- “[T]wo young masked men entered the pharmacy and dragged my father outside. They told him to kneel in the street. They put two guns at my father’s head and told him to convert to Islam. But he shook his head. Then they shot him.” — Open Doors, August 23, 2018, Egypt.
- “Our father, Bashir Masih, was a sanitary worker,” explained the family’s son Fiaz Masih. “He built this house a few years back, when he retired from his job; however Muslims could not bear that Christians would live in such a good, big, and furnished house. We are the only Christian family in the neighborhood. They wanted to snatch our property. Therefore, they started threatening us to leave the house otherwise they will [accuse us of] committing blasphemy against Islam.” — Pakistan.
- “Indonesia had a reputation for an interpretation of Islam that embraced religious tolerance. But Muslim extremists have been urging the adoption of Islamic law throughout Indonesia, creating religious divides.” — Voice of America, October 1, 2018.
|In Kenya, Islamic terrorists stopped a bus that was traveling to Garissa and murdered two Christians for refusing to convert to Islam. Pictured: A road in Garissa, Kenya. (Image source: Adam H T Geelle/Wikimedia Commons)|
The Slaughter of Christians
Central African Republic: As many as 42 people — mostly Christian women — “were hacked to death … after suspected Islamist rebels attacked a group of civilians in the central town of Bria” between September 4-5. Some died by machete, others by gunshot. At least one of the butchered women was pregnant. “They [Seleka militants] don’t want to see any Christians here,” one church leader said. “Christians never go to town…. They have barricaded all roads, and if you venture out, you are at your own peril. We Christians have nothing else to do, no food to eat, no place to go. We rely only on prayers. Please pray for us!”
Democratic Republic of Congo: Armed Muslim militants slaughtered as many as 40 people in the Christian town of Beni. According to one report:
“… the assailants, in great number, attacked the city by surprise at around 5.30pm … They fired light and heavy weapons, and targeted residential areas, causing panic among the inhabitants… Eyewitnesses said some of the victims were killed with machetes, while an undetermined number of others were injured. According to a local pastor, at least 27 victims have been identified as members of local churches.”
A week earlier, on September 18, the same extremists murdered a Christian grandmother and injured four of her grandchildren. “These rebels who call themselves the Muslim Defense International also hit near our base in Ngadi three times,” said an aid worker. According to the report, the group “has operated in the region since 1995, has been blamed for hundreds of civilian deaths over the past four years and of trying to uproot Christians from north-eastern DRC through attacks, rape, looting, kidnap and murder.”
Kenya: Extremists murdered two Christians in the name of Islam for refusing to abjure their faith. According to one report, on September 14:
“… a group of Islamic terrorists stopped a bus that was traveling to Garissa. The militants ordered everyone off the bus and demanded identification… the terrorist group of seven men separated the Muslims from the Christians. They demanded three of the passengers recite the statement of faith [the shahada, ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger,’ which instantly transforms a nonbeliever into a Muslim]. The two Christians who refused to recite the statement were tied up and executed.”
One week later, on September 22, a Muslim mob stoned three Christians to death while chanting “Allahu Akbar!” (“Allah is greater!”). The attack came in response to the killing of jihadi terrorists at the hands of governmental security forces. According to an eyewitness:
“Fredrick [one of the three slain] was on top of a new house he was contracted to build. His two assistants were on the ground mixing mortar when the mob arrived in [a] hurry, chanting takbir, takbir, takbir [that is, calling on the mob to shout “Allahu Akbar”]. From a distance, I saw the men hurling construction stones towards Fredrick and his coworkers. The three managed to flee into a nearby hotel for safety, although they had been badly injured. The Muslims relentlessly followed them up and stoned them to death.”
“This is a sad day in our family,” added Frederick’s brother:
“We have lost a man who was skilled in construction and loved all of us. He always reminded us to pray and trust God even in difficult times. That is what is keeping us going after losing him. We were expecting to see him before the end of the year but now what we have is the memories, a widow, and two children to take care of…. Where were the police to protect [them]?”
Pakistan: Resentful that a Christian was in a position over them, Muslim hospital employees attacked Faraz Masih, 26, with acid on September 5. His face highly disfigured and with several other burns around his body, he finally succumbed to death ten days later in a hospital. According to the victim’s father, Badar Masih:
“Faraz was a young graduate and serving as Assistant Admin Officer in a local hospital for about two years. On September 5th at around 2 a.m, when he was going home from the hospital, some unknown assailants sprayed acid upon him… My son was targeted for his Christian faith. I don’t think we, the Christians, are safe in Pakistan. However, it is our country and we love it with our soul and spirit. We won’t seek refuge.”
Faraz had been harassed and beat several times before. A few months earlier, a group of men wearing masks surrounded him and “stuck their boots in his mouth, claiming that ‘a Christian is not even able to lick their shoes.'” His father adds: “They threatened to kill him unless Faraz left his job. They said that his spiritual impurity contaminated the health of ‘pure Muslims.'” “Faraz often complained that some of his Muslim staff members were unhappy with his excellent performance and they disliked Faraz for his honesty and Christian background,” said his mother. “My son was running my kitchen. He was very gentle to everyone in the vicinity. He had no enmity. He was an active member of the Church. However, he was usually not given a day off to go to Church for Sunday prayer service.”
Philippines: On September 2, Muslim militants bombed a café in the town of Insulan. Jun Mark Luda, an 18-year-old catechist who taught Christian principles in public schools during his free time, and his 15-year-old cousin, Marialyn Luda were killed in the blast; 14 others were injured. Jun Mark Luda “was smart and talented. His jolliness was contagious. We are saddened by his death,” said a church acquaintance before adding that such ongoing attacks “destroy the harmony between Muslims and Christians.” Army commander Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana “blamed the attack on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State.” The same group was accused of bombing St Anthony’s Catholic Cathedral on April 29, 2018.
Egypt: A September 4 report revealed how Palestinian Islamists murdered a Christian man for refusing to convert to Islam:
“[A] few years ago [the Christian] family lived at peace with their Muslim neighbors in El-Arish, a small city on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast… Baghat was a veterinarian who had good relations with his Muslim colleagues and friends. However, everything changed when Palestinian immigrants with a very strict view on Islam moved to the village…. [They] began threatening believers by spreading leaflets warning Christians to leave the city or die…. One Sunday morning, Baghat woke up early to go to church, and then went to work at the veterinarian clinic of one of his Muslim friends.”
Baghat’s 17-year-old son Marqos recounts what happened next: “[T]wo young masked men entered the pharmacy and dragged my father outside. They told him to kneel in the street. They put two guns at my father’s head and told him to convert to Islam. But he shook his head. Then they shot him. When I heard he’d died, I couldn’t walk to the morgue.”
Another report that appeared on September 13 presents statistics concerning the plight of Egypt’s Christians:
“Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority bore the brunt of Islamist extremist persecution of Christians in 2017. ISIS’s operations across Egypt, including its Sinai insurgency, intentionally killed 97 Copts in 18 attacks…. Attacks against Coptic Christians comprised 53 per cent of the group’s public activity, including 11 assassinations. The deadliest incident occurred in April, when two suicide bombers coordinated attacks on Palm Sunday celebrations, killing 47 people. ISIS carried out a number of multi-casualty assaults against Copts, killing a total of 69 people in only three incidents… ISIS has declared that Coptic Christians are apostates who must be eliminated from Egypt. The group outlined its hatred in a video in February 2017, describing Copts as its “favorite prey” and vowing to “kill every infidel” and “liberate Cairo.” In the footage, the group threatened to wipe out all “worshippers of the cross,” specifically referring to the Coptic pope and wealthy Copts. Hundreds of Copts reportedly left Sinai in response to increased violence and fear in February, coinciding with ISIS’s threats. Overall, the Middle East’s Christian population is in decline.”
Nigeria: On September 7, following the burning alive of a pastor, his wife, and children at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen, the Rev. Ezekiel Dachomo appeared in a short video surrounded by a mournful crowd carrying the body of another killed Christian woman. He made an impassioned appeal for assistance from the U.S., Britain and the U.N.:
“America, please stand for us. We are dying … Please, allow us to survive. We have nobody. Only God in heaven can stand for us. Please, I am begging you. United Nations, your silence is getting worse … Please, please, I’m begging you stand for the helpless … Yesterday, one of my colleagues, the reverend, was slaughtered with his wife and his children, and I was right there … Look at the women; immediately they were commiserating, after the Fulani herdsmen have fully burned down two villages…. Who would stand for us? There is nobody. Everybody … We are now ready to do [our] last prayers, since an Islamic agenda is taking over the nation….They have already [been] assigned our lands … Our villages have been reallocated to Fulani herdsmen, and nobody is talking. Even my colleague reverends are keeping quiet. Women are dying every day, men are dying. What do you want us to do? Please, please, I am begging you, congressmen, [men] of London…please I am begging you, stand for the helpless. There is nobody [else]!”
