By Raymond Ibrahim
The Islamic State is at it again. More stories of atrocities against Christians continued to surface. In one, a Christian man, Meghrik, said the bus in which he was riding in Syria was stopped at what turned out to be an ISIS checkpoint. Three men dressed in black entered and began checking all the passengers’ identification papers. “Are you a Christian?” they asked him. “No,” he said. He explained that he was raised by Christian parents and his family name was Christian, but that he was not. “You’re lying,” the fighter said. “Your name says you’re a Christian. Come with me.” He was taken to an ISIS judge who “concluded that he was a Christian” and said “You’re sentenced to death.” Thereafter Meghrik was severely whipped and tortured. At one point, he was thrown in a hole in the ground and surrounded by an execution squad prepared to fire. After 10 days of this treatment and for unknown reasons — Meghrik cites a miracle and is now a devout Christian — he was released.
While much of the world acknowledges that the Islamic State is engaged in acts of genocide against religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, in other Muslim states, such as Pakistan, Christians and other non-Muslim minorities are experiencing a “drip-drip genocide”, said the noted author, journalist and Pakistani politician Farahnaz Ispahani:
“Right before the partition of India and Pakistan, we had a very healthy balance of religions other than Islam. Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Zoroastrians. Pakistan goes from 23 per cent [non-Muslim at the time of partition in 1947], which is almost a quarter of its population, to three per cent today. I call it a ‘drip drip genocide’, because it’s the most dangerous kind of wiping out of religious communities…. It doesn’t happen in one day. It doesn’t happen over a few months. Little by little by little, laws and institutions and bureaucracies and penal codes, textbooks that malign other communities, until you come to the point of having this sort of jihadi culture that is running rampant.”
Other accounts of Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in February 2017 include, but are not limited to, the following:
The Slaughter of Christians in Egypt
As in January, when five different Christians were killed in four separate hate crimes around the country, another murderous wave took non-Muslim minorities by storm, this time in al-Arish, Sinai. The murders may have resulted from a video released in February by the “Islamic State in Egypt.” In the video, masked militants promise more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross” — a reference to the Coptic Christians of Egypt, of whom they also refer to as their “favorite prey” and “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.” One of the militants, carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, added, “God gave orders to kill every infidel.” Below is a list of Christians murdered in al-Arish:
January 30: A 35-year-old Christian was in his small shop working with his wife and young son when three masked men walked in, opened fire and killed him. The masked men then sat around his shop table, eating chips and drinking soda, while the bodies lay in a pool of blood before the terrified wife and child.
February 13: A 57-year-old Christian laborer was shot and killed as he tried to fight off masked men trying to kidnap his young son on a crowded street in broad daylight. The men, after murdering the father, seized his young son and took him to an unknown location (where, if precedent is accurate, he is likely being tortured or possibly killed, if a hefty ransom is not paid).
February 16: A 45-year-old Christian schoolteacher was moonlighting at his shoe store with his wife, when masked men walked in the crowded shop and shot him dead.
February 17: A 40-year-old medical doctor was killed by masked men who, after forcing him to stop his car, opened fire and killed him. He leaves a widow and two children.
February 22: Islamic State affiliates killed a 65-year-old Christian man by shooting him in the head. They then abducted and tortured his 45-year-old son before burning him alive and dumping his charred remains near a schoolyard.
February 23: A Christian plumber was shot dead in front of his wife and children at their home.
After the slayings, at least 300 Christians living in al-Arish fled their homes, with nothing but their clothes on their backs and their children in their hands. In a video of these Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether! Where’s the military?” Another woman yells at the camera:
“Tell the whole world, look — we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people! Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools. Why? Why all this injustice?! Why doesn’t the president move and do something for us? We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!”
“We loved our country but our country doesn’t love us,” said the brother of one of the slain.
Muslim Abduction, Rape, Murder and Mutilation of Christian Women
Pakistan: Hours after being dropped off at the Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Punjab by her brother, Tania Mariyam, a 12-year-old Christian girl, was found dead in a canal. Despite all the evidence to the contrary — including her clothes being ripped off and signs of drugging — police investigations concluded that she had committed suicide. After three weeks of pressure from Mariyam’s family and human rights groups, who insisted that the girl had been raped and murdered — as so many Christian girls (and boys) in Pakistan have been before her — police finally conceded that she had not killed herself. Even so, “the severe delays,” says the British Pakistani Christian Association, “mean that much of the evidence has been lost.”
