Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Iraq: The Islamic State detonated the nation’s oldest Christian monastery, St. Elijah’s. The 27,000-square-foot building had stood near Mosul for 14 centuries. For several years, prior to 2009, U.S. soldiers protected and sometimes used the monastery as a chapel. “Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled,” reported a Roman Catholic priest in Irbil. “We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.” Yet, when Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for America’s military efforts against ISIS, was asked about the status of Christians in Iraq soon after the monastery’s destruction, he replied “We’ve seen no specific evidence of a specific targeting toward Christians.”
Kosovo: Muslims urinated in an Orthodox Christian church in Pristina, the capital. Deputy Prime Minister Branimir Stojanovic condemned the desecration of the Temple of Christ the Savior: “Urinating in a sanctuary is shameful, uncivilized, vandalism.” (Last year in Italy, Muslims broke a statue of the Virgin Mary and also urinated on it.) Stojanovic added that, “The quiet observation of the demonstrators by the police, as they entered the temple and urinated is also shameful.” “Serbian [i.e., Christian] sanctuaries in Kosovo are constantly desecrated,” the deputy prime minister said.
Algeria: On January 7, unknown vandals damaged, robbed, and wrote jihadi slogans on a church. Furniture, ritual objects, and money worth about U.S. $8,000 were stolen from Light Church in Tizi-Ouzou, around 62 miles from Algiers. According to Pastor Mustapha Krireche, “Thieves broke into the inside of our church through the window, because we installed a reinforced door very hard to force open…. They took the music equipment like guitars, synthesizer, percussion, and sound equipment, plus a printer, the trunk of tithes, a sum of money, and other material.” The assailants left Islamic supremacist graffiti on the church walls including “Allah Akbar.” The church was targeted at least twice before: in 2009, “about 20 Islamist neighbors tried to block the congregation … from meeting for worship”; in 2010, a group of Muslims rampaged through the church building, trying to burn it down and damaging Bibles and a cross.
Kuwait: Lawmaker Ahmad Al-Azemi said he and other MPs will reject an initially approved request to build churches because it “contradicts Islamic sharia laws.” He added that Islamic scholars are unanimous in banning the building of non-Muslim places of worship in the Arabian Peninsula.
Mongolia: Days after a church celebrated Christmas, explosives were thrown into the stove chimney of a Kazakh house church. As a result, “Believers decided not to come together for a while. They [are] afraid of a repetition of the explosions in the homes of believers,” said a church leader. Large numbers of people had attended the church’s Christmas services and local Christians believe that this turnout had “angered some of the local Muslims and led them to carry out the attack.”
Pakistan: Three churches were attacked:
- Apostolic Church was burned in the Punjab. The church building was torched a day after a prayer vigil for Epiphany on Jan. 6. Pastor Zulfiqar of the Apostolic Church said Bibles and sacred vessels were also lost in the blaze. An earlier dispute between Muslims and Christians is believed to be behind the arson attack. Locals accused police of being negligent as usual. According to a local resident: “All the local Christians are now in great fear, the fire illustrates that Christians are not wanted in the local area.”
- Akba Azhar, a 26-year-old Muslim man, broke into the Victory Church in Kasur and burned copies of the Bible and other sacred books. Although he was captured and detained by a group of Christians who handed him over to police, and although any act of blasphemy against any heavenly religion is punishable by death in Pakistan, police claimed that he was mentally unstable and therefore could not be tried. Local Christians disagree, insisting that he is of sound mind. Several Christians are on death row due to accusations of blasphemy against Islam.