Niger: Suspected extremists kidnapped an Italian priest, leaving “the communities he served for 11 years in shock and sorrow.” Fr. Pier Luigi Maccalli, 57, was abducted by eight armed men who entered his parish in Bamoanga late at night and seized him from his bedroom. Two nuns were also taken, though initial reports indicate that they escaped. On hearing of his kidnap, various communities gathered around his parish in Bamoanga. According to the mayor, Diara Banyoura:
“There was a feeling of sorrow among them. Dozens gathered in silence. Others can hardly hide their emotions. They shed tears as they tried to express their emotions, saying: ‘How can this happen to someone who has been always giving a helping hand to people in need?'”
Jihad on Christians in Pakistan:
Local Muslims looted and then burned a Christian home—the only one in the neighborhood of Gujar Khan—because they did not want Christians living near them. “Our father, Bashir Masih, was a sanitary worker,” explained the family’s son Fiaz Masih.
“He built this house a few years back, when he retired from his job; however Muslims could not bear that Christians would live in such a good, big, and furnished house. We are the only Christian family in the neighborhood. They wanted to snatch our property. Therefore, they started threatening us to leave the house otherwise they will [accuse us of] committing blasphemy against Islam.”
On September 20, local strongman Muhammad Kamran burst into the family home and beat his elderly parents. “My father got injuries and mother’s hand got fractured,” said Fiaz. “Muhammad Kamran often threatened us to bear the consequences if we don’t leave the house. His abusive and threatening conversation is recorded on the mobile phone.” On the following day,
“[a]n armed group of Muslims led by Muhammad Kamran intruded [the family] house in daylight and thrashed the entire family…. The attackers beat men, women, and children of the family and therefore some of us have severe injuries. They set fire to the house, including beds, furniture, sofa, cabinets, televisions, refrigerator, air-conditioners, fans, and vandalized vessels and other stuff. A new vehicle was set on fire and other valuables [including] cash money, jewelry, prize bonds, and mobile phones were looted.”
According to a subsequent account:
“The family reported the incident to the local police at Gujar Khan Police Station. At that time the police refused registration of a crime and told the Masih that if they pursued a First Information Report (FIR) they themselves would be charged with blasphemy. …the police forced an already perplexed family into a state of terror leaving them to dread potential blasphemy charges.”
Separately, a Muslim man hurled an 18-year-old Christian woman, Binish Paul, from a rooftop because she refused to convert to Islam and marry him. Her legal representative said she suffered “severe fractures to her legs and spine” as a result of the impact before elaborating: “For months, Taheer [her professed Muslim suitor] had been putting pressure on Binish to convert to Islam. Over and over again, she refused. This culminated in the violent act.” Not only did local police ignore the family’s pleas for intervention, but “[t]hey also received serious threats from the family of the perpetrator. If the case were not closed, then they would all be accused of blasphemy.”
A young Christian student, who reportedly lost sight in one of his eyes during a separate Muslim mob attack on his family home on August 28, was in fact blinded in both eyes, noted a September 5 report. Vikram Alvin, the victim, explained in an interview:
“I can’t believe this has happened to me. I was going to complete my studies in civil engineering this year and now that opportunity has been taken away from me. After completing my course, I had a job lined up with a large firm but the stable future I saw before me is now fraught with uncertainty…. I have done nothing to deserve such treatment I only stayed faithful to God, yet these evil men began to be jealous of the success of our family and the hatred they have for our faith boiled over…. I am unmarried and few women will want to marry me now what is left of my life will now be very difficult.”
Finally, as an indicator of the widespread abuse of Christians in Pakistan, a September 13 report “documented 14 cases of severe persecution, human right [sic] violations, and violence against Christians” in just the previous month alone:
“In less than 31 days, four Christians were killed…. Three women were raped… and three more were forced to convert to Islam…. Entire Christian communities also suffered greatly, as a community in Kasur was attacked and beaten for seeking to protect their church… 11 Christians … were severely beaten and tortured throughout Pakistan…. Doctors in Khanewal also had to remove the uterus of a Christian teenager who was brutally raped by three men.”