“There was a disgusting police cover up,” the murdered girl’s father said, “and I fear that they have colluded with the murderer and know more than they are letting on. They do not care about Christians.”
West Africa: According to a report, “Muslims radicals punished the [14-year-old] daughter of a Christian missionary for her faith by subjecting her to brutal female genital mutilation. Currently, the young woman remains in a coma, struggling for her life.” Lydia’s father, Yoonus, formerly a Muslim scholar, had converted to Christianity. When the local Muslim community heard of this — and that he “was now leading Muslims to Christ” — they “urged him to return to Islam and promised to give him gifts if he rejected Christianity. However, Yoonus and his family refused to renounce their faith, resulting in increased persecution,” including the attack on his daughter.
Egypt: Two new cases surfaced of young Christian girls being abducted with the indifference or complicity of the authorities. After Rania Eed Fawzy, 17, failed to return home, her parents and lawyer said it was “an incident of kidnapping and forced conversion to Islam.” They “filed a complaint with the local police that a Muslim male named Rabee Radi Naghi had taken their daughter against her will.” When the family lawyer contacted the Egyptian Attorney General, Nabil Ahmed Sadek, requesting “to remove Rania from hiding and deliver her to one of the Christian Orthodox homeless youth shelters”—as “[n]ormally in such cases the local authorities know where the kidnap victim is kept” — the Attorney General refused and said, “[T]he girl embraced Islam, what do you want?”
As the report explains, even if she did freely convert, “a child in Egypt is considered a minor until age 21. Until [one comes] of age, conversion from one religion to another is illegal.”
“In such kidnapping cases, however, the authorities always settle the issue by accepting the minor Christian girl’s ‘conversion’ to Islam … never the other way around. In conversion from Islam to Christianity complaints, police go above and beyond their role to retrieve the girl and warn her of death from apostasy. Such cases suit the purposes of ideological jihad. By removing a non-Muslim young woman of child-bearing age from the Christian community, adding her to the Muslim girl population to bear Muslim children serves to increase the Muslim population while decreasing Christian numbers.”
Separately, after an apparent ruse caused the older brother of Hanan Adly, an 18-year-old Christian girl, to step out of the house one night, she disappeared from the family farm. The family and their lawyer made a formal complaint to the police, accusing a neighbor, Mohamed Ahmed Nubi Soliman, 27, of kidnapping her. Prosecutors summoned the man and “he admitted a connection with the incident. However, he was released due to lack of physical evidence,” says the report.
“A national security investigation was ordered, but … there has been no progress with the case, despite protests outside the police station by friends and family of Hanan.”
Mali: A Christian nun was kidnapped in the Muslim-majority African nation with “no claims or demands for ransom”, said a local Christian leader. Sister Cecilia Narváez Argoti, of Colombian background, belonged to the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate.
“The kidnappers arrived on 7 February from a secluded location a bit far from the village where Sister Cecilia and her sisters were. They broke into the missionary center and plundered money and computer equipment. They then escaped with the ambulance of the medical center with the nun.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Central African Republic: Supporters of a Muslim rebel group destroyed two churches and killed a pastor in what are described as “revenge attacks.” After the national security forces, backed by UN peacekeepers, launched a military operation to interrogate Youssouf Malinga, a local Muslim militia leader known as the “Big Man,” he and his men opened fire on the security forces and killed two passersby. Security forces responded with fire and killed Malinga and one of his men; three soldiers were also injured in the shootout. Malinga’s supporters responded by surrounding an apostolic church and stabbing its pastor to death. “More than two dozen people were wounded. At least two churches were destroyed, along with a school,” in the “revenge attacks,” the report adds. “Central African Republic was plunged into civil war in 2013 following the overthrow of former president Francois Bozize, a Christian, by Muslim rebels from the Seleka militia.”
