Christians Burn While Pope Worries about “Worldly” Matters

August 9, 2015

12 min read

Raymond Ibrahim

Although the Egyptian constitution stipulates equality before the law, the judiciary refuses the testimony of Christians against Muslims in courts. Islamic law maintains that the testimony of an “infidel” cannot be accepted against a Muslim.

Al Azhar University in Egypt continues to incite Egypt’s Muslims against Christians. Most recently, the university was exposed distributing a free booklet dedicated to discrediting Christianity. It is full of direct attacks on Christianity in general and the nation’s Coptic Christians in particular. Islam is hailed as the true and superior religion. No mention of violent Islamic conquests is made.

More than 200 girls, mostly Christian, remain missing in Nigeria after Boko Haram kidnapped them in 2014. Escapees testify that some were told to slit the throats of Christians and to carry out suicide attacks. Girls who cannot recite the Koran are flogged.

The “lawyers” of a Christian man imprisoned in Pakistan on the charge of desecrating the Koran last May are actually working against him. Faisal’s lawyers officially canceled the request for bail, previously submitted by other lawyers.

Christians and others in the southern Philippines say they fear that legislation meant to create an Islamic sub-state — legislation meant to appease Islamists — will only create more extremism against Christians. Critics say it would render the federal government powerless to redress human rights abuses under Islamic law. In some areas, violence has been increasing, including trademark Islamic attacks on churches and nuns.

In June, Pope Francis released his first independent encyclical. It merely served to highlight the indifference to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

The Pope warned about issues dealing with the environment, but he did not once mention the plight of persecuted Christians — even though he is well acquainted with it, and even though previous popes mentioned it when Christians were experiencing far less persecution than they are today.

Encyclicals are formal treatises written by popes and sent to bishops around the world. In turn, bishops are meant to disseminate the encyclical’s ideas to all the priests and churches in their jurisdiction, so that the pope’s thoughts might reach every church-attending Catholic.

If the plight of persecuted Christians had been mentioned in the encyclical, bishops and the congregations under their care would be required to acknowledge it. Perhaps a weekly prayer for the persecuted could be institutionalized, keeping the plight of those Christians in the spotlight so that Western Catholics and others would remember them, talk about them, and, perhaps most importantly, ask why they are being persecuted. Once enough people were familiar with Christian persecution, they could influence U.S. policymakers — for starters, to drop those policies that directly exacerbate the sufferings of Christian minorities in the Middle East.

Instead, Pope Francis apparently deemed it more important to issue a proclamation addressing the environment and climate change. Whatever position one holds concerning these topics, it is telling that the pope — the one man in the world best placed and most expected to speak up for millions of persecuted Christians around the world — is more interested in speaking up for a “safe” (politically correct, if scientifically questionable) subject, “the world” itself, rather than the pressing bloodbath in front of him, or a topic requiring real leadership from a Christian authority.

Meanwhile, Christians around the world and the Muslim world especially continue to be persecuted and slaughtered. In one little-reported story, the Islamic State burned an 80 year-old Christian woman to death in a village southeast of Mosul. The elderly woman was reportedly burned alive for refusing to comply with Islamic law.

In east Jerusalem, a group calling itself the “Islamic State in Palestine” distributed fliers threatening to massacre all Christians who failed to evacuate the Holy City. The leaflets, which appeared on June 27, said that the Islamic State knows where the city’s Christians live, and warned that they have until Eid al-Fitr — July 19, the end of Ramadan — to leave the city or be slaughtered. The leaflet was emblazoned with the Islamic State’s black flag.

In Egypt, after a foiled suicide attack on the ancient temples of Karnak in Luxor (a tourist destination), the Islamic State promised a “fiery summer” for Egypt’s Christian Copts. Abu Zayid al-Sudani, a leading member of the Islamic State, tweeted: “The bombing of Luxor, a burning summer awaits the tyrant of Egypt [President Sisi] and his soldiers, and the worshippers of the cross. This is just the beginning.”

The rest of June’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following accounts, listed by theme.BIN-OpEd-Experts-300x250(1)

Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches and Cemeteries

Turkey: On June 9, a Muslim man attacked a church in the Kadıköy district of Istanbul with a Molotov cocktail, setting the building’s door on fire. In a video of the attack, the man is seen shouting “Allahu Akbar” [“Allah is Greater!”] and “Revenge will be taken for Al-Aqsa Mosque” as he throws a firebomb at the Hagia Triada Orthodox Church. The man was eventually detained by police.

