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"Islamic! Islamic!" Muslim Persecutions of Christians, April, 2015

He could hear from inside his room where he was hiding the gunmen opening doors and inquiring if the people inside were Muslims or Christians.

"The motorbike riders got down from their bike and started beating [Christian journalist] Shamim Masih and... warned him that if he did not stop reporting on Christian issues, they knew his family and home and would teach him and his family a lesson." — Nazir S. Batti, Pakistan Christian Congress Party.

"The city of Mosul alone had 45 churches. Now there is not a single one. The buildings have been destroyed. Four hundred churches have been destroyed in Syria. ... The same is happening in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Northern Africa." — Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia

"What happened to Christians in Iraq and Syria... does not receive Arabic media coverage that befits human beings, whatever their religion." — Hani Naqshabandi, Saudi writer.

Islamic State Slaughters Christian Ethiopians

Just two months after the Islamic State [IS] published a video depicting its members slaughtering 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, on Sunday, April 19, the jihadi Islamic group released another video of more Christians in Libya -- approximately 30 Ethiopians -- disparagingly referred to by an IS spokesman as "worshippers of the cross" -- being butchered for not paying jizya, extortion money demanded of the "People of the Book" who refuse to convert to Islam, according to Koran 9:29.

Some of the Christians were shot execution-style in the back of their heads, the others had their heads carved off, like the Copts before them.

The IS spokesman further addressed "Christians everywhere":

We say to Christians everywhere, the Islamic State will expand, with Allah's permission. And it will reach you even if you are in fortified strongholds. So whoever enters Islam will have security, and whoever accepts the Dhimmah contract [subjugated, third-class treatment and social status] will have security. But whoever refuses will see nothing from us but the edge of a spear. The men will be killed and the children will be enslaved, and their wealth will be taken as booty. This is the judgment of Allah and His Messenger.

In a statement, the Coptic Christian Church of Egypt pointed out that the Ethiopian martyrs, like the 21 Copts before them, were "murdered purely for refusing to renounce their faith."

Al Shabaab Murders 147, Separates Muslims from Christians

On April 2 in Kenya, gunmen from the Somali Islamic group, Al Shabaab -- "the [Islamic] youth" -- stormed Garissa University, singled out Christian students, and murdered them, beheading some. A total of 147 people were killed in the attack -- making this jihad more "spectacular" than the 2013 Al Shabaab attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, which left 67 people dead (then too, Islamic gunmen singled out Christians for slaughter).

Islamic gunmen were careful to separate Christians from Muslims before beginning the carnage, eyewitnesses said. (While Kenya is 83% Christian, it still has an 11% Muslim minority.) Collins Wetangula, vice chairman of the student union, said he could hear, from inside his room where he was hiding, the gunmen opening doors and inquiring if the people inside were Muslims or Christians. "If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die."

Al Shabaab has a long history of singling out Christians from among Muslims for slaughter (here are four examples). Other jihadi groups, including Boko Haram and the Islamic State, also make it a point to select out Christians before slaughtering them -- a fact often omitted by the "mainstream media."

Egyptian Churches under Attack

On April 5, as Coptic Christians were celebrating Palm Sunday, a church was attacked in Alexandria, Egypt. Gunmen in a vehicle opened fire on the church during the night, injuring a police officer and two civilians.

On April 12, Easter Sunday according to the Orthodox calendar, two explosions targeting churches took place in the Zagazig area. One car explosion took place near a Coptic Orthodox church and another bomb exploded near the Evangelical Church in the same area. Although no casualties were reported, large numbers could have easily resulted, based on precedent. For example, on January 1, 2011, as Egypt's Christians ushered in the New Year, car bombs went off near the Two Saints Church in Alexandria, resulting in 23 dead worshippers and dozens critically injured.

Muslims rioted because President Sisi had agreed that Copts could build a church in Al-Our, where 13 of the 21 Christians beheaded by the Islamic State had grown up, and where their families still live. Local Muslims arose in violence soon after Islamic prayers on Friday, April 3. They shouted that they would never allow a church to be built, that "Egypt is Islamic!" By nightfall, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at another Coptic church, cars were set ablaze -- including one belonging to a relative of a man decapitated by the Islamic State -- and several people were injured.[1]

A day later, on April 4, Muslims rioted and attacked the Christians of the village of Gala', Samalout district. After waiting for years to repair their dilapidated church (see pictures), local Copts finally received all the proper permits to begin restoration. Soon Coptic homes, businesses and persons were attacked with hurled rocks. Christian-owned farms were destroyed and their crops uprooted. Islamic slogans were constantly shouted, including "There is no god but Allah" and "Islamic! Islamic!"

