Politik

“We Are Never Heard”: Persecution of Christians, May 2019

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Via Gatestone Institute


The May 14 torture and murder of an 86-year-old Greek Christian man on the island of Imbros, in Turkey, is believed to have been a hate crime. Pictured: The island of Imbros. (Image source: by rock/Wikimedia Commons)

The Slaughter of Christians

Burkina Faso: A number of fatal Islamic terror attacks on Christians and their churches took place or were reported in May:

  • On Sunday 26 May, armed Muslims stormed a Catholic church during mass and opened fire on the gathered worshippers; four were killed and several others injured. killing four and injuring others.
  • On May 13, armed Muslims attacked a Catholic procession, slaughtered four Christians and “burned a statue of the Virgin Mary.”
  • On May 12, approximately 30 armed Muslims stormed a Catholic church, slaughtered at least six worshippers—including the officiating priest—and then burned the church to the ground.
  • On Sunday, April 28, Islamic terrorists stormed a Protestant church and killed six worshippers, including the 80-year-old pastor and his two sons. According to a local, “The assailants asked the Christians to convert to Islam, but the pastor and the others refused.” So “they called them, one after the other, behind the church building where they shot them dead.”
  • On April 5, Islamic gunmen entered a Catholic church and murdered four Christians.

Nigeria: On Sunday, May 26, Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed and slaughtered as many as 30 Christians as they walked home after church service. The Muslim tribesmen also torched approximately 20 Christian households as part of their planned “Islamization” of Nigeria, said a local pastor, adding, “These targeted attacks on innocent Christians are unacceptable, particularly with confirmed arrests of over 30 Christian women [who work as] fruit and food vendors by soldiers … after the attack.” Separately, on May 18, Islamic gunmen killed a Christian and kidnapped two others at a Baptist church.

Central African Republic: An elderly Christian nun of Spanish/French origins who spent her days teaching young girls how to sew in the African nation was beheaded by a militant group representing and partially composed of Muslim Fulani herdsmen; around the same time the group massacred at least 26 people, in what one report refers to as “one of the biggest single losses of life in the Central African Republic (CAR) since a February peace deal.”

Turkey: The murder of an elderly Christian man is believed to have been a hate crime. According to the report, the “86-year-old Greek man was found murdered in his home with his hands and feet tied. He was reportedly tortured”:

Zafir Pinari’s death on May 14 comes just five days before the commemorative anniversary of the Greek Genocide. This genocide was conducted from 1913-1922 by the Ottoman Empire and was the systematic killing of Christian Greek citizens. By the time the Ottoman Empire collapsed and modern Turkey formed in 1923, most of the Greek population were either murdered or had fled the country. A wave of killing of Greek Christians again occurred in the 1960s.

A suspect has been arrested in this case and three others are under investigation. It is not yet clear as to what motivated the murder. However, given the historical context, local press covering the incident are labeling it as a hate crime.

Pakistan: A Muslim man kidnapped and tortured his Christian employee to death after he tried to quit his job. Javid Masih, 45, worked as a livestock farmhand for Abbas Jutt. According to a source acquainted with the case “Masih wanted to quit because he was often subjected to discrimination and religious hatred.” The deceased’s widow confirms:

“We had been experiencing religious hatred from [Jutt] and his colleagues, however, we had no courage to register this with police. We are poor and belong to a downtrodden segment of society. Therefore, we are never heard. Jutt has damaged our lives and we have nothing to live for now.”

Egypt: A Muslim employee murdered his Christian supervisor on May 7, “because of his Christian faith” notes a report. Surveillance footage from a nearby building captured the incident. While passing each other, the two men speak briefly, before the Muslim man returns with a knife and butchers the Christian, who leaves behind a wife and two boys aged 15 and 9. “The Islamic holy month of Ramadan began nearly two weeks ago,” the report adds. “It is common for Christians to suffer increased violence and harassment during this time. Persecution is a constant theme of life for Egyptian Christians, as they are already viewed as second class citizens in this Islamic nation.”

Syria: Islamic militants bombed a Christian village; five children and a 35-year-old woman were killed. “The kids went out to play after some days of calm” near a monastery, said a local priest, when a rocket struck near them, “instantly killing five and wounding others… the woman was killed in a nearby street by a separate rocket.”

Iraq: On May 13, Islamic militants joined with the Shia group, Shabak, which is supported by Iran, broke into the home of two elderly Christian women, a mother and daughter, and stabbed them. Although the mother’s age is unknown, it can be surmised considering that her daughter—who was last reported as “struggling with death” and “in critical condition“— as around 69. According to one report, “The women were repeatedly stabbed with a knife and their gold and money were stolen. The two victims were then hospitalized in Mosul. The daughter, who sustained a violent head injury, remains in critical condition.” Although the women were robbed, local Christians say that plunder was not the primary motive:

“The attackers tried to deliver a message of threat…. I don’t think it was a robbery because they stabbed the daughter on her head by a knife which means the criminals tried to kill them…. You know who could be the ones who may attack Christians. Everyone knows them. But no one can give you the names since they are supported by the militia.”