Egypt: A bomb was placed alongside the Virgin Mary Coptic Christian Church in Helwan, part of Greater Cairo, but the security services managed to dismantle it before it exploded.

France: On June 7, two Muslim men were arrested by French authorities in connection to a thwarted terror plot to attack a church near Paris last April. Authorities said they had detained Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a computer science student, who had planned an attack on churches in Villejuif, south of Paris, and is suspected in the killing of a woman nearby. Documents in Arabic mentioning al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were found during a search of Ghlam’s home. Several military weapons, handguns, ammunition, bulletproof vests and computer and telephone hardware were also found in Ghlam’s home and car.

Zanzibar: Muslims on the majority-Muslim island harassed and persecuted two churches:

1) They drove Pastor Philemon, a father of five, into hiding and took over his New Covenant Church’s worship hall by getting the landlord to rent it to them before the church’s lease ended. Once a congregation of 100, members now number 25. “The church faithful are so scattered,” said Philemon. “Some members are always knocking at my door requesting a place for worship.” The pastor is also helping care for several converts from Islam who fled their homes after persecution, and he is struggling financially to help them while also providing for his own family, which includes five children.

2) Just outside Zanzibar City, in Chukwani, Muslims made false land claims to bleed dry a church with legal costs. Said Pastor Lukanula: “The Muslims are waiting for the time when we shall fail to attend the court hearing, implying losing the case and subsequently having to pay a substantial amount of money.” Before the false claims were made, regarding ownership of the land, the leader of a local mosque told the pastor, “We do not want to see a church building here in Chukwani.” In 2007, Muslims in the area had demolished the original structure under construction.

Iraq: The Islamic State posted notices around the captured city of Mosul announcing that the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral Church of St. Ephrem, seized a year ago, was to be become the “mosque of the mujahedeen,” or “jihadis.” The new name was announced on the anniversary of the date the church had been seized. The Islamic flag stating the shehada (“there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger”) was draped over the building. “If they changed a church to a mosque it is further proof of their cleansing,” said the president of A Demand for Action, a group advocating the protection of minorities in the Middle East. “They destroy our artefacts, our churches and try to erase us in any way they can.”

The Syriac Orthodox Church of St. Ephrem in Mosul, Iraq, before if the captured by the Islamic State (left), and after.

Libya: Yet another Christian cemetery, in the old Christian section of post-“Arab Spring” Tripoli, was recently desecrated by Muslim militants. Described by witnesses as “Salafi” Muslims, the vandals of the grave destroyed crosses and tombstones, and dug up graves in the early morning hours of June 3. Security forces charged with protecting the region did nothing to stop or arrest the men.

Muslim Slaughter of Christians

Egypt: Two Christians were killed under questionable circumstances:

1) The only Christian in his army unit was found shot dead in a chair at the office of the military base in which he was stationed. On June 24, Bahaa Gamal Mikhail Silvanus, 23, a conscript in the Egyptian Army, was found with two bullet wounds in his chest and a gun at his feet. Relatives who later saw the body also say there were wounds on his head, as if he had been struck with a blunt object. The military’s official position is that the Copt committed suicide. Family, friends, and church leaders strongly disagree. They point out that those who commit suicide are rarely able to shoot themselves twice — or first hit themselves on the head with blunt objects. They also point out that Silvanus was a happy man with strong faith, a college degree in music, and plans to enter the monastic life. “My son was killed by someone. He didn’t kill himself,” said his father, Gamal Silvanus, who had advised his son to finish his military obligation, then work for five years to help support the family, and after that to join a monastery. A friend of Bahaa Silvanus, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Silvanus had confided to him that he was regularly pressured by other soldiers in his unit to convert to Islam or else: “He told me that the persecution of the fanatical Muslim conscripts in the battalion against him had been increased the last days, and they threatened him with death, that they would kill him if he wouldn’t convert to Islam.”[1]

2) According to MCN, “Police officer Mohammed Megalli, who killed a Coptic woman, Sarah Youssef Ghali, used to insult Copts of the district and treat them with contempt, said Nour Rashad, a cousin of the Coptic woman. Ghali was accidentally shot dead by Megalli, a police officer from Manshiet Nasser Police Station in Cairo.”

