heated argument over religion with a local Muslim, Sohail Akhtar. The latter waited for his opportunity, and, on 16 February, seeing Roshan sitting outside a shop run by Sadiq Masih, another Christian, Sohail Akhtar, armed with a rifle, shot him dead there and then."
United States: A Muslim man slaughtered two Coptic Christians in New Jersey. Although authorities believe that "the defendant was ruthless and calculating in the manner in which he carried out the killings and attempted to prevent identification of the victims by cutting off their heads and hands before burying their bodies," it is relevant to note that Koran 8:12 records Allah saying, "I will cast terror into the hearts of infidels, so strike [them] upon the necks [behead them] and strike from them every fingertip." Moreover, as one report puts it, "Privately some wonder if it had something to do with the victims' [Christian] religion."
[General Abuse and Suppression of Non-Muslims as "Tolerated" Citizens]
Egypt: Fourteen-year-old Sarah Abdelmalek was recently abducted on her way to school. Unlike the many similar cases, Sarah's received media attention in Egypt due to the loud protests from Copts. In February it was reported that "Sarah was smuggled across the borders to Libya [where Coptic Christians are being brutalized] with the help of the Interior Ministry." The new Coptic pope said the kidnapping and forced conversion of Sarah is a "disgrace for the whole of Egypt," adding "Can any family accept the kidnapping of their daughter and her forced conversion?" Members of the Salafi Front, meanwhile, stated that under no circumstances would they hand Sarah back to her grieving family. More recently, another Christian minor girl, 13-year-old Agape Essam Girgis, after leaving for school accompanied by a Muslim social worker and two teachers, one of whom was a Salafi, never returned. Eventually, after protests, she was "handed over to her family and the church priest where she stayed with his family for some time due to the terrible ordeal she experienced during her abduction." According to a Coptic bishop involved in the case, what happened to Agape is "heart-breaking." She was drugged and awakened to find herself in a secluded place with an elderly woman and later Salafis who tried to convert her to Islam, forced her to wear the full hijab, and beat her. In the last few years, some 550 cases of abduction, entrapment, rape, and forced conversion of Christian women have been documented in Egypt. Their rate has only increased after the "Arab Spring" and the empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ironically, when President Morsi, in Germany in February, was asked to address this issue, he responded only by saying the abduction of Christian girls was only a rumor. Meanwhile, in Safaga, an Egyptian town near the Red Sea, yet another new jihadi group, calling itself jihad al-kufr ["jihad against all that is non-Islamic"] sent "invitations" to local priests to convert to Islam or die.
Libya: Islamic rebels threatened Christian nuns into fleeing the nation. Among those Christian communities to leave are the convent of the Holy Family of Spoleto in Derna, the Franciscan Sisters of the Infant Jesus of Barce and the Ursuline Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Beida. The presence of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Spoleto in Libya dates back to 1921; under Colonel Gaddafi, all these Christian orders were left in peace. Until their departure, the mission of the religious and the Church in Libya was focused primarily on health care and care for the elderly.
Saudi Arabia: According to Fox News, "Saudi Arabia's notorious 'religious police,' known as the mutawayyin, swooped in on a private gathering of at least 53 Ethiopian Christians, shutting down their private prayer, and arresting the peaceful group of foreign workers for merely practicing their faith. Saudi authorities further charged three Christian leaders with 'seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity.' The latest crackdown on Christianity in the ultra-fundamental Islamic country comes on the heels of a brutal 2011/2012 incarceration and torture of 36 Ethiopian Christians."
Sudan: Authorities cracked down on Christian activity with a renewed upsurge of arrests and closures of Christian-run schools. One Christian school is to be shut down for not offering Islamic courses—although Islamic schools never offer courses on any other religions—and for failing to separate male and female students. Another school was targeted on suspicions that it was evangelizing to Muslims. Additionally, three Christians of South Sudanese origin—since South Sudan ceded, the Islamic government of Khartoum has been avenging itself on Christians under its authority—were ordered last week to leave the country within 24 hours, following their detention. Another four members of a non-profit organization that produces Christian songs and films were arrested and interrogated and then released. A Christian source in Khartoum said that the "atmosphere in Sudan is alarming and frightening."
Syria: U.S.-supported "freedom fighters" abducted an Armenian priest on Sunday and an Orthodox clergyman. Both were working in Aleppo. Sources, anonymous for security reasons, told AsiaNews that the city's Christian community is very concerned about the attack. "Extremist violence is getting worse day by day. Muslim militias are killing anyone suspected of ties with the regime, including women and children. People in the neighbourhoods are comparing these days to the Ottoman conquest five centuries ago." Islamic rebels also stormed the Christian neighbourhood of Jadida, where two month earlier, the city's main Evangelical church was destroyed. "These fighters live for killing and violence. They act without pity and make distinctions among people," sources said. "When they kill, they turn to God as if they were making a sacrifice." Similarly, an AFP report also tells of the aftermath of the Obama-supported freedom fighters' jihad: "The bibles lie untouched on the carved wooden stands but the chandeliers have been dumped upside down on the altar; the Christian village of Al-Yakubiye may have escaped the full ravages of Syria's civil war but it could not avoid the plundering of the fighters. Along the main road of this agricultural village in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib, an old cemetery with stone crosses adjoins an Apostolic Orthodox Armenian church whose door lies open, buffeted by the winds. Those who swept through here seized anything of value, plundering even the chancel and the sacristy. Under a portrait of a benevolent Virgin Mary, a thief stole the chalice from the tabernacle."
Turkey: Parliament is considering reconverting the Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque. Originally a church that was transformed into a mosque after the Ottoman-led jihad of 1453, Hagia Sophia was Christendom's grandest cathedral. It was turned into a museum in 1935, back when the Islamic world was largely western-looking. "We want Santa Sofia to remain a museum," said Patriarch Bartholomew. The Orthodox prelate said that if the museum is converted to any religious use, it should become a Christian church: it was built for that purpose.
About this Series
Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic 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:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.
2) 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 those who "offend" Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like 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.