- A group of Muslims illegally seized a church property. The Christian congregation eventually gave up trying to reacquire its church building and a reconciliation meeting was held by police: “the Muslims instead armed themselves with guns and machetes and attacked the Christians’ family members in their homes,” said local Christian, Bashir Masih. After the church seizure, Muslims in the area “made it almost impossible” for church members to worship even in their own homes. “We obtained written approval from the district police chief, Rai Ijaz, to hold a three-hour prayer meeting in the private courtyard of a Christian…” But when the congregation of about 30 Christians began worshipping, Rashid Jutt, a Muslim in his late 20s, appeared and disrupted the service. A young Christian in attendance stepped forward in an effort to stop the Muslim’s harassment. A fight started, but the congregation separated the two men. The Muslim vowed to “teach all of us a lesson” as he left, said Masih. Apparently the Muslim’s revenge was to tell police that the Christian congregation tied him up and tortured him. The Christian congregation “immediately reached the police station and told the inspector in-charge what had really happened.” A police officer advised them to drop the matter and instead try to “reconcile with the Muslim youth.” The Christians agreed to a reconciliation meeting, but the Muslim never showed up. Instead, they found him “and some 30 other men armed with guns, machetes, and batons storming through our houses and beating up our boys.” The Christians instantly called police, who arrived slowly and “did not arrest any of the Muslims….We feel that the entire Muslim community has turned against us for standing up against their aggression…. Even the local police,” Masih concluded, “are on the Muslims’ side, as raids were being conducted to arrest Christian boys while no effort is being made to arrest Jutt and his accomplices, whom we have named in our police complaint for attacking our homes and beating up our boys.”
South Sudan: Muslims “sent” from Muslim majority Sudan, a country in which Sharia law is enforced, are suspected of burning down a church building in its southern neighbor where there is a Christian majority. On January 16, members of the Sudanese Church of Christ in the refugee settlement of Yida awoke in the morning to find their place of worship in flames. “I learned that those who set our church on fire were sent from Sudan purposely,” reported an anonymous church leader. The fire burned both the exterior and interior of the structure, destroying all of the chairs, a pulpit, and some copies of Bibles in Arabic. The following week his congregation of nearly 200 people held their prayer service in the open air in the remains of the charred church building, an adobe structure.
Egypt: A makeshift bomb was found near a church on January 22. Father Paul of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt found what he described as a “foreign object” next to the garbage can outside of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Aswan. He took it to the authorities for analysis, and it was discovered to be a makeshift bomb. Separately, security forces arrested 10 Coptic Christians for trying to build a wall around a piece of vacant land in order to expand their current church into the territory or possibly even build a church. A church already exists in the village of Abu Hannas in Samalout, Minya but it is too small to serve the village’s large Christian population. So the church purchased an unused piece of land next to it in the hope of expanding the current church or building another.
Iran: Authorities from the Islamic Republic are trying to convert the Assyrian Christian church in Tehran into a mosque. The church was illegally confiscated two years ago, when church leaders were told that an Islamic prayer hall would be built there.
Indonesia: Authorities in the Sharia-governed province of Aceh plan to remove tents built by Christians to worship in after their churches were torn down late last year by authorities responding to Muslim violence against churches that left one dead and thousands Christians displaced. The government claims that the removals were agreed to, as the tents were built only for Christmas services—a claim that Christian leaders reject. When Sharia police and other officials arrived in early January to remove the tents, the congregation resisted. “Mothers, children, and youths blockaded them. They made their objections clear,” said a pastor. Two church tents were torn down.
Turkey: A Syriac Orthodox Church in Diyarbakir, considered to be a “unique heritage site,” is believed to have been destroyed during fighting between the Turkish army and the Kurdish PKK. According to the last Christian family to flee the area, Fr. Yusuf and his wife: “My wife and I managed to escape the Church just moments ago with great difficulty…A few days ago, we already sent our children away in order to put them in safety. My wife and I, however, could not leave this ancient-old Church,” which symbolizes the last living presence of the Arameans in this once flourishing Aramean city. “We heard the fighting coming closer to us and we felt the ground shaking more and more. Especially my wife got terribly afraid and then we both decided that we had to run for our lives. … Not even at home or church we were safe. Our psychology has been greatly impacted by what we have experienced lately…. We don’t know what has happened to our Church, because we didn’t dare to look while we were running for our lives. Now we have little hope left that there can be a future for us, Aramean Christians, to stay in the land of our forefathers.”
