Once again, the month of Christmas witnessed some of the most barbaric attacks on Christians throughout the Islamic world.
After Andrew White, an Anglican priest known as the "Vicar of Baghdad," told of how the Islamic State [S] "chopped [Christian] children in half; they chopped their heads off," he offered the following anecdote:
IS turned up and they said to the [Christian] children, "You say the words [the shehada, to convert to Islam], that you will follow Muhammad." And the children, all under 15, four of them, they said, "No, we love Jesus [Yesua]. We have always loved Jesus. We have always followed Jesus. Jesus has always been with us." They [IS] said, "Say the words!" They [children] said, "No, we can't." [White starts sobbing] They chopped all their heads off. How do you respond to that? You just cry. They're my children. That is what we have been going through. That is what we are going through.
Christmas celebrations were, as usual, tense and sometimes bloody:
Somalia: Islamic terrorists boasted of successfully slaughtering Christians while "they were celebrating Christmas." Eight Islamic gunmen infiltrated the main African Union base in Mogadishu and killed three peacekeepers and a civilian contractor. Later, the Islamic group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack; it announced it had killed 14 peacekeepers whom it described as "Christian enemies": "We targeted the enemies at a time they were celebrating Christmas," said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for Al Shabaab. Western diplomats who were celebrating Christmas in Mogadishu were evacuated to safety bunkers until the raid was over. Witnesses reported hearing bomb blasts and volleys of gunfire throughout the day.
Iraq: In mid-December, as people in the West were doing their last minute Christmas shopping, churches under IS authority were turned into torture chambers for Christians. According to a witness, "churches are being used as prisons and for torture. Three of the Christian prisoners died because they were sick and nobody cared for them." The witness, known as Abu Aasi, said that Christian prisoners in the churches are being forced to convert and that IS members have been "breaking all the crosses and statues of Mary." Other reports told of how Christian prisoners — blindfolded and handcuffed — were held at the ancient Chaldean Church of the Immaculate Conception in eastern Mosul, and that St George's monastery was now a female prison.
Pakistan: Christian minorities celebrated Christmas "with religious fervor by offering prayers in different churches under tight security," said one report : "heavy contingents of police were deployed in and around the churches at cantonment and city areas where movement of other people was restricted and the citizens were allowed only after thorough body search."
In Peshawar alone, approximately "2,000 policemen were deployed in addition to personnel in plain clothes ... while the entry points leading to the churches had been closed by placing cemented blocks and barbed wire." Peshawar, of course, is where Islamic suicide bombers attacked the All Saints Church in September 2013, leaving nearly 90 worshippers dead — including many Sunday school children, women, and choir members — and approximately 120 injured.
Also in Pakistan, Elisabeth Bibi, a 28-year-old pregnant Christian mother of four, was "beaten, scorned and humiliated, deprived of her dignity [and] forced to walk naked through the town" by two Muslim brothers, the pregnant woman's employers, following an argument. In the ordeal, she lost her baby. Another report states that she was beaten with "pipes" and then robbed by the two Muslim men. Rights activists say the attack "was motivated because of Bibi's [Christian] religious beliefs." Bibi herself said that the Muslim family often tried to persuade her to convert to Islam. Police, as often happens when Muslims attack Christians, failed to arrest the two brothers, and Christian activists received threats to drop the charges.
Egypt: With the approach of the Christmas season, Islamic clerics and websites warned Muslims to refrain from any form of participation in Christian celebrations and condemned Muslims who offer their best wishes to their Christian neighbors during Christmas. There were also death threats and incitement to violence against churches, with particular reference to Christian communities in the governorates of Minya, Alexandria and Fayyum, where the Salafis and Muslim Brotherhood have a strong presence.
On December 24, or Christmas Eve, security forces "arrested seven members of a terrorist cell led by a 50-year-old deputy headmaster of a secondary school in the Minya governorate, who is accused of plotting violent acts during the Coptic Christmas celebrations," reports Zawya. Those arrested "were caught in possession of Molotov cocktails, pictures of the ousted Egyptian president [Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood], and circuitry connected to mobile phones to detonate bombs from a distance, as part of a plan to disrupt the Christmas celebrations."
Elsewhere in Egypt, Christians "had to pray outdoors in spite of the cold air and the coming of Christmas, as the police were unable to protect them from Islamists' attacks," in the words of the president of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, and because many of their churches, despite military promises, remain partially destroyed after 2013 Brotherhood uprisings (see church section below for more).
Iran: On Christmas day in Tehran province, nine Christians were arrested after a paramilitary force and armed plainclothes agents raided a house church where they were celebrating Christmas. The Christians were transferred to an unknown location. NCR-Iran adds, "The clerical regime in Iran continued human rights abuses in Iran during Christmas. At dawn of the 25th December, on Christmas day when hundred[s] of millions of people around the world were celebrating the birth of the Christ, the barbaric regime of Iran hanged 7 people in mass execution in Shiraz."
Nigeria: The Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, capital city of Borno State in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria, experienced another tense Christmas. The city has been besieged by the Islamic organization Boko Haram, and streets were left vehicle-free on December 25 to avoid suicide attacks. Most of the 5,000 displaced persons welcomed in Maiduguri are in fact refugees from other regions that have fallen to Boko Haram.