Separately, in an address delivered in London, the Rev. Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, accused Britain’s Christian leaders of indifference to the genocide of Iraq’s Christians. Parts of his comments follow:

Christianity in Iraq, one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom…. Our tormentors confiscated our present, while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life’s work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years…. Will you continue to condone this never-ending, organised persecution against us? When the next wave of violence begins to hit us, will anyone on your campuses hold demonstrations and carry signs that say “We are all Christians”? And yes I do say, the “next wave of violence”, for this is simply the natural result of a ruling system that preaches inequality, and justifies persecution. The equation is not complicated. One group is taught that they are superior and legally entitled to treat others as inferior human beings on the sole basis of their faith and religious practices. This teaching inevitably leads to violence against any “inferiors” who refuse to change their faith. And there you have it—the history of Christians in the Middle East for the last 1,400 years.

Attacks on Churches

Nigeria: Muslim Fulani herdsmen stormed a church during evening choir practice and kidnapped 17 Christians on May 18. “As we were in the church, Fulani herdsmen numbering over 20 just surrounded the church and started shooting,” a church member recalled.

“Everybody was terrified, but there was no way we could run because they had already surrounded the church. They were asking for the pastor’s house, and they threatened to shoot us if we don’t show them the house. Some of them went to the pastor’s house while others kept watch over us.”

Kenya: On May 17, a rampaging mob of Somali Muslims destroyed the properties of four churches—Kingdom Gospel for All Nations Ministry, Evangelical Victory Church International, End Time Army Church, and Kale Heywot Church—and injured several Christians. On the previous day, locals had called police on an outdoor Islamic event because it was getting too loud and rowdy. Citing “public disturbance,” police responded by pulling the plug on the event. On the next day, “a group of Muslim adherents stormed our church building armed with stones, machetes, and petrol,” the pastor of one of the destroyed churches said.

“They broke into the church and damaged everything; from chairs to sound equipment. They also attempted to set the church on fire, but police arrived and contained the situation…. After they destroyed the chairs and equipment of this church, they split into small groups and went around stealing from the nearby shops operated by Christians. This was outright persecution of the people that subscribe to the Christian faith.”

Another pastor of an attacked church said:

“Our freedom of worship has been violated and we can only pray for a time when the Muslim community will allow Christians to worship without fear of being attacked. Our members are now scattered and … we have received notes at our church warning us against going to church, praying and preaching.”

“The influx of the Somali people who are majorly Muslims has posed a great danger to the churches,” said the leader of another attacked church. “They have erected four mosques and are looking for portions to build other mosques. They have been threatening churches to leave so that they can build mosques on those plots.”

Turkey: On May 21, police interrupted a baptismal ceremony while raiding and subsequently shutting down an unauthorized church composed of Iranian Christian asylum seekers. “Turkey does not have a pathway for legalization of churches,” the report adds:

Many are instead forced to register as a foundation or association, and most even then will not be allowed to open a church building. For this reason, many like the church in Bolu are forced to exist in apartment buildings. It is common for Christians to report harassment and intimidation by the police who monitor their church services. For Iranian Christians, they are often challenged in that as asylum seekers, they are usually housed in extremely Islamic areas who do not want a Christian presence.

Iran: Authorities directly under the control of the Supreme Leader raided an Assyrian Presbyterian Church on May 9. They tore down the church’s cross, changed the church’s locks, and made it clear that worship was no longer be permitted at the church. Apparently the church’s crime was that it used the Persian language alongside its own Assyrian language; because the overwhelming majority of Iran’s Muslim population speaks only Persian, conducting church services in that language is seen by the Islamist regime as a seductive threat to the Muslims’ faith.

Algeria: Citing a law that requires special authorization for non-Muslim places of worship, authorities shut down another church and its Bible school on May 22. “I am sad to have to face this injustice,” its pastor said: “We prayed for those authorities who are persecuting us, as our Lord Jesus Christ commanded.” The church had filled all other prerequisites for legalization, and had been waiting since 2017 for approval, which never came. This is the latest of several churches to be closed in recent years. According to the report, “Officials have yet to issue any license for a church building under the regulation…

Several churches have since received written orders to cease all activities, and authorities have closed a number of them for operating without a license. Islam is the state religion in Algeria, where 99 percent of the population of 40 million are Muslim.”

Egypt: Authorities closed down another church in response to Muslim disapproval. “This is a very hard situation,” said one local Christian. “You can see kids praying in tears because of their feelings of fear … that is very painful for us as Christians personally. I don’t trust in the government promises, but we have to continue praying for [a] reopening [of] the church.” “Many years ago we were praying in our houses with the priest because there was not an [existing] church,” said another local Christian.

“Now there are more than 400 Coptic persons in our village and the number of us increases day by day… During the last feast days (Orthodox Easter) many Copts prayed and the police had secured the building, but then the police asked Bishop Georgius to close the church because some Muslims in the village disagreed.”

In a separate incident, an American professor teaching at Cairo’s American University was fired for refusing to emphasize Islam over other religions during his Religions of the World Class. According to one report:

Professor Adam Duker has taught Comparative Religions at the university since 2016. His dismissal reportedly comes after a conflict with Saudi billionaire Tarek Taher, who maintains close ties to the university. Taher had requested that Professor Duker focus more heavily on Islam. When Professor Duker refused, his contract was terminated effective October 2019. Professor Duker says that Taher asked him to encourage non-Muslim students to convert to Islam and that Taher wanted his lectures pre-approved before teaching. [A more detailed report on this development appears here.]

Pakistan: “A pastor … received a letter on May 1 warning him that his church would be the site of a terrorist attack unless he paid a ransom of more than $3,500.00,” notes a report. “The threat has many church leaders in Karachi on edge and calling on local authorities to provide their communities with protection….The letter also warned that if Pastor Azeem went to police, there would be consequences like the recent terrorist attacks on churches in Sri Lanka.”

Separately, 38 Christian graves at a Pakistani cemetery were desecrated; the unknown assailants also defaced several crosses fixed to the graves.

Attacks on Apostates and Blasphemers

Uganda: Muslims burned the home of a former Muslim convert to Christianity and his large family (when still a Muslim he had married three women who gave birth to 14 children). Most of the family was indoors and barely made it out in time before the charred roof collapsed. “We thank God that no one was physically hurt but emotionally are very hurt as we continue receiving threatening messages warning us of a possible attack,” the father said. “The pressure from the extended family and radical Muslims is really troubling my family, and we cannot risk going back to our houses.” Problems began once Muslims learned the family had embraced Christianity; local Muslims, on the same day they saw the family attend church, began stoning their home. Muslim villagers and the imam of the local mosque also began insulting and harassing the family, with one villager remarking , “If you do not come back to Islam, then expect something unusual to befall your family.” “Since then,” the father said, “my family became vigilant, and we even hired a guard to take care of the family during the night, but the stone-throwing continued in one of the houses while the guard was on patrol on the other side of the homestead.” Even after being made homeless, the family continues to receive threatening messages. These include: “The burning of the house was just warning. If you continue hardening your hearts and fail to return to Islam, then expect a worst thing that you have never seen before.” The father concluded,:

“We sincerely need prayers and financial support… My family is scattered, and the children are unable to go to school. We gave our lives to Jesus and here we are living a troubled, restless life. The law should bring these perpetrators to book.”

Pakistan: On May 15, a Muslim mob attacked a Christian family accused of allegedly blaspheming against Islam. The incident began after a Christian man asked a Muslim who was loudly cursing on his phone near the Christian family home to move away. The Muslim responded with a derogatory, anti-Christian slur, which led to a physical altercation, until the Christian family managed to separate the two men. That night, the local mosque’s megaphones started blaring out against the Christian household, accusing its members of blasphemy and adding: “All the lovers of Islam must gather together and force these demonic creatures out of this village.” A family member explained what happened next:

“This was a horrifying moment for my whole family and other Christians. We felt totally helpless. In our panic we started to get ourselves ready to flee our homes and get far away from the village, however, we were all to slow. In no time we start to hear Muslims gather outside our home—even the children. The violent mob surrounded our home and all of them had weapons including guns—which were being shot in the air, sticks, axes, poles and farming tools. Even the small children had weapons [and] we feared for our lives. The mob began shouting outside our home asking for our family to exit our home and receive divine retribution for our sin. It did not seem very divine—we just saw raging evil violent people ready to kill us.”

Seven Christian family homes were attacked before the mobs dispersed.

Sexual Abuse of Christians

Indonesia: A May 23 report says that ” a new form of persecution is on the rise—Christian girls are being targeted by Muslim men… Influential leaders are literally training young men to target Christian girls to impregnate them”:

They target them to try and sort of diffuse the spread of Christianity because the family of the Christian girl is so ashamed that…they’re forced into marrying that daughter into a Muslim family…. The family, because the shame is so overwhelming, they agree to that… and the Muslims who are being trained to do this, they understand that. That’s why they’re doing that. They’re taking a Christian into a Muslim family so they can influence [her]. Once girls are married into the Muslim families, they’re often cut off from or abandoned by their families and they face even more difficult circumstances. In some cases, girls are the second or third wife of their persecutor and they have few freedoms.

Pakistan: Neha Pervaiz, a 15-year-old Christian girl, was raped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to a 45-year-old Muslim man.

“I was taken by my aunt, a Muslim convert, to her house on April 28 to help her look after her sick son,” recalls Neha. “But there I was asked to marry a Muslim man named Imran. When I refused, they beat me up and threatened to kill my minor brother who was with me.” She was then forced into another room and raped by Imran. “They then pressurized me to convert to Islam and marry Imran.” Over the following two days she was forced to convert, renamed Fatima, and taken to court where she was illegally married to Imran. She eventually managed to escape back to her parents.

Egypt: Muslims reportedly kidnapped a Christian wife and mother of three near Cairo. Her family has since received threatening messages saying that unless the woman embraces Islam one of her sons will targeted for slaughter. After the family took the matter to the authorities, the police refused to open a case. They suggested that the woman had left her home of her own free will.

Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

Previous reports

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