After waiting for 44 years, the Christians of Nag Shenouda, in the city of Sohag, finally received the necessary permit to build a new church. Muslims rioted and burned down the tent the Christians had erected to worship under. The Christians of Nag Shenouda were forced to celebrate Easter in the street (picture here). When one of them tried to hold a worship service in his home, a Muslim mob attacked him and his household.

More Islamic Attacks on Christian Churches

Syria: The Islamic State destroyed at least three churches under its control:

On Easter Sunday, the Islamic State destroyed the Virgin Mary Church -- an Assyrian church built and consecrated in 1934 -- in Tel Nasri, northeast Syria. Tel Nasri, loosely translated as "Christian Hill," is one of the dozens of Assyrian Christian villages along the Khabur river; all were attacked and occupied by the Islamic State in late February (more here and here).

On April 28, the St. Odisho Assyrian Church in Tel Tal, and the St. Rita Tilel Armenian Church in Aleppo, were also destroyed.

Nigeria: A Muslim mob set fire to a church in a Christian village in Nigeria's northern Kano State on April 1. Muslims were searching for a young man in order to kill him; he had renounced Islam and re-converted to Christianity. The mob with machetes also attacked Christian villagers, torched the home of a pastor, and killed one of his daughters. According to a local official, General Dikko:

The church and all the properties were burnt down in the presence of the Christian community despite all pleadings for them to stop the destruction. The arsonists gathered cornstalks and put them inside the church in order to cause greater damage.... We have the right to belong to any religion of our choice and live anywhere in this country. We call on the authorities at all levels to rise up to their responsibilities of protecting lives and properties of every citizen in this country.

Pakistan: Two assailants on motorbikes opened fire on the main gates of a church and Christian school in Lahore; in the crossfire, two passersby were injured.

Malaysia: On Sunday, April 19, a Muslim mob of approximately 50 people rioted and protested against a small Protestant church in the capital of Kuala Lumpur The object of their wrath was the cross atop the building of worship. Members of the mob said that the cross, the central symbol of Christianity, represented "a challenge to Islam" and could "influence the faith of young people." The cross was removed.

More Muslim Slaughter of Christians

High Seas: On April 16, during a recent crossing from Libya, Muslim migrants threw as many as 53 Christians overboard, according to police in Sicily. The reported motive was that the victims "professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim." Another report said that the reason the Christians were thrown overboard is because a boy was seen praying to the Judeo-Christian God. Muslims commanded him to stop, saying "Here, we only pray to Allah." Eventually the Muslims, in the words of a witness, "went mad," and started screaming, "Allahu Akbar!;" then began hurling Christians into the sea.[2]

Nigeria: "All 276 Christian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 may have been among a group of women slaughtered by Boko Haram last month [March], Nigerian media reported Monday, April 6,"[3] according to a "U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights."

Syria: Islamic rebels fired rockets at a Christian neighborhood in Aleppo on the night of April 10-11. The attack left massive destruction in the eastern section of the predominantly Assyrian and Armenian Sulaymaniyah district. At least 40 people, mostly Assyrians -- including women and children -- were killed. An Assyrian Catholic Cathedral was also shelled, injuring three civilians. "Our Easter feast has turned to grief," a nun in Aleppo said: "Some people woke up to find themselves without a home and others did not see the life died under the rubble because they were victims of violence."

Egypt: A Muslim man repeatedly stabbed a Christian woman with a knife, then threw her body into a canal. The Coptic woman, Gamila Basilious, 48-years-old and married, lived in Minya. According to police reports, the man, Mahmoud Hassan Abdulhamid, came to her door inquiring about her husband. When he discovered her husband was not present, he took advantage of the situation by attacking her with a knife, repeatedly stabbing her neck and chest. As "infidels," Coptic Christians are regularly attacked in Egypt. The attacks include kidnapping, church attacks, and random slaughter.

