Hostility for Christmas was on full display. On Christmas Day, Muslims in Bethlehem, as documented here, set a Christmas tree on fire and greeted the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem with a hail of stones; in Belgium, Muslim "refugees" set fire to a public Christmas tree; in Nigeria, Muslim jihadis attacked churches during Christmas mass and killed at least 16; in the Philippines, on Christmas Eve, Muslim jihadis slaughtered 10 Christians to "make a statement;" in Bangladesh, churches skipped Christmas mass, due to assassination attempts on pastors and death threats against Christians; in Indonesia, churches were on "high alert," with 150,000 security personnel patrolling; in Iran, Christians celebrating Christmas in homes were arrested; and three Muslim countries -- Somalia, Tajikistan, and Brunei -- formally banned any Christmas celebrations.
Earlier in December, in the United States, in San Bernardino, California, Mohamed Ahmed Elrawi, 57, a Muslim, pulled out a sword and, saying he would "Die and kill for Allah," chased his neighbor, Mark Tashamneh a Christian of Jordanian descent. Tashamneh escaped and called police. After they arrested Elrawi on suspicion of attempted murder, they found in his apartment evidence suggesting that he is a "radicalized Muslim." While police were escorting Elrawi out of his apartment, Elrawi said in Arabic to Tashamneh that he would kill him. "I'm a Christian," Tashamneh told reporters. "I'm happy ... and I believe what I believe. I am not against what he believes, but he apparently has a problem with me and came and threatened me."
In Uganda, in separate incidents, Muslims slaughtered two Christian leaders with swords. Patrick Ojangole, a 43-year-old Christian father of five, was hacked to death. He had also supported several children whose families had disowned them for leaving Islam. According to Ojangole's friend, who survived, they had been traveling to their village when they saw Muslim women covered in burqas sitting on the road: "Because it was late in the evening, we thought they needed some help from us, so we stopped, and while we were still talking with them, a man arrived [followed by two more men] ... The two women immediately pulled out swords from their burqas and gave them to the men." One of the three Muslim men reproached Patrick Ojangole's for refusing to cease his Christian activities. Then the Muslims killed him. "Patrick was a very committed Christian and a hard-working farmer," said the friend. "From his farm work, he used to support 10 children from Muslim families who had been ostracized by their families." Ojangole's five children range in age from seven to sixteen.
Separately, a pastor was also hacked to death and beheaded after he and other church members resisted efforts by local Muslims to seize land belonging to the church. When pastor Bongo Martin, 32, confronted them, the imam of the Muslim group said, "We have told you many times that we do not want the church to be located near our mosque. Your church has been taking our members to your church." Then a Muslim, Abdulhakha Mugen, pulled out a sword and struck the pastor's neck. Martin instantly collapsed but Mugen kept hacking at him until he was decapitated. His body was later found floating the river.
In a predominantly Muslim village in Uganda, after a Bible study, an additional five underground Christians, including a pregnant mother, died from poisoning.
The rest of December's roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches and Symbols
Italy: While shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is the Greatest!"], two Muslim men, one Palestinian the other Tunisian, attacked and tried to disarm soldiers stationed outside Santa Maria Maggiore cathedral in Rome. According to Italian media, "[W]hen police intervened, the two men aged, 40 and 30, called other foreigners in the area to their aid, and assaulted and threatened the arresting officers. After they were taken to the police station, they continued to speak out against law enforcement and Europe in both Arabic and Italian. They were charged with resisting and threatening an officer and instigation to commit a crime with intent to commit terrorist acts, slapped with an expulsion order, and taken to a migrant reception center in the southern city of Bari prior to repatriation."
Egypt: A church which had obtained the necessary permits required for construction, and was under construction, in Swada village, Minya, was attacked on December 10 by a mob of at least 400 Muslims, incited by local officials. "They destroyed the marble, ceramics, cement, wood and church's signs inside the buildings and destroyed the contents of the building, and attacked and injured some of the workers," said a local man. After the attack, the same officials who incited the attack pointed to it as the reason to outlaw the church. The population of Swada is about 35% Christian, or 3,000 people, and there is not a single Coptic Orthodox church to serve them.