These people, said Fr. Gideon Obasogie "have no homes, cannot celebrate Christmas as usual with their relatives and friends and are forced to live in a state of hopelessness. Despite fears of terrorist attacks — including widespread rumors of suicide bombers disguised as nuns — "the Catholic faithful went to Christmas Mass ... to express their faith in an eloquent manner," reported the priest.
A Nigerian army emplacement in Maiduguri. (Image source: TV360 video screenshot)
Due to the continually worsening plight of Christians in the Middle East, even Britain's Prince Charles, who is often criticized of being overly sympathetic to and apologetic of Islam, said:
It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants.... Christianity was literally born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ... Yet today the Middle East and North Africa has the lowest concentration of Christians in the world — just four per cent of the population and it is clear that the Christian population has dropped dramatically over the last century and is falling still further.... We all lose something immensely and irreplaceably precious when such a rich tradition dating back 2,000 years begins to disappear.
The rest of December's roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity.
Jihadi Slaughter of Christians
Kenya: Gunmen from the Islamic organization Al Shabaab launched an early-morning raid on quarry workers while they slept in their worksite tents near the city of Mandera, along the Somali border. Christians and Muslims were separated before the Christians, thirty-six of them, were beheaded or shot dead. Afterwards, Al Shabaab posted a statement condemning the "crusaders" — a standard jihadi reference to Christians — and added: "We are uncompromising in our beliefs, relentless in our pursuit, ruthless against the disbelievers and we will do whatever necessary to defend our Muslim brethren suffering from Kenya's aggression." The killings occurred 10 days after Al Shabaab's attack on a bus and the massacre of 28 of its non-Muslim (primarily Christian) passengers. Again, Muslim passengers were singled out and left unharmed.
Libya: Unidentified men broke into a Christian household the middle of the night. They handcuffed and killed the father, according to his brother-in-law during an interview. Then they entered the children's bedroom. The mother was there, cried out, tried to fight back, and was killed. They took the oldest daughter, Katherine, and fled with her. The girl's body was later found in the desert, shot three times (graphic pictures here). The other two younger daughters were left for two-and-a-half hours in their bedroom with the body of their slain mother. In the early morning, they fled the house and ran toward their school where they were intercepted by the principal who asked them, "Why are you coming to school alone today? Where's your father?" They answered, "Daddy is in heaven." Ansar al-Sharia ("Supporters of Islamic Law"), an Islamist organization that rose to power during Libya's "Arab Spring," is believed to be responsible for the targeting of this, and other, Christian families. In February 2014, after Ansar al-Sharia offered a reward to any Benghazi resident who helped round up and execute the nation's Coptic Christian residents, seven Christians were forcibly seized from their homes by "unknown gunmen," marched out into the desert and shot execution style, some 20 miles west of Benghazi (graphic pictures appear here).
Nigeria: In Taraba State, over 100 Muslim Fulani herdsmen slaughtered 16 Christians, including a one-year-old infant and his mother, and torched several churches and Christians' homes in two separate village attacks. A resident from one of the villages said, "We have buried those killed in the attack, and the sad thing is that this is not the first time that such an attack was carried out on Christian communities here. No one cares about us. Lives and properties are being wasted on [a] daily basis, and the government is not doing anything to stop the killing of our people."
Catholic Priest Clement Mkperaga, whose church building was destroyed and who barely escaped with his life, said: "The village has been destroyed, and all my parishioners have been displaced. Ten of my parishioners were killed during the attack on our community. I have been forced to flee the village, as both the church building and the parish house have also been destroyed."
Many similar attacks on Christian villages have been launched by Muslim Fulani herdsmen who "are always working together with Muslim terrorist gunmen [Boko Haram]," said another Christian local: "Whenever they invade a Christian community, they kill and burn houses at will and go unchallenged. That is precisely how they attacked our village."
Christian Churches Under Islam
Egypt: Although the military promised to rebuild the dozens of churches damaged or destroyed by Islamic mobs angered at the June 2013 revolution that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, parishioners are still waiting. According to the Global Post, "The army's work to rebuild the churches has been slow. Even the help they do provide is partial," meaning the congregation has to pay for the bulk of repairs. Some churches are not even receiving partial aid, such as the charred shell that is the Anba Moussa church: "Nothing has been moved since the day a mob burned and looted the church and the priest's apartment. They took everything, down to the doorframes and the toilet seats, after driving a car through the front doors. Only an ever-thickening layer of dust attests to the passage of time."
According to that church's caretaker, "They say the army will come, but up to now we haven't seen anything." Islamic law holds that new churches are never to be built in Muslim lands and existing ones never repaired. Even so, many of these partially wrecked churches continue to be used, and are even packed, during church services. (Click here for many pictures of these wrecked churches.)
Iraq: The Islamic State blew up yet another Christian church in Mosul. According to Pastor Behnam Raad, "Members of the extremist organization cleared the Church of Virgin Mary of its contents in al-Arabi area, north of Mosul and blew it up after [a] few hours." The nearby convent of the Chaldean Sisters of the Sacred Heart was also reportedly bombed by IS. Once a Christian-majority city, Mosul is now an IS stronghold.