Islamic Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytization

Uganda: Five Muslim men gang-raped and beat a Christian pastor's 17-year-old daughter. The attacks were reportedly done in "retaliation" for the pastor's refusal to stop Christian worship services in a Muslim-majority region. The girl was approaching the New Hope Church building where her father serves as pastor when she was abducted and taken to nearby bushes by the rapists. In her words:

The five Muslims took hold of me, and they raped me there. I tried to scream, but they threatened to kill me. One of them said, "Your father should stop this prayer meeting of trying to change Muslims to become Christians and close the church building — we have warned him several times.

The suspects fled when church members arrived for an all-night prayer vigil. They rushed her to a local clinic, where she was treated for serious injuries and mental trauma. According to her father, "The girl still has problems communicating. She just says a few words and then keeps quiet. She needs trauma counseling." Earlier, the father had received messages threatening him and demanding he cease holding Christian worship services. One text message said, "Be you informed that we do not want your church in this area. If you continue worship here, then you will live to regret it."

Bangladesh: A Muslim mob attacked a former Muslim and his wife for converting to Christianity. The couple was attacked while coming home after being baptized. The man was slapped across the face by a Muslim imam in front of the convert's two young children. The Islamic mob further broke the fence of the new Christians' family home and said they would chase the "apostates" out of the village for leaving Islam. The man who baptized the couple was also attacked, beaten by the mob at his home, and later lost his job.

Egypt: Gad Yunan, a Coptic Christian teacher, and five of his Coptic students were arrested on the charge of "contempt of religions." Their "crime" was to have made a 30-second video on Yunan's iPhone, poking fun at the Islamic State -- which Egypt's Muslims and authorities apparently equate with making fun of Islam, even as Muslims in the West insist that IS has "nothing to do with Islam." Yunan was "banished" from his village of al-Nasriya in an effort to appease local Muslims; they had reacted to the video with violence, including pelting the homes and businesses of Christians with stones. According to Khamis, Yunan's brother: "I don't see any insulting of Islam in the video. They were joking and making fun of Daesh (the Arabic acronym for IS), not Islam. My brother didn't intend to insult the Islamic religion." [4]

Ethiopia: Gemechu Jorgo and Sheikh Amin -- two men who were distributing Bibles in Ethiopia's Melka Belo region -- were arrested. Islamic law bans the advertisement and dissemination of any religion other than Islam. While imprisoned, both men endured harassment and physical abuse by authorities. At one point, Jorgo reminded District Administrator Jamal Adam of his constitutional right to practice his Christian faith freely. In response, the Muslim administrator used Jorgo's Bible to slap him in the face three times. Amin, formerly a Muslim sheikh and prayer leader of a mosque, is a recent convert to Christianity. While in prison, officials persistently pressured the apostate to renounce Christ and return to Islam. He refused. Both men were eventually released. Ethiopia is a Christian-majority nation, although Muslims make up about one-third of the population.

Uzbekistan: Reports appearing in April told of the harassing, jailing and fining of several Christians for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. One of the prisoners of conscience -- Council of Churches Baptist Doniyor Akhmedov -- was fined more than three years' official minimum wage after his release from 15 days in jail. Other prisoners of conscience to be jailed for short periods include a Protestant in Bukhara, who received seven days' imprisonment for "illegal" religious activity, and another Protestant, who received 10 days' jail time for "teaching religion illegally." Their identities remain anonymous for fear that they might suffer further reprisals. Nine more Protestants were fined for "illegally storing" Christian literature and materials. Their homes were raided by police, who confiscated Christian books, CDs and DVDs. "Religious minorities face tight scrutiny in Uzbekistan as they are unable to openly practice their beliefs without facing major penalties such as jail terms or heavy fines," Forum 18 News reported.

Dhimmitude: Generic Violence and Hostility against Christians

France: On April 15, 215 Christian gravestones and crosses in the cemetery of Saint-Roch de Castres (Tarn) were damaged and desecrated (pictures here). The man responsible was later arrested. According to the prosecutor, Charlotte Beluet: "The suspect, arrested at 12:45 on Thursday, matches the description given by a witness, a cemetery employee, who came across the man dressed in a white djellaba [Arab/Muslim garb], and followed him... The man repeats Muslim prayers over and over, he drools and cannot be communicated with: his condition has been declared incompatible with preliminary detention." He was hospitalized on the assumption that he is "mentally unbalanced."