Separately, the ancient Paromeos monastery was threatened online by jihadists. The monastery, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built more than two hundred years before Islam overran Christian Egypt. Although the ancient monastery receives police protection, Christian activists are calling for greater security measures in response to increasing threats.
Yemen: Days after the Islamic State (ISIS) assassinated Aden city's governor, an abandoned Catholic church was blown up. "The gunmen," according to a resident, "who were probably extremists, blew up the [Immaculate Conception] Catholic church in the Mualla district of Aden... The building was completely destroyed." The church had already been severely damaged after a Saudi-led coalition air strike last May. Reuters wrote: "Once a cosmopolitan city, home to thriving Hindu and Christian communities, Aden has gone from one of the world's busiest ports as a key hub of the British empire to a largely lawless backwater. Its small Christian population left long ago. Unknown assailants had previously vandalized a Christian cemetery and torched another Aden church this year."
Iraq: ISIS bombed a monastery that belonged to nuns in the Christian village of Tel Kepe. Ten Assyrian Christian homes were also bombed and several people injured. Separately, in Kirkuk, a cemetery used by the Assyrian Church and the Syriac Orthodox church was vandalized. Crosses and tombstones were broken, and graves opened. The identity of the perpetrators is unknown. Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako condemned the destruction of the cemeteries. He said, "We live in difficult conditions..."
In December 2015, a Christian cemetery in Kirkuk, Iraq was vandalized. Crosses and tombstones were broken, and graves opened.
Turkey: Groups believed to be associated with ISIS issued death threats to at least 20 evangelical churches via social media, email, and mobile texts. They included "upsetting videos and pictures" said a human rights activist. Suspected Islamic State militants reportedly said they "are tired of waiting" for Muslims who had converted to Christianity to return to Islam. "Koranic commandments... urge us to slay the apostate like you," said one message.
Bangladesh: "He who preaches Christianity must leave the country or die" were the words of an anonymous letter sent to ten leaders of Protestant Christian churches. An additional four church leaders narrowly escaped attempts on their lives, causing the nation's churches to cancel Christmas Day church services.
Cameroon: Boko Haram jihadis invaded a Christian village and torched a church and several homes. Up to 1,000 Christians – men, women and children – were affected. Eight were killed. After reducing everything the villagers had to ashes, the jihadis also set their food supplies on fire. The villagers are struggling to survive.
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: Seven Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked two households and a compound for Christians who had already been displaced from earlier jihadi attacks. Fifteen Christians were slaughtered, including three children aged 1, 3, and 5, as well as their grandmother. According to her daughter, "My mother struggled with the gunmen until they finally shot her and the three kids," said her daughter. "She died trying to save the three children." According to one resident: "They had come to survey the village that Sunday morning while we were in our churches. The Fulani gunmen even asked our children to give them drinking water, which they did, but the kids did not suspect anything and did not inform us about this. It was only after the attack that we were told about the visit of the gunmen to our village."
Central African Republic: Armed Muslim Seleka militants attacked a camp for internally displaced persons. They killed eight Christians and wounded one UN peacekeeper. Since Muslim Seleka seized power of the Christian-majority country in 2013, thousands of people have been killed. After months of massacres, rapes, and looting by armed Seleka, Christian anti-balaka (anti-machete) armed groups emerged to counter the Seleka. Although they see themselves as a Christian militia, the nation's churches condemn their violent actions.
Egypt: A 70-year-old Christian woman was found stabbed to death in her house in what is now a Muslim majority nation. She had 10 stab wounds in her chest. Police were informed and the matter was reported as being under investigation.
Norway: Christian camp sites offered as shelter for asylum seekers were told by local authorities to remove Christian symbols. According to the report, to accommodate "the large influx of asylum seekers to Norway, immigration authorities found it necessary to lodge asylum seekers in more places than ordinary reception centres. The Norwegian Missionary Society offered several Christian camp sites, which authorities accepted as long as the missionary society took down any cross or other Christian symbols." It agreed. But a speaker for the Progress Party said, "I understand that asylum centres should be politically and religiously neutral, but I interpret it so that the camps would not engage in active ministry, which is said they will respect. The cross however, is not just a religious symbol, but also a part of our heritage and part of our flag.... [I]f they fear that people are offended by being surrounded by Christian symbols, then perhaps those [Muslim] people applied for asylum in the wrong country."