Uganda: A mother of 11, who, along with her husband, left Islam (considered by many Muslims apostasy) and converted to Christianity almost a year earlier, was poisoned to death on June 17 in a village in eastern Uganda. Namumbeiza Swabura, the mother of a 5-month-old baby, died after her sister-in-law visited and offered to prepare a meal for her. She complained of stomach pain that started immediately after eating the food. According to Morning Star News:

Swabura’s pain grew worse as she began vomiting and her nose began to bleed uncontrollably; her face turned pale, and two hours later she died in their home as Muhammad [her husband] was trying to rent a car to take her to a hospital, they said. Her sister-in-law has gone into hiding, the sources said. Swabura and her husband have received several death threats since putting their faith in Christ, according to Muhammad. During a visit by Morning Star News to the area in late May, he said, “We are fearing for our lives as the Muslims are threatening to kill us if we continue in Christianity.” Besides her infant and husband, Swabura wife leaves behind 10 other children.

Dhimmitude: Generic Contempt and Discrimination against ‘Infidels’

Ethiopia: On April 25, police raided a Christian worship service in Asella, just south of the capital, Addis Ababa. The Church of Asella had just baptized 40 new converts to Christianity, an act that prompted mass arrests. One of those imprisoned, a former Muslim, known only as “Palus Ejigu,” who converted to Christianity, said, “We were gathered for sharing and encouraging each other with the Word of God. After we finished the service, police imprisoned us. Some of our friends ran away when they saw the way we were harshly handled.” After weeks of suffering unspeakable prison conditions and abuses, Ejigu was eventually released. But five days later, four masked men forced him on his knees, put a pistol in his mouth, and ordered him to kill two pastor friends, or his children would die.

His wife’s Muslim family, in accordance with Islamic law, had already taken the children away from him.

Egypt: The inferior status of Christian minorities was again on display. The principal of a school in Sohag has been openly refusing the enrollment of Christian students, simply on the basis of their religion. When Copts and others protested — the current law of Egypt is on their side — the principal declared that, “As long as I am present in the school, no Christian pupils will be accepted.”

Popular Egyptian columnist Karima Kamal wrote that although the Egyptian constitution stipulates equality before the law, the judiciary does not apply this provision, and refuses the testimony of Christians against Muslims in courts. Anecdotal evidence supports her claim. Some weeks earlier, the following letter was published:

Yesterday I suffered an extremely harsh psychological shock. I went to court with one of my neighbors, a widow, to serve as witness in an inheritance case. Another neighbor and witness accompanying us was a young Christian. We had all been living as one family. Imagine my shock, then, at the judge who very rudely and with incomprehensible disapproval rejected the testimony of the [Christian] youth: [saying]: “It is unacceptable for a Christian to testify against a Muslim.”

In fact, Islamic law maintains that the testimony of an “infidel” cannot be accepted against a Muslim.

Al Azhar — arguably the Islamic world’s most prestigious Islamic university — continues to incite Egypt’s Muslims against Christians. Most recently, the university was exposed distributing a free booklet dedicated to discrediting Christianity. It is full of direct attacks on Christianity in general and the nation’s Coptic Christians in particular. Christianity is referred to as a “failed religion,” while Islam is hailed as the true and superior religion. Because the “seeds of weakness” are inherent in Christianity and the Bible, says the booklet, Islam was easily able to supplant it in the Middle East. No mention is made of any violent Islamic conquests.

Iran: Iran’s revolutionary court sentenced 18 Christian converts on charges that include evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith. The sentences totaled almost 24 years (the lack of transparency in Iran’s tightly controlled judicial system does not allow for a breakdown of individual sentences). The defendants were also barred from organizing home church meetings and given a two-year ban from leaving Iran. The Christians, many of whom were arrested in 2013, were sentenced in accordance with Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, which states that “Anyone who engages in any type of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran or in support of opposition groups and associations, shall be sentenced to three months to one year of imprisonment.”[2]

Nigeria: More than 200 girls remain missing after Boko Haram stormed a government school in Chibok in 2014, kidnapping scores of mostly Christian young girls. Escapees continue to testify to the brainwashing that they encountered from their captors. Some were told to slit the throats of Christians and to carry out suicide attacks. One witness said that the Chibok girls have been given special status as “teachers” told to memorize the Koran and teach others to do so. Girls who cannot recite the Koran are flogged.