Iraq: The Islamic State published pictures of its members destroying Christian tombstones and crosses in cemeteries under its control, including Mosul's oldest Christian cemetery near the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral. IS quoted Islamic scriptures justifying its actions. Several jihadi websites posted these pictures. Some include Islamic State members using sledgehammers to destroy gravestones and efface the crosses carved on them.

An Islamic State member is shown destroying a Christian tombstone in Mosul, Iraq, in April 2015. (Image source: MEMRI)

Bangladesh: On Easter day, a Catholic Christian village made up of tribal Khasia people was attacked by Muslims. The Muslim owner of a tea plantation, Syed Ara Begum, along with a Muslim mob, attacked the Christian village as its population was celebrating Mass. The plantation owner is reportedly seeking to seize the Christians' land. Apparently after hearing the cries of his flock, Fr. James Kiron Rozario ran to the site of the attack. Once there, the crowd of Muslims attacked him with a knife, seriously wounded him and threatened to kill him. The Muslim mob went on to steal items worth almost $4,000. They also destroyed Bibles, crosses, holy pictures, musical instruments and homes; and randomly killed chickens and goats. According to Msgr. Bejoy N. D'Cruze OMI, Bishop of Syleht, "We live in fear. ... We want justice and security for our priests and our faithful. We hope that the government will find a peaceful solution and that our people can live free from tensions.... They [Catholic Khasia] are a very peaceful community but often fall victims of the Bengali [Muslim] majority."


On the morning of April 17, suspected Islamic gunmen opened fire on St Francis High School, a Catholic school founded in 1842 in Lahore and long considered one of the finest schools in the city. One student and two security guards were injured and taken to hospital. Although the motive behind the attack has yet to be established, Christian lawyer Sardar Mushtaq Gill, a prominent Christian rights official in Pakistan, said in a statement that this "new attack witnesses the deterioration of the situation of Christians in Pakistan and spreads even more fear."

On March 29, Shamim Masih -- a Christian reporter exposing Muslim persecution -- was attacked in Islamabad by two men on a motorcycle. According to the leader of the Pakistan Christian Congress party, Nazir S. Bhatti "The motorbike riders got down from their bike and started beating Shamim Masih.... [They] broke his arm and warned him that if he did not stop reporting on Christian issues, they knew his family and home and would teach him and his family a lesson." As usual, police failed to register the incident. In the words of Bhatti: "as Shamim Masih is a Christian journalist... the police and administration are not paying any attention or interest to investigate this incident."

On April 1, Islamic militants shot and wounded the brother of the Christian lawyer and activist Sardar Mushtaq Gill. This is the latest attack on Gill and his family by Islamic militants, apparently angered at him for criticizing the controversial blasphemy laws -- an excuse routinely used to attack Pakistan's Christian minority. According to the human rights official, "Pervaiz Gill [his brother] suffered a bullet wound to his lower back, and was rushed to Jinah Hospital in Lahore where it was removed." However, "the police is not arresting the shooter," publicly identified as Muhammad Bilal; "Our life remains under threat if the shooter is not arrested." Last August, Gill's home was sprayed with bullets during the night, for the second time.

Syria: Since the city of Idlib fell to Islamic rebels on March 28, its Christian inhabitants have been attacked, and a 57-year-old Greek Orthodox priest, Ibrahim Farah, head of the Greek-Orthodox parish dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was kidnapped. As of last reports, Farah, who chose to remain in the city and tend to other Christians unable to flee, was awaiting a "trial."

Encouraging Words, No Actions

Because the Muslim persecution of Christians is growing exponentially, more Christian and political leaders are beginning to mention it, although there is no commensurate response. During a Mass in April, Pope Francis said that today's Church is a "Church of martyrs." He continued:

In these days how many Stephens there are in the world! Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya [by the Islamic State]; let us think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his; let us think of those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other migrants because they were Christians; let us think — just the day before yesterday — of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians... and of many others. Many others of whom we do not even know and who are suffering in jails because they are Christians... The Church today is a Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia -- who once wrote a letter to Barack Obama beseeching the president to reconsider his foreign policies that enable the persecution of Christians in Syria -- spoke again of the threat of Christian extinction in the Mideast:

I regularly get reports of horrible crimes that are committed there against Christians, especially in northern Iraq. I have visited those places and I remember that there were many churches and monasteries there. The city of Mosul alone had 45 churches. Now there is not a single one. The buildings have been destroyed. Four hundred churches have been destroyed in Syria... Now Christianity is the most persecuted religion. The same is happening in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Northern Africa.

According to Saudi novelist and writer, Hani Naqshabandi, "Our religious institutions do not give us room to exercise free thought... They [Saudi institutions] said that the Christian is an infidel, a denizen of hell, an enemy to Allah and Islam. So we said, 'Allah's curse on them.'" He also stated the little-known fact that "Christians are in need of protection ... What happened to Christians in Iraq and Syria, and further regions like Algeria, does not receive Arabic media coverage that befits human beings, whatever their religion."

Even United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, regularly criticized for being too soft on Islamists, said the following remarks during his Easter message:

We have a duty to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world too. It is truly shocking that in 2015 there are still Christians being threatened, tortured, even killed because of their faith. From Egypt to Nigeria, Libya to North Korea. Across the Middle East Christians have been hounded out of their homes, forced to flee from village to village; many of them forced to renounce their faith or brutally murdered. To all those brave Christians in Iraq and Syria who practice their faith or shelter others, we will say, "We stand with you."

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.

[1] According to a local priest and Coptic spokesman, the Muslim assault on a Coptic Christian church proposed to be built, with President Sisi's permission, to honor the 21 Coptic Christians who were slaughtered by the Islamic State in Libya, was all too typical and a reminder that Islamic Sharia sentiment continues to trump the sovereignty of the Egyptian state. During an interview he said:

First, what happened is that, when we make a decision for the church but then cannot implement this decision [to build the church] because some of the Muslims do not want it, because they don't want the church—this is, first and foremost, a failure of the state and its authority and a failure of the rule of law. When a group comes to oppose [with violence, several Copts were injured], and the police leaves them free, this is like a disease that will spread everywhere.

Today, for example, there is a decision, but there are say 3-4 Brotherhood or Salafis opposing it, and the government appears protesting with them—in this case, you have given everyone who wants to oppose [with violence] the opportunity to oppose.

[2] According to the Associated Press:

Palermo police said they had detained 15 people suspected in the high seas assault, which they learned of while interviewing tearful survivors from Nigeria and Ghana who had arrived in Palermo Wednesday morning after being rescued at sea by the ship Ellensborg.

The 15 were accused of multiple homicide aggravated by religious hatred, police said in a statement.

The survivors said they had boarded a rubber boat April 14 on the Libyan coast with 105 passengers aboard, part of the wave of migrants taking advantage of calm seas and warm weather to make the risky crossing from Libya, where most smuggling operations originate.

During the crossing, the migrants from Nigeria and Ghana — believed to be Christians — were threatened with being abandoned at sea by some 15 other passengers from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.

Eventually the threat was carried out and 12 were pushed overboard. The statement said the motive was that the victims "professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim."

The surviving Christians, the statement said, only managed to stay on board by forming a "human chain" to resist the assault...

[3] The influential newspaper, This Day, cited Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein as saying that "The recent recovery of territories in northeastern Nigeria has brought to light macabre scenes of mass graves and more obvious signs of killings by Boko Haram." He cited various reports obtained by his office in Geneva which "include the murder of the wives of combatants, women and girls actually held in slavery."

[4] One Coptic shop owner told of the wild reaction of Muslims after they found out about the video:

There were three or four marches in different places in the village, as our village is a very big village. They were chanting slogans against Christians and Christianity. They were chanting: "With our souls and blood, we will defend you, oh Islam! We will not leave you; we will take revenge for you!"

They were pelting Christian homes with stones, pounding threateningly on doors and windows, attacking shops owned by Coptic Christians. They destroyed the door of my shop and they destroyed a photo studio owned by the father of one of the boys.

For three days we were living in terror and panic. We stayed in our homes and our children didn't go to their schools. We also couldn't go to church to attend the masses for [Coptic] Holy Week.

Another local Copt described how his home was attacked:

On Thursday evening (9 April), the Muslim demonstrators attacked our home. They pelted it with stones and insulted us. They were shouting, "Oh kafirs (infidels), we can't let you live here. We will oust you from our village." They also stole the windows from our home.... We were unable to go to the church during these events. Also, we didn't go to the church on Saturday to attend the Easter mass. Until now, we have been staying at our homes and are afraid that the attacks against us will be renewed.

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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