Congo: Churches are “being desecrated and Christian nuns terrorised by ‘violent thugs’ amid a wave of increased hostility on Christians,” according to reports. Elsewhere the “thugs” are described as “Islamist extremists.” In February alone, “the extremists” burned a major seminary and
“sow[ed] terror among the Carmelite Sisters in nearby Kananga…. The extremists also attacked the St. Dominic church in the town of Limete. They ‘overturned the tabernacle, ransacked the altar, smashed some of the benches and attempted to set fire to the church,’ the archbishop said.”
Iran: “Historical churches in Iran being destroyed while UNESCO overlooks,” is the title of one report. After explaining that “Destroying church buildings has a long record in the history of the Islamic regime of Iran,” it gives several examples in recent times. Sometimes churches are attacked by “extremist Muslims” who destroy crosses, statues, and icons with sledgehammers and axes; other times the government is responsible. In one case, “judicial authorities in Kerman issued a ruling for a historical church building in their city to be brought down, even though a few years earlier this church had been registered as a national heritage site”; in another instance, a “historical evangelical church building in Mashhad that had been registered as a national heritage site in 2005, was destroyed.” There “are around five hundred registered church buildings in Iran, with many of them abandoned or on the verge of destruction.”
Sudan: The government ordered the “demolition of at least 25 church buildings” in the Khartoum area, relates one report. The government claimed the churches were built on land zoned for other uses, although mosques located in the same area were spared from the demolition order. Christian leaders said this is “not an isolated act” but rather part of a wider “crack-down” on Christianity that “should be taken with wider perspective.” The Sudan Council of Churches denounced the order and called on the government to reconsider the decision or provide alternative sites for the churches. But Mohamad el Sheikh Mohamad, general manager of Khartoum State’s land department in the Ministry of Physical Planning, said the order should be implemented immediately. “Sudan since 2012 has bulldozed church buildings and harassed and expelled foreign Christians,” the report concludes.
Nigeria: The Christian Association of Nigeria is calling on the nation’s government to help rebuild destroyed churches in the Muslim majority regions of the nation’s northeastern states. This comes after a report revealed that “at least 900 Christian places of worship have been destroyed by Boko Haram since the [militant Islamic] group began its violent activities.” U.S. lawmakers said that Nigeria is the worst nation in which to be Christian. Christopher Smith, Chairman of US House of Representatives’ Sub-committee on Africa, said that both his staff and he have “investigated the crises facing Christians in Nigeria today” and
“made several visits to Nigeria, speaking with Christians and Muslim religious leaders across the country and visiting fire-bombed churches, such as in Jos…. Unfortunately, Nigeria has been cited as the most dangerous place for Christians in the world and impunity for those responsible for the killing of Christians seem to be widespread.”
What makes the African nation so hostile to Christians is Boko Haram, a militant Muslim group, which has “forced Christians to convert and forced Muslims to adhere to its extreme interpretation of Islam.”
Pakistan: Catholic churches and schools in the Lahore area closed down after a Taliban splinter group, which had killed seventy Christians on Easter Day, 2016, carried out a suicide bombing at a rally and killed at least 14 people. The group had vowed a year ago that it planned on launching “more devastating attacks that will target Christians and other religious minorities as well as government installations.”
Coptic Christians protest outside the church of St Peter and St Paul in Cairo, Egypt, after a bomb attack on the complex.
On January 28, a court acquitted 106 Muslims of burning down an entire Christian village in 2013 — including 150 homes and three churches. The attack came after one of its inhabitants, Sawan Masih, was accused of blasphemy. More than 80 prosecution witnesses, 63 of them with statements recorded about the attack, said they did not recognize any of the 106 accused. So they were all released.
Also on January 28, the government arrested an elderly Christian man on the charge of blasphemy — which carries a maximum death penalty. A mosque leader accused Mukhtar Masih, 70, of writing two letters containing derogatory remarks about the Koran and Muhammad. The report cites a source who said that “the charges against Masih were fabricated by local Muslims seeking to seize his property.” Nonetheless, police raided the elderly man’s home the same day and took his entire family into custody. His family was released but he was booked on charges of blasphemy, and beaten in an attempt to force him to admit to it.
Separately, the Pakistani government denied that “Christian minorities are being targeted by the country’s controversial blasphemy laws,” says another report — despite the well-known fact that religious minorities, chief among them Christians, are the demographic group most prone to being accused and convicted of blasphemy, to say nothing of being beaten, lynched, and burned alive in mob attacks. After alleging that, of 129 cases of blasphemy, 99 were leveled against fellow Muslims, Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said “religious minorities are not being embroiled in blasphemy cases more than Muslims.” However, “[s]everal different persecution watchdog groups have pointed out that Christians are often heavily targeted by blasphemy laws.” Pakistani human rights activist Wilson Chowdhry said officials are “twisting statistics”:
“Sadly, Mr Khan’s comments… [and] contrived results have failed to recognize that Christians in recent years have become the number one target of blasphemy allegations. It is our belief that a large proportion of the 26 percent of blasphemy convictions listed against minorities will have sentenced Christians, yet we contribute only 1.6 percent of the entire national population.”
Muslim Hate for and Discrimination against Christians
Egypt: Fadi, a 15-year-old Christian boy, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of what human rights activists say is a false accusation. Last summer, a Muslim neighbor accused him of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old Muslim boy. Investigations and forensic examinations were performed but revealed no evidence of sexual activity. The family was still ordered to leave the village and the charges remained. According to Fadi’s mother, Hana, he was targeted only because their Muslim neighbors, whose grandfather is an influential imam at the local mosque, “don’t like Christians.” She adds: the “judge convicted my son to 15 years because he is a Christian. If he was a Muslim boy, the judge would acquit him when he saw the forensic report, because the forensic report absolved my son,” but “because my son is Christian,” the judge “believed the speech of [the Muslim boy’s] father instead of the forensic report.”
Turkey: The Islamic terrorist who opened fire on an Istanbul nightclub during New Year’s Eve celebrations confessed that “I wanted to stage the attack on Christians in order to exact revenge on them for their acts committed all over the world. My aim was to kill Christians.” But for a variety of reasons that made it difficult for him to launch a spectacular attack on Christians, Abdulkadir Masharipov, of Uzbeki origin, ended up killing 39 people and wounded 65 others at a nightclub. He laments that he did not die then and there as a “martyr”: “When I was out of bullets, I threw two stun grenades. I put the third one near my face to commit suicide, but I didn’t die. I survived, but I entered Reina [nightclub] to die.” Apparently to hurry him on his way to what he sought on the day of attack, Islamic paradise, Abdulkadir said that “it would be good if he were given capital punishment.”
Iraq: Kurdish Peshmerga forces continue to be hostile to a Christian militia group also fighting the Islamic State. After William J. Murray, chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Religious Freedom Coalition, visited the Christian town of Qaraqosh on the Nineveh Plain, he wrote that it
“has enemies other than the ruthless Islamic State, or ISIS, which left it in ruins. Currently the Kurdish militia, the Peshmerga, is blocking aid to the NPU [Nineveh Protection Unit] that guards the town, because the NPU is the Assyrian Christian militia. It is the only armed Christian group in Iraq…. While for appearance and funding from Washington, the Kurds support Christian interests for now, the historical relationship between the two groups includes participation in slaughtering Christians by the tens of thousands. There is no room for a Christian enclave, particularly one that is armed, in the future of an independent state of Kurdistan…”
Kurds are Sunni Muslims.
France: A new study revealed that, in the Western European nation with the largest Muslim population, the overwhelming majority of “religious attacks” are against Christians. “Acts targeting Christian places accounted for 90% of all attacks on places of worship (Christians, Jews or Muslims).” Although the government responded to these statistics by saying that “all these acts have no religious motivation,” and that out of 949 attacks on churches, “there was a possible ‘satanic motivation’ in 14 cases and an ‘anarchist’ motivation in 25,” it did not reveal the source behind the other 910 attacks. Another report, however, from neighboring Germany gives a hint:
“Last year in Dülmen, following the arrival of well over a million [mostly Muslim] migrants in Germany, local media said ‘not a day goes by’ without attacks on Christian religious statues.”