Sudan: On December 2, police beat and arrested 38 Christians from Bahri Evangelical Church in North Khartoum, for still using the church that authorities had condemned to destruction, and which had already been raided and partially demolished during the previous two weeks. "We have enjoyed worshipping and praising God in prison," one of the arrested Christians said. "The power of God was present among us; let the name of God be praised and glorified from now and evermore."
According to Morning Star News, Sudan's security agents and police have "broad powers to arrest Christians and other lowly regarded people without cause, for creating a public disturbance. The Christians were released after being sentenced to pay a fine of $250 each."
And on December 21, security agents arrested and held the Rev. Yat Michael of the South Sudan Presbyterian Evangelical Church right after he delivered a sermon about standing firm against persecution at the North Khartoum church. "The level of persecution has become too much for us in Sudan," another church leader said. "But God is good all the time; He will help His church face this persecution."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Proselytism
Kenya: A pastor of Somali descent whom Islamic Al Shabaab militants have threatened for leaving Islam lives in fear and terror. The Islamic group has offered a reward to anyone who kills the Rev. Mahad H. Birik. This comes after a video of the apostate describing his conversion from Islam seeped into Somali media two months earlier. Since then, disturbing signs — such as known hit men following him to church and masked men asking around about a "Somali pastor" — have taken place. "My family is now living in a sleepless state," said the father of two children — one aged 15 from a wife who, according to Islamic law, was taken from him when he left Islam, and a 2-year-old from remarriage. "My life and that of my family is in imminent danger. It is very serious and real, as Muslim extremists are strategizing on having my head."
On December 1, after two of Birik's Somali relatives argued with him over his conversion to Christianity, one of them said, "I wish I could get an opportunity to kill this infidel — just hit him right in his face." In Somali, converts to Christianity who get exposed are regularly beheaded by Islamists.
Pakistan: Eleven Christian residents of Islamabad, including a pastor, were collectively accused of blasphemy by Naseem Bibi, a former Christian woman who converted to Islam 20 years ago and married a Muslim man. She claims that Pastor Karamat Masih and 50 other Christians stormed into her home where they harassed and threatened her. Others, however, say the Muslim woman is exploiting the blasphemy law in order to avenge herself on some of the Christians with whom she has a personal dispute. Speaking of this case, a Pakistani Christian activist and lawyer, Sardar Mushtaq Gill, said, "There are always more and more frequent cases where the blasphemy law is used to target religious minorities or to settle cases of disputes and private rivalries, or simply as an instrument of blackmail."
Turkey: Approximately 10,000 New Testaments and other Christian books were destroyed during a fire that was started by a suspected arson attack at the offices of the Bible Correspondence Course in Turkey [BCC-Turkey], located in a multistory building, which also houses a church, in the Kadikoy neighborhood of Istanbul. There were no injuries or structural damage. Concerning the identity of the arsonist(s), David Byle, co-founder of BBC-Turkey, said "Our hunch is it is people who don't like people who do the activities we do here — mainly giving out free New Testaments and explaining the Christian faith to people." Concerning police response, Byle said,
"We were disappointed by how little interest it seemed was shown by the authorities investigating this. If a depot in Germany or England located right above a mosque, in the same building full of thousands of Korans, had a fire start right exactly where the Korans were stored, and if the policemen from England or Germany arrived at the scene and took a quick look and said, 'Oh, well this is obviously just an accident,' and then just tried to convince all the on-lookers it was an accident and didn't even bother to call the police in, that man would be out of a job very quickly."
(In April 2007, several terrorists attacked a publishing house in Malatya, Turkey, for distributing Bibles. They bound, tortured and slaughtered three Christian employees. One suspect later said: "We didn't do this for ourselves, but for our religion [Islam]…. Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion.")
According to the Justice Organization for Development and Human Rights, a Salafi plan exists in Egypt to expel the Christian Copts from the Upper Egypt governorates of Minya, Asyut and Beni Suef, where an Islamist presence is strong. Accordingly, unidentified people set four Coptic Christian owned shops on fire in Minya. Firefighters were barely able to extinguish the fire. Police later said the fire was caused by an electric short circuit, although most Copts are skeptical.
Separately, Mina Thabet, founder of the People's Initiative Party, said that cases of Coptic abductions for ransom are on the rise in Minya and are proving to be a lucrative "business" for "thugs and terrorists" of the Islamic persuasion in an area that is "at an all-time low and ridden with corruption." Thabet says that since January 25, 2011, the date of Egypt's original "Arab Spring," these kidnappings have cost Coptic Christian minorities over 120 million Egyptian pounds (nearly USD $16 million). According to Thabet, "incomprehensible laxity" concerning the safety of Christian minorities prevails, making them extremely vulnerable to profit-making kidnappings.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians is expanding. "Muslim Persecution of Christians" was developed to collate some — by no means all — of the instances of persecution that surface each month.
It documents what the mainstream media often fails to report.
It posits that such persecution is not random but systematic, and takes place in all languages, ethnicities and locations.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).
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