Before Egypt's President Muhammad Morsi was ousted, April was one of the worst months for Christian Copts there. On April 5 near Cairo, when a longstanding feud between a Christian family and a Muslim family—based on male Muslims sexually harassing Christian girls—culminated in the violent deaths of six Christians, including two of the participants, a Christian and a Muslim, being set on fire, and local Muslims went on another "collective punishment" spree. It resulted in the injury of at least 20 other Copts, an Evangelical church being set on fire, and an attack on a Coptic church, Two days later, after Copts had mourned their dead in the St. Mark Cathedral—Coptic Christianity's holiest site and home to the Coptic pope—Muslim mobs, who had waited outside, launched yet another attack—aided by state security forces. Eyewitnesses said as many as 40-50 tear gas canisters targeted the mourners, many of whom were women and children hiding in the cathedral. Two more Copts were killed and many dozens wounded as other officers stood by while the Muslim mob tried to destroy the cathedral.
On one Friday after prayers, the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque in Cairo was turned into a "torture chamber" for Egyptians, many of whom were Christians, protesting the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the victims, Amir Ayad, a Christian, said he was severely beaten before being left for dead at the side of the road. He suffered a fractured skull, a broken arm, bleeding in his right eye and pellet wounds. Coptic Christian children, mostly boys, were targeted for kidnapping and held for ransom; one 6-year-old, after his family had paid the Muslim kidnapper, was killed. And a video appeared on Arabic-language websites showing a crowd of Muslims in Egypt assaulting and raping two Christian women on a crowded street and in broad daylight. Throughout, the women scream in terror as the men shout Islamic slogans such as "Allahu Akbar!" "["Allah is Greater!"] None of the many passersby intervenes in any way.
Also in April, during Easter week in Nigeria, Muslim herdsmen launched a series of raids on Christian villages, killing at least 80 Christians. Most of those slain were either children or the elderly. Over 200 Christian homes were destroyed, eight churches burned, and 4,500 Christians displaced. According to a pastor present at the time, "It was a helpless situation, as no Christians had any weapon to fight back. Women, children, and the elderly who were not able to escape were shot and killed. Luckily, all my children are in school, so this made it easier for our escape from the Muslim attackers. We sneaked away in the midst of the confusion and trekked for more than 20 kilometers [12 miles] to find a place to stay."
Categorized by theme, the rest of April's Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and in country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity:
Central African Republic: A number of church buildings were attacked and the homes of Christians looted in the aftermath of a bloody coup by Sharia-adherent Muslim rebels. During the chaos, as in a standard jihad, Christian property was targeted for plundering, while Muslim property was spared. The leader of the Muslim rebels, Michel Djotodia, "assumed the presidency from the ousted François Bozizé, becoming the predominantly Christian nation's first Muslim president." According to one Christian, "We are no longer at home. They pillage our goods which are then sold by the Muslims, who export them."
Indonesia: Local officials, at the behest of Islamist forces, demolished the Batak Protestant Church building in West Java and threatened to close others, causing hundreds of Christians to protest in the streets. Once again, as happens with increasing regularity in Indonesia, congregation members then held services in the street, near the site of the destroyed church. As the Morning Star News added: Indonesian officials routinely delay or deny church building permits... thus providing Islamic extremists a pretext for protests and attacks." Newspapers covering the event posted photos of "church members in tears—singing hymns, crying and begging local officials not to demolish their facility. Hundreds of police and army officers guarded the area while Muslim militants, shouting Koranic verses, cheered the excavator."
Saudi Arabia: Apparently once again "The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia—the top Islamic official in the country of Saudi Arabia—has [again] declared that it is 'necessary to destroy all the churches of the region." (First reported here over a year ago.)
Sudan: In the latest of a series of moves that have put pressure on Christians, a Muslim government minister announced that no new licenses will be granted for church buildings; he claimed that the existing churches are sufficient for the number of worshippers. Building churches has, in fact, been disallowed since South Sudan seceded in July 2011; the Islamist government of Khartoum responded by making the lives of Christians in Sudan even more difficult than usual. Days before this latest measure, the government deported a senior church leader and two expatriate missionaries who had been working with children in Khartoum. No reason was given. The government has also demolished countless church buildings on the pretext of paperwork irregularities.
Turkey: A 13th century church building, the Hagia Sophia of Trabizon (not to be confused with Constantinople's famous Hagia Sophia) is set to become a mosque again.
After the Ottoman conquest it had been turned from a church into a mosque, but later, under Turkey's secularist President, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and apparently due to its "great historical and cultural significance" for Christians, it had been turned into a museum. Local authorities decreed that its Christian frescoes must again be covered in preparation for its reopening as a mosque. [Update: As of July, the Hagia Sophia of Trabizon has become a functioning mosque.]
Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism
Indian Kashmir: In Srinagar, a Muslim mob attacked two men, five women and two children, all of British origin, on the accusation that they were preaching Christianity. The mob also threw stones at their vehicles and tried to destroy their home. The police, however, when they arrived, arrested the two men on, according to Asia News, "false charges of forced conversions." The local imam told police that, "if they try to convert anyone, I will prevent it at all costs." According to a Christian close to the case, "The false and defamatory accusations of the imam and the complicity of the police in arresting these Christians are a serious threat to religious freedom, a right guaranteed by the Constitution of India." Also in Srinagar, another Muslim mob attacked a Christian-children's home, beat the staff and visitors, tried to kill the pastor and kidnap the children, destroyed property, and killed the home's pet dog—again on the accusation that the group running the home was converting Muslim children to Christianity.
Somalia: Muslims from the Islamic organization Al Shabaab ("The Youth") shot to death 42-year-old Fartun Omar, a widow and mother of five, for converting to Christianity. Months earlier, they had killed her husband for the same "crime," and had been hunting for the wife, who, after abandoning Islam, had gone in hiding. She leaves behind five orphaned children. Separately, Al Shabaab Muslims also seized Hassan Gulled, 25, for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity, and imprisoned him, and tortured him. According to local sources, "Al Shabaab have been torturing him to see whether he would deny his Christian faith. Since last week, no information has surfaced concerning Gulled. There is a possibility that he could have been killed."
Tanzania: After a visit by an evangelist, Lukia Khalid, a Muslim mother of three, and nearly seven months pregnant, converted to Christianity; she later said: "My husband asked me whether I had left Islam, to which I said 'Yes.' He threatened to kill me if I was to stay with him. I then decided to escape that night with my three children to a neighbor's house.... We left only with the clothes that we were wearing. The command was so urgent that we could not wait any longer. We had to leave immediately." Unable to pay school fees and supplies without her husband, the children have stopped attending school.
[General Abuse of Non-Muslims as Second-Class "Citizens," or Dhimmis]
Iran: A new report, based on interviews with 31 Christians and produced by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, has found "that the authorities consistently treat standard Christian practices, such as being a member of a house church or attending a Christian conference, as criminal acts. Although the Iranian government claims to respect the rights of its recognised religious minorities, it does not do so in practice. The report found that Christian converts and members of unregistered churches are denied the right freely to practise their faith, and that they face violations of their right to life through extrajudicial killings and even execution for apostasy (though only one Christian convert is known to have been executed since the 1979 Islamic Revolution)."
Pakistan: According to the Morning Star News, "Incited by calls from mosque loudspeakers after a dispute between Muslim and Christian youths, which started when Muslims told Christians not to play music [forbidden in Islam] a Muslim mob attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gujranwala today, injuring at least five Christians and damaging a church and dozens of shops and vehicles.... A resident of Francis Colony, where 2,000 Christian families have settled in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority country, said police bias was evident in today's attack. 'The police was doing what it does best – nothing!' said Asif Barkat, who received minor injuries as he and other Christians tried to defend themselves. 'Their bias towards Christians is quite evident, because when the Muslims were raiding our church and property, they just watched, but when we confronted them, they started hitting us with batons and used live ammunition to deter us.'" Separately, two unidentified men tried by force to stop the car of the president of All Pakistan Minorities, Saleem Khursheed Khobar, a Christian, and when that failed, opened fire on him. As with other Christian human rights activists who have been assassinated in Pakistan, Khobar is being hounded for vocally representing the nation's downtrodden religious minorities: "I am being threatened and have gone into hiding to protect myself," he said from an undisclosed location. "Law enforcement agencies know that I am being followed. My whole family is under threat but the government doesn't care."
Syria: Christians continued to be targeted by Islamic rebels, especially for kidnapping. Among those abducted were two bishops, Bishop Yohanna Ibrahim and Bishop Paul Yazigi. An armed group of Chechen jihadis stopped their car, killed the driver, and took the two bishops hostage. Meanwhile, thousands of Christians continued to flee Syria. In in one instance, 500 crossed the border into Turkey, where church officials are considering building a "tent city" to house the refugees. Adds AINA: "Assyrians and other Christians in Syria have been disproportionately affected by the war, and have been targeted by the Muslims rebels. The Muslim Jihadists have kidnapped Assyrians for ransom, attacked places of worship and created a climate of fear, forcing many Assyrians to abandon their homes and villages and seek safety in Turkey."
Turkey: Erdal Dogan, a human rights defender, who played an important role in the trial of the 2007 Malatya massacre, against those Muslims who tortured and slaughtered three Christian men working in a Bible publishing house, "remained in life danger Friday, April 12, after receiving death threats," including from the defendants, one of whom threatened him during a hearing.
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 author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.