Attacks on Christian Churches and Cemeteries
Indonesia: On September 27, authorities shut down three churches on Sumatra Island. “[T]he authorities cited violation of public order and building permit ordinances. Dozens of congregants wept as the churches were closed,” notes one report. “We had been worshipping here since 2004 and fulfilled all building license requirements,” said the pastor of one of the closed churches. “We have even built a good relationship with the local authorities. Yet the permit was not granted. The rapid church growth in the area during the last decade may have caused restlessness among the majority-Muslim neighborhood.” Another local source said the churches were closed to forestall a planned Muslim protest:
“The [Muslim] village head filed a complaint with the higher authorities and rallied the support of radical group Islamic Defenders Front to hold protests against the churches. The day before the church closures, a letter had been circulated saying that a thousand Muslim residents would rally in front of the three churches on Friday, September 28. The government decided to seal the churches to prevent the commotion.”
As to why the churches lack the necessary permits, “[t]he local government,” explained Reverend Gomar Gultom, secretary of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, “keeps delaying the process to have the permit, or just reject it without any reasons.”
“There are thousands of other [Muslim] places of worship that don’t have permits, but continue to operate. I just can’t understand why they won’t let us have our churches. I can understand if [the local government] prohibited us from having the permits if we used the buildings for criminal activities, but we used them to praise God.”
According to a report:
“The move by officials in the West Kenali village of the Alam Barajo district of Jambi province is the latest push to close churches in a move that followed more than 1,000 closures in more than a decade. Until then, Indonesia had a reputation for an interpretation of Islam that embraced religious tolerance. But Muslim extremists have been urging the adoption of Islamic law throughout Indonesia, creating religious divides.”
Egypt: Because they “objected to the presence of a church in the area,” hundreds of Muslims rioted and attacked Christian homes and knifed two Christians, one in the head the other in the face. According to one report:
“Four [Christian] homes were ransacked, looted and partially set on fire by a Muslim mob during the three-hour-long attack, which was reportedly in protest of one of the properties being used as a home church. A local source … said the small Coptic community had been warned about the attack on August 31 a few days before it took place. Despite reporting the threat to police, officers did not respond until the attack had nearly finished…”
The attack occurred in the village of Dimshau Hashim. Approximately 450 of its 30,000 population are Christian. “A similar assault for the same reason had taken place in a neighboring village weeks earlier,” notes another report.
A year after the government established a committee to affect a 2016 law for the swift legalization of churches, only 220 of the 3730 churches waiting have been legalized, another report revealed. At this rate 17 years are expected to pass before all the churches — many of which have already waited between 15-20 years — are legalized.
Due to the notable dearth of churches, “Coptic Christians in various parts of Egypt have been left with no choice but to hold funeral services in the streets because of the closure of their churches,” said Egypt’s Watani. For example, denied a church and attacked for trying to use a home as one, the funeral of a 68-year-old Christian was held in the streets of Dimshau Hashim — where a Muslim attack on Christian homes mentioned above occurred — under tight security on September 6 (video and pictures here). A few days earlier in the village of Qasr Haidar the funeral of another man was also held in the streets after the village church was closed due to Muslim protests and riots. In yet another instance, the “funeral service of a Coptic man was held outside St. Moses Church in the town of Dairout. The church was closed 20 years ago and since then the Christian community has not been able to receive a permit for its re-opening.”
“The graves were ransacked and tombstones smashed. Investigators believe that Islamist motives are at play. While the government is pursuing an investigation, the desecration of these graves come at a time when the Algerian authorities have increasingly harassed the church. During the past year, a number of churches have closed by authorities citing vague safety reasons. Although some have reopened, it is widely believed that these closures are part of a broader strategy pursued by the government to isolate [the] Christian community. Algeria is a Muslim majority country which is governed by Islamic law.”
Another Christian cemetery was vandalized a few weeks earlier.
Pakistan: A brief report with few details noted that unknown arsonists torched a Christian church under construction on a small plot on September 25 in the 97% Muslim majority nation.
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 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.