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: At least three Christians were raped and/or tortured to death by Muslims:
- A group of Muslim men went into a Christian district, abducted a 7-year-old boy, and took turns gang-raping him before finally strangling him to death with a rope. Locals found the child’s body the next day dumped in a field: [T]he body was sent for post-mortem examination which revealed that the 7-year-old was killed after being brutally raped.” A local said “The suspects belonged to rich families and were drunk when they kidnapped the child, took him away and they raped him.”
- A week later, another group of reportedly “rich and drunk” Muslims in a car accosted three Christian girls walking home from work. They sexually harassed them, saying “Christian girls are only meant for one thing, the pleasure of Muslim men.” When the girls tried to run away, the Muslims chased them down in their car and ran them over, killing one 17-year-old girl.
- A Christian man was brutally tortured to death by police in an attempt to get him to confess to stealing from his Muslim employer. Khurram, the son of Liaqat Masih, the 47-year-old slain Christian, was also tortured by police for the same reason; he shared his eyewitness testimony of the beating his father endured before expiring. Police stripped him naked, made him stand on a chair, tied his hands behind his back, and hung him from the ceiling, causing Liaqat’s shoulders to become dislocated. Each time the captive’s feet hit the floor, a police officer would pull the rope to lift him up again and continued applying tension to his arms and dislocated shoulders. Because both Khurram and Liaqat adamantly maintained their innocence during the ordeal, the officers continued to beat his tied-up father with wooden logs until he eventually died. About an hour into the beating, the guards noticed that Liaqat was no longer breathing. The officers then released the tension on the rope and laid the father’s beaten body down in a pool of his own urine, said the son who watched. At the autopsy, doctors concluded that Liaqat died of a heart attack and failed to record the numerous injuries and bruises suffered during the beating.
Bangladesh: ISIS claimed responsibility for the murder of an 85-year-old Muslim man for reportedly converting to Christianity. He was found lying in a coffin-like structure with blood on his chest. It is believed that he was stabbed to death while working at his homeopathic practice. According to the report, “Soldiers of the caliphate were able to eliminate the apostate, named ‘Samir al-Din’, by stabbing him with a knife.” Although al-Din’s son claims that his father never converted to Christianity and frequently prayed facing Mecca, One Way Church disagrees, stating that he was just “in a meeting of the church at Gopinathpur village on Jan 3” and that he had told others that his life was in danger. “The local church has shown us papers confirming his conversion to Christianity in 2001,” said local police.
Syria: A bomb attack on a mostly Christian neighborhood killed three people and wounded 10 others, all Christians. The attack occurred on January 24 in the Kurdish city of Qamishli. While rumors began that ISIS was behind it, according to one Christian leader, “So many people think that behind the bombing there could also be Kurdish masterminds and executors. It is another disturbing factor of this war: there is terrorism, but sometimes we do not know who really terrifies us.”
Germany: In a letter to the Federal Minister for Special Affairs, Hegumen Daniil, Father Superior of St. George the Victorious Monastery in Gotschendorf and a member of the Integration Committee at the German Federal Chancellery, wrote:
Christian refugees from Syria, Eritrea, and other countries are exposed to humiliation, manhunts, and brutal harassment at the camps for refugees by their Muslim neighbors. This also relates to the Yazidi religious minority. The cases when humiliation turns to injuries and death threats are frequent…. According to the Islamic tradition, they [former Muslims, who are at special risk] should be punished, because they moved away from Islam. They are exposed to great pressure and are afraid for their lives, because “renegades” lose any right to it as far as radical Muslims are concerned…. Many Christians who came from the Middle East are suffering from such great harassment that they want to return home, because their situation there seems to them to be a lesser evil as compared with the circumstances in the German refugee accommodation centers.