Eritrea: After finding a new life in Europe, Gospel singer Helen Berhane shared her experiences in Eritrea. She told of how she was locked in a shipping container and tortured for being Christian. At a conference in Rome, she said: "The only reason they [Muslim authorities] let you go is when they torture you to death.... They don't want you to die in prison, it's not their responsibility, so they send you home to die." Berhane, who was arrested for evangelizing and releasing religious music, was released only after she became deathly ill.
Syria: A Christian priest who escaped to the West after being held for months by Islamic State in Raqqa shared his "very intense experience, from the spiritual point of view." According to Syriac Catholic priest, Rev. Jacques Mourad: "It was very difficult above all when they said, 'Become Muslim or we'll cut your head off.'"
Turkey: After widespread international criticism, the nation's schoolroom textbooks appear improved in several ways, including how non-Sunni Muslims are depicted. But they still contain biases against non-Muslim religions, said a new study. The "major weakness" is that the "textbooks are still written through the paradigm of the officially-sanctioned interpretations of Islam and Islamic culture. All religious minority traditions in the country are depicted within the Muslim context rather than as distinct traditions. In addition, only superficial, limited, and misleading information is given about religions other than Islam, such as Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism." For example, instead of explaining that Christians view Jesus as the Son of God, an eighth-grade text depicts him as one in a line of Islamic prophets called by Allah, akin to the Islamic historiography about Muhammad: "When Jesus reached 30 years of age, Allah gave him the duty of being a prophet.... He then began inviting people to believe in Allah. At the start, only 12 people believed in his call. They are called the 'disciples.'"
Pakistan: Mary Javaid, a Christian teacher at a female primary school in the Punjab, was accused of having "preached Christianity to Muslim girls." A Muslim man, Muhammad Sharif, filed a complaint with the Department of Education containing accusations against Javaid which, according to human rights lawyer, Sardar Mushtaq Gill, are false, and instead represent yet another case of discrimination and abuse towards a Christian involved in the area of education. A few months earlier, a Catholic teacher, appointed headmaster at a primary school, was beaten and tortured by a group of Muslim teachers who spurned the authority of a Christian "infidel."
Nigeria: Mercy, a 22-year-old Christian woman abducted by Boko Haram in June 2014 and rescued after five weeks, described her ordeal in the Islamic camp. In June 2014, members of Boko Haram overran her town and declared it an Islamic caliphate. At least 100 people were killed in the attack. She was seized from her home in the middle of the night. "Everyone in the town," she said, "ran to save themselves. My dad and I were separated. I don't know what happened to him. I think he died the same way many others died, because they refused to deny Christ." She was marched off to a Boko Haram camp. "When we got to the place, there were about 50 other women. I recognised many other Christians, who had now become Muslims and were forced to undergo Islamic teaching.... My first day was like hell. I cried all day and all night. I prayed like never before and asked God to give me courage." The next morning, Mercy and the others were taken to a clearing for questioning and asked to convert to Islam.
The four other girls were very scared and immediately agreed. I pleaded that they allow me to remain a Christian, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. They beat me and told me to never mention Christianity in the camp again. Then they told me that they would arrange a husband for me. ... We were forced to attend prayers at 5am. After that, we were sent to a madrassa [Islamic school]. There was only a short break. After we were given a little food, we returned to the madrassa. They constantly told us to work hard for the advancement of Boko Haram. In the afternoon we were dispersed to do our chores, such as washing the men's clothes.... I witnessed constantly how Boko Haram members killed innocent people. Christian men who were captured and brought to the camp were killed for refusing to deny their faith. [It was like] the fulfilment of the [things written in the] Bible played out in front of my eyes, as people died for their faith in Christ. But others, including me, could not endure the torture and gave in to their demands.
Mercy was eventually "married" off to a Muslim man and without giving any details only said, "Every single day came with tears and fears for the unknown."
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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