1) The “lawyers” of a Christian man imprisoned in Pakistan on the charge of desecrating the Koran last May[3] are actually working against him. Humayun Faisal, a mentally disabled Christian, will remain in prison because his lawyers have withdrawn their request for bail.  According to the pool of Christian attorneys of the NGO “Lead,” during the hearing on June 27 before the Lahore High Court, Faisal’s lawyers officially canceled the request for bail, previously submitted by other lawyers. Said Lead:

[There are lawyers who] intervene in cases in which Christians are accused of blasphemy or other crimes and, instead of obtaining justice, do not operate in the interests of the accused, their clients, but act for others purposes.

2) Mumtaz Masih, a Christian man, was recently released from forced slavery by his Muslim employer. Masih had an arrangement with his Muslim employer, part of which was that Masih remain on his employer’s property at all times except once a month when he would receive payment and could go home to visit his family. In July 2014, the employer stopped paying Masih, banned him from home visiting, and effectively turned him into a slave. Masih’s wife sought help when her husband stopped coming. After a habeas corpus court case on May 29, a court official was directed to find Masih, who was found on his master’s property in a locked room. Although slavery is illegal in Pakistan, many poor Christians live and work in such conditions.

Sudan: On June 25, 12 Christian girls were detained for wearing “scandalous outfits” by the Public Order Police as they left the Baptist church in El Izba, Khartoum. The young women, in trousers and skirts, were transferred to a police station; two were acquitted on Friday, after the agents of the Public Order Police reconsidered their opinion. The ten others were charged with “deeds against the public morality” under Article 152 of the 1990 Criminal Code. “The young women attended a religious festivity in the church, and were wearing fancy dress. The charges are an insult to the church,” argued their lawyer. “Furthermore, the students were forced to change their clothes inside the police station, which is an affront to their dignity.”

Turkey: Authorities shut down Christian schools belonging to the Association of Churches of Jerusalem. Schools in several districts of the southeastern city of Gaziantep, where many refugees from Syria had fled, and in three other regions, were closed. Although providing much needed humanitarian relief, the Christian schools were found giving Bibles and other Christian literature to their refugee students, many of whom come from Muslim backgrounds.

Philippines: Christians and others in the southern Philippines say they fear that legislation meant to create an Islamic sub-state on Mindanao Island — legislation meant to appease Islamists — will only create more extremism against Christians. They believe that if Bangsamoro, or “Moro Country” — Moro is colloquial for “Muslim” — were ruled under Sharia, non-Muslims would become second-class citizens with drastically reduced rights. Critics of the bill say it would render the federal government powerless to redress human rights abuses under Islamic law.[4] “What President Aquino is doing is treasonous to Christian communities in Mindanao,” said Rolly Pelinggon, national convener of Mindanaoans for Mindanao (M4M).

United Kingdom: Nissar Hussain, a former Muslim from Pakistan who converted to Christianity in 1996, recently wrote a letter to his local MP recounting some of the violence, abuse, and other attacks that he, his wife and their six children have suffered at the hands of Muslims in the area of Bradford where they live.[5]

Iraq: According to Nineveh Provincial Council member Anwar Mata, “more than 120 thousand Christians [were] displaced from Mosul and Nineveh after the Islamic State invaded Mosul. He further noted that, “about 20 thousand of them have migrated [from] Iraq since last year…. The lack of interest of the federal government towards the displaced Christians pushed them to migrate outside the country … the psychological and moral damage was greater than the loss of their money and property as a result of ISIS occupation of Mosul.” Meanwhile, the theft of Christian property was conducted, not only by IS but by local politicians in Iraq. Impostors and fraudulent groups, thanks to corrupt officials, have managed to acquire illegal possession of thousands of houses belonging to Christian families in Baghdad, who fled the city after the U.S-led ousting of Saddam Hussein uncorked a virulent jihad on them. Mohammed al-Rubai, member of the city council of Baghdad, said that almost 70 percent of Christian houses in Baghdad have been expropriated illegally, and property titles were forged with the tampering of land registers carried out by dishonest bureaucrats. The NGO “Baghdad Beituna” has calculated that the thefts of Christian properties carried out with the complicity of corrupt public officials were about seven thousand. Even members of the political and military apparatus have enjoyed the “legalized” theft of Christian properties.

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.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Gatestone Institute

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