Egypt: “The tombs of the Copts [Egypt’s indigenous Christians] are being turned into garbage dumps.” This was the message from Fr. Ayoub Yousef, who heads the Coptic Catholic church of St. George in the village of Dalga, in Minya, Upper Egypt. According to the priest, local Christian cemeteries are in a “piteous state,” and all types of sewage and waste are being dumped into them to the point of filling the tombs. He has filed numerous complaints with the prime minister and many other officials “to no avail, to the point that the situation has become unacceptable” and urged “immediate intervention.”
Separately, during a televised Egyptian talk show that aired on January 18, the lawyer Ahmed ’Abdu Maher denounced Al-Azhar, the Islamic world’s oldest and most prestigious university, for continuing to radicalize its students. By way of example, he said: “There is a book in Al-Azhar that calls for the forceful shaving of the heads of the Copts [Egypt’s Christians], placing a sign on their homes [so Muslims know where the “infidels” live], and refusing to shake hands with them.” As it happens, the Islamic State and similar Muslim groups all make it a point not to shake hands with “unclean” Christians—one Egyptian cleric said he finds Christians utterly “disgusting”—and that Christian homes should be distinguished with signs, as ISIS did when it placed the Arabic “N” (nun) letter on their homes in Mosul and elsewhere. Even forced head-shaving is being practiced. Back in 2013, jihadi groups in Libya abducted around 100 Copts and abused them—including by shaving their heads.
Turkey: Out of almost 2 million Syrian refugees within Turkey’s borders, 45,000 are Christian and are finding that “life is only slightly better at best.” Many have to pretend to be Muslims in public in order to avoid being attacked. They restrict their Christian worship to the privacy of their tents and homes. According to the report, “Another group of refugees in Turkey that was attacked is the Armenians. Zadig Kucuk reportedly found his 85-year-old mother murdered in December 2012 even though she was living in a large Armenian community in Istanbul. When her body was found, a large cross had been carved into her chest. There have also been incidences of refugees being beheaded.”
Iran: Instead of receiving much needed medical treatment, a Christian prisoner was instead given five additional years in prison. Ebrahim Firouzi was first arrested by agents of the Islamic Republic in 2013. He was later condemned by a court of law to one year in prison and two years’ exile. After his sentence ended, Firouzi was kept in prison when new charges of “acting against national security” were levied against him. He remains in prison even though he has been suffering acute pain in the left side of his chest for over a year, and his condition continued to deteriorate in the last three months.
Kazakhstan: After he appealed the decision, a court in Astana, the nation’s capital, increased the sentence originally handed to Yklas Kabduakasov, a convert from Islam, from seven years’ house arrest to two years at a prison hard labor camp. The father-of-eight was arrested last year on charges of inciting religious hatred. He was convicted last November and allowed to go home to begin his seven years of house arrest. Local Christians believe the real reason behind the arrest of Yklas Kabduakasov is his conversion from Islam to Christianity and the fact that he was sharing his Christian faith with Muslims.
Mali: A Swiss Christian missionary abducted for 10 days in 2012 has been kidnapped again in Timbuktu. On January 8, Beatrice Stockly, a woman in her 40s, was taken from her home before dawn by armed men who arrived in four pickup trucks. Militant Islamic groups are active in the area in which she lives and had launched two attacks in the previous weeks, one of them on a Christian radio station just before Christmas, which left 25 people dead. In 2012, when the jihadis ruled the area, they outlawed the practice of Christianity and desecrated and looted churches and other places of worship.
Pakistan: Yet another Christian girl was abducted by a group of Muslim men, forced to convert to Islam, and marry one of her kidnappers. The girl, 15-year-old Saima Bibi, was alone in a village in the Kasur district when she was seized. The family filed a complaint with police against her captors. Her parents hope that providing a birth certificate verifying her underage status will prove useful in the case, as the legal marriage age in Pakistan is 16. Police, however, already confirmed that Saima has converted to Islam and officials have documents proving the marriage.
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim