Muslim persecution of Christians, May 2017

Indonesia joined other repressive Muslim nations in May when it sentenced the Christian governor of Jakarta, known as “Ahok,” to a two-year prison term on the charge that he committed “blasphemy” against Islam. Pictured: Ahok on the day of his election, February 15, 2017. (Photo by Oscar Siagian/Getty Images)

By Raymond Ibrahim / Gatestone Institute

One month after Islamic militants bombed two Egyptian churches during Palm Sunday and killed nearly 50 people in April 2017, several SUVs, on May 26, stopped two buses transporting dozens of Christians to the ancient Coptic Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in the desert south of Cairo. According to initial reports, approximately ten Islamic militants, heavily armed and dressed in military fatigues, “demanded that the passengers recite the Muslim profession of faith” — which is tantamount to converting to Islam. When they refused, the jihadis opened fire on them, killing 29 Christians, at least ten of whom were young children. Two girls were aged 2 and 4. Also killed was Mohsen Morkous, an American citizen described as “a simple man” whom “everyone loved,” his two sons, and his two grandsons.

According to eyewitness accounts, the terrorists ordered the passengers to exit the bus in groups:

“As each pilgrim came off the bus they were asked to renounce their Christian faith and profess belief in Islam, but all of them—even the children—refused. Each was killed in cold blood with a gunshot to the head or the throat.

“By the time they killed half of the people, the terrorists saw cars coming in the distance and we think that that is what saved the rest,” said one source. “They did not have time to kill them all. They just shot at them randomly and then fled.”

According to another report:

“The dead and dying lay in the desert sand amid Islamic leaflets left by the assailants extoling the virtues of fasting during Ramadan and forgiveness granted to those who abstain from eating during the Islamic ritual. Ramadan … is often seen as the worst time for persecution of Christians who live in the Middle East.”

video of the immediate aftermath “showed at least four or five bodies of adult men lying on the desert sand next to the bus; women and other men screamed and cried as they stood or squatted next to the bodies.” According to a man who spoke to hospitalized relatives, “authorities took somewhere from two to three hours to arrive at the scene.” The man “questioned whether his uncle and others might have lived had the response been quicker.

The attack occurred in the middle of a three-month state of emergency that began 47 days earlier, on Sunday, April 9, when twin attacks on Coptic Christian churches left some 49 Christians slaughtered. The December before that, 29 other Christians were killed during another set of twin attacks on churches. Both before and after the monastery attack, dozens of Christians, mostly in Sinai, but some in Egypt proper, were killed in cold blood, often decapitated or burned alive. According to a May 9 report, “A [Christian] father and his two sons were recently kidnapped by ISIS and their bodies were finally found over the weekend.”

Days before the latest attack on Middle Eastern Christians, Fox News journalist Shannon Bream announced a forthcoming television segment on the growth of Christian persecution around the world. In response, Matthew Dowd of ABC News tweeted , “Maybe you can talk about the bigger problem which is persecution of Muslims in America and around the globe. Bigger issue…. Muslims are threatened every day in America, by right wing Christian extremists.” Christians, however, are currently the world’s most persecuted religion: 90,000 died for their faith in 2016. And 12 of the 14 worst nations in which Christians are persecuted are Islamic. (The two that are not are North Korea and Eritrea.)

The rest of May’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Muslim Slaughter of Christians

Mexico: On May 15, a knife-wielding Muslim attacked and tried to behead a Catholic priest while he officiated at the altar of the nation’s largest cathedral, the Metropolitan Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. The assailant, apparently named John Rene Rockschiil and possibly of French origin, managed to plunge the knife into the neck of Fr. Miguel Angel Machorro, 55, before being restrained by parishioners. Fr. Miguel later died of his wounds.

Germany: A Muslim man and asylum-seeker stabbed and killed a Christian woman with a kitchen knife in front of her two children near a public market. Those who knew the slain woman, an Afghan who had converted to Christianity eight years earlier, said she was a successful “example of integration”. “A religious motivation is being examined” said officials— apostasy from Islam does earn death — “although we cannot confirm this yet,” police spokesman Stefan Sonntag said.

Philippines: In late May, a jihadi uprising of Philippine Muslim militants, including ISIS-linked Indonesians and Malaysians, erupted in the Islamic City of Marawi. In the initial carnage, Muslim militants stopped a bus, and when they discovered that nine passengers were Christian, they were tied together and shot dead, execution style. “I am pissed by those kinds of people,” said a local. “They kill defenseless people. The militants also torched a school and a church. One official called the violence an “invasion by foreign terrorists, who heeded the call of Isis to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria.” It took more than three days for the military to quell the uprising; meanwhile, 15 members of the security forces and 31 militants were killed.

Kenya: On May 12, two militant Muslims shouting “Allahu Akbar” — and suspected of being connected to neighboring Somalia’s Al Shabaab terrorist group — shot and killed two non-Muslims, one of whom was a member of a Pentecostal Church. According to the report, “Predominantly Christian workers from Kenya’s interior have been targeted in a series of Al Shabaab attacks that have shaken Christian communities in Kenya’s northeast”. “These Al Shabbab militants,” said a local Christian leader, “have made some of our Christians to be their scapegoats, as they see Kenya as a Christian country that is fighting to rid Al Shabaab from Somalia.”

Muslim Attacks on Churches and Crosses

Sudan: On Sunday morning, May 7, as Christians were preparing to worship in the Sudanese Church of Christ in Khartoum, authorities arrived with bulldozers and demolished the church. The government, according to the report, claims the church was “built on land zoned for residential or other uses, or… on government land, but church leaders said it is part of wider crack-down on Christianity.” A lawyer, Demas James, said that Sudan was in serious violation of constitutional and international conventions of human rights, and that the building being destroyed on a Sunday shows the government’s lack of respect for Christian holy places: “You can see there is no place for worship left now for the believers to worship.” The demolished church is one of 25 church buildings marked for demolition on the claim that the churches were illegally built. The government has yet to shut down or demolish a single mosque on the same claim.

Austria: Someone described as a “dark skinned immigrant” was videotaped by a bystander’s phone camera throwing things and striking at the large cross in front of the St. Marein parish with a long pole, and causing 15,000 euros’ worth of general damage. Police eventually subdued the “apparently insane man” and took him “to a hospital.” There have been countess instances of Muslim refugees attacking churches and other Christian symbols — the cross, and statues and icons as well — in every European nation that has accepted Muslim migrants.

Bangladesh: The evening of May 10, a Muslim mob vandalized and invaded the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Khagrachhari district. According to the church’s pastor, Stephen Tripura:

“They stormed into the church after kicking and smashing in the door. They attempted to rape my sister and niece who live there by tearing off their clothes. After hearing their cries, local Christians rushed over to help and the attackers fled. My sister and niece moved here to get an education but now they are traumatized…. We didn’t file a case for fear of angering local Muslims further and inviting more violence.”

Islamic Attacks on Christian Freedom

Indonesia: Long touted as a beacon of Muslim tolerance and moderation, Indonesia joined other repressive Muslim nations in May when it sentenced the Christian governor of Jakarta, known as “Ahok,” to a two year prison term on the charge that he committed blasphemy against Islam. According to one report, “The blasphemy accusation was key in Ahok’s defeat in a bid to be re-elected as governor of Jakarta,” and “Islamic extremist groups opposed to having a non-Muslim lead the city organized massive demonstrations against Ahok.” The blasphemy accusation is based on a video that Ahok made in which he told voters that they were being deceived if they believed that Koran 5:51, as his opposition said, requires Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim when there are Muslim candidates available. The Koran passage states:

“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you—then indeed, he is one of them.”

A five-judge panel concluded that Ahok was “convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy.”

Pakistan: A Christian pastor who has been “tortured every day in prison” since July, 2012 when he was first incarcerated, was sentenced to life in prison in May. Zafar Bhatti, 51, was found guilty of sending “blasphemous”[1] text messages from his mobile phone, but human rights activists contend that the charge “was fabricated to remove him from his role as a Pastor.” His wife, Nawab Bibi, says:

“Many Muslim people hated how quickly his church was growing; they have taken this action to undermine his work… I wish our persecutors would see that Christians are not evil creatures. We are human beings created by God the same God that created them although they do not know this yet… There have been numerous attempts to kill my husband — he is bullied everyday and he is not safe from inmates and prison staff alike.”

In 2014, he “narrowly escaped assassination after a rogue prison officer,” Muhammad Yousaf, went on a shooting spree “to kill all inmates accused of blasphemy against Islam.” Bhatti is one of countless Christian minorities to suffer under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has helped make that country the fourth-worst nation in the world, after North Korea, Somalia, and Afghanistan, in which to be Christian. Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother has been on death row since 2010 on the accusation that she insulted Muhammad.

As Bhatti was being sentenced to life in Pakistan, all charges against Noreen Leghari — a 20-year-old Muslim medical student who was arrested in connection to a planned suicide attack on a church packed for Easter celebrations — were dropped and she was set free. During a televised public statement, Major General Asif Ghafoor, voicing public concern and compassion for her, and indicated that it would be a shame to destroy her career. As Wilson Chowdhry, a human rights activist, remarked, however:

“How many of these same Pakistani citizens would be so forgiving had Miss Legahri planned to bomb a Muslim School?…. If it were Muslims that were targeted by Legahri I am certain many of the campaigners would find her crime too offensive for granting a pardon – Christian lives are ostensibly less valuable in Pakistan…. It is hard to believe the deep-rooted hatred that Miss Leghari had towards Christians that led to her becoming a suicide recruit, has simply vanished…. I asked several Pakistani Christians whether they would trust a doctor who had previously attempted to bomb a Church on Easter Day, to administer care for them. It was no surprise to me that the unanimous response was a resounding no.”

Morocco: Converts to Christianity in the 99.6% Muslim majority nation are coming out of the closets, complaining of their treatment and “demand[ing] the right to give our children Christian names, to pray in churches, to be buried in Christian cemeteries and to marry according to our religion,” said Mustapha, a convert since 1994, who, along with other converts, wrote a request to the official National Council of Human Rights to end the persecution of Christians in Morocco. According to the report, “even though the state religion is Islam, Morocco’s 2011 Constitution allows for freedom of religion. The authorities claim to practice only a moderate form of Islam that leaves room for religious tolerance. Yet, in reality, Moroccan Christians still suffer from persecution.” Accordingly, “[f]or two decades, Mustapha kept his faith in Christ secret.” When he finally came out in public about his conversion less than two years ago, all his friends and family “turned their backs on me,” he said: “I was shunned at work. My children were bullied at school.”

Muslim Contempt and Hate for Christians

Iraq: One of the Shia-majority nation’s leading Shia clerics, Sheikh Alaa Al-Mousawi — who heads the government body which maintains all of Iraq’s Shia holy sites, including mosques and schools — described Christians in a video as “infidels and polytheists” and stressed the need for “jihad” against them.

Pakistan: Mian Mir Hospital, which is run by the City District Government of Lahore, was exposed as forcing Christian paramedics and staffers “to either recite verses from the Holy Quran at morning assembly or be marked absent for the day,” says a report. This news came to light when the Medical-Superintendent, Dr. Muhammad Sarfraz, “slapped a Christian paramedical staffer for not attending the assembly.” The act led to staff protests against Dr. Muhammad and other supervisors. “Experts said extremism was creeping into public hospitals and was a massive concern for law enforcement agencies,” continues the report.

Separately, when a Christian girl in the Pakistani public school system sought “to study Ethics rather than Islamic Studies because of her Christian beliefs,” says a report, her Muslim teacher informed her that “if she refused to take a class in Islamic studies, she must leave…. The teacher also ordered her Muslim students to avoid eating with the Christian girl because of her faith.” According to the teenage Christian girl, Muqadas Sukhraj, her problems started in early April:

“… class teacher, Zahida Parveen unnecessarily began creating problems for me and expressing her displeasure with me because I chose Ethics. First, the teacher argued over the textbook of the Ethics class. Then she sent me out of the class as punishment. Later, she told me that if I could not study Islamic education, then why do I study in a Muslim school in the first place? She even told me, that, when she comes into the class, I must leave.”

Much of this is in keeping with ongoing revelations, including a 2016 report by Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, which found that the government continues to issue textbooks that promote religious hatred for non-Muslims.

Also separately, after a fist fight broke out when a Muslim teenager snatched a Christian teenager’s phone, a mob of armed Muslims responded by attacking Christians in Phul Nagar, District Kasur in Punjab Province. According to the report:

“The armed men pitilessly bashed every person who came in their sight on the streets. What is more they stormed into the houses of Christians and sta[r]ted beating the Christians. They also resorted to aerial firing, therefore, causing terrors and harassment in the entire neighborhood. The attackers did not spare Christian women, and beat them also.”

Christians informed local police, who did not arrest any of the assailants, although they are known to police by name and face.

Uganda: Area Muslims continue to hound Pastor Christopher James Kalaja for having filed a court case against sword-waving, “Allahu Akbar”-screaming Muslims who earlier destroyed his farm, home, and church. “We just want to inform you that the battle is now on, and you risk losing the whole family,” read one text message he received after formally filing a police case. According to his wife, who lives in hiding, he “makes a brief appearance at our current residence because the Muslims are trailing him. They can do anything to kill him, so as [to] stop the court case to proceed since he is the key witness.” The couple’s seven children are also “very fearful” and constantly asking “Why are we here? What have we done that we are undergoing such a great suffering?” “These are questions that I cannot answer,” said the mother. “I only tell the children to pray.”

Nigeria: Janet Habila, a 16-year-old Christian youth leader and daughter of “a devoted church leader with the United Mountain of Grace in Shundna village,” was forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man against her will. According to the report, the Christian girl “was enrolled in the tailoring institute in 2016 by her parents … but rather than learning the trade, the parents were shocked to receive a notification of her marriage through a Sharia court.” According to sources, a Muslim man named Nasiru “craftily organized some Muslim men and women in the area to stand as the parents of Janet in court to enable the marriage to take place.”

About this Series

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

 

Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians(published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). Copyrighted material is republished here with the permission of the Gatestone Institute.

Previous reports


[2] According to Section 295-C of Pakistan’s penal code: “Whoever by words, either spoken or written or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable to fine.”

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