From one end of the Islamic world to the other, the abduction and rape of Christian girls at the hands of Muslims—both terrorists and laymen—was a dominant theme this past April.
On Easter Sunday morning, for instance, four Muslim men raped a 7-year-old Christian girl named Sara in a Pakistani village. Last reported, the child was in an intensive care unit in "critical" condition. According to Asia News, "the police, instead of arresting the culprits, helped the local clan to kidnap the girl's father; Iqbal Masih was taken and hidden in a secret place to 'force the family not to report the story, to reach an agreement with the criminals and to avoid a dispute of a religious background.'"
|Some of the Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram|
According to a human rights lawyer involved in the case, "Such cases are frequent: abuse against women and girls by Muslim men are examples of how the minorities in Pakistan live under constant fear of persecution. We believe that many cases of violence go unreported." A new report appearing in April by the Solidarity and Peace Movement—a coalition of NGOs, associations and institutions including the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Pakistani Bishops—confirmed that "an estimated 700 cases per year involve Christian women, 300 Hindu girls…[T]he true extent of the problem is probably much bigger, since many cases are not reported." (Click here for a better understanding of the extent of this tragedy.)
The biggest story, however, came from Nigeria, where the Islamic terrorist organization known as Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 teenage schoolgirls, mostly Christians. The group justified its actions in Islamic terms. Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, declared on video, "I abducted your girls. I will sell them on the market, by Allah. ...There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell."
The so-called mainstream media, which generally downplays or ignores Boko Haram's terror campaign, actually reported on this particular atrocity, prompting Western authorities—who are much more accustomed to, and comfortable with, pretending these sorts of things do not exist—to respond in awkward, hypocritical and bewildering ways.
Secretary of State John Kerry, after saying the U.S. had been in touch with Nigeria "from day one" of the crisis, then asserted, "I think now the complications that have arisen have convinced everybody that there needs to be a greater effort. And it will begin immediately. I mean, literally, immediately."
It is not clear to whom Kerry was referring when he said, "convinced everybody"—unless he was referring to himself. After all, there might not have been any need for "greater effort," or the need to act "immediately. I mean, literally, immediately," had Kerry only let the Nigerian government do its job a year ago, when it was waging a strong and successful offensive against Boko Haram in the same region in which the schoolgirls were kidnapped.
Back then, in May 2013, soon after Nigerian forces killed 30 Boko Haram members, Reuters reported that "U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strongly worded statement [to the Nigerian president] saying: "We are … deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism" from Boko Haram.
As for Kerry's predecessor, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she publicly bemoaned the lot of the kidnapped girls. "[It's] abominable, it's criminal, it's an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible," she said from a position to help offer "the fullest response possible." But she repeatedly refused to designate Boko Haram a "foreign terrorist organization," despite the countless atrocities it had already committed; despite that under her tenure Boko Haram had boasted that it would "strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women," and despite extensive urging from the CIA, FBI, Justice Department, and several congressmen and senators.
Her logic was once voiced by her husband, former U.S. President Bill Clinton. In February 2012, he declared that "inequality" and "poverty" are "what's fueling all this stuff"—a reference to Boko Haram's terror—and he warned the Nigerian government, "It is almost impossible to cure a problem based on violence with violence."
The rest of April's roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity.
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Afghanistan: Three Americans were shot and killed at a Kabul hospital funded by an American Christian charity. The murderer was a policeman employed as a security guard at the hospital. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for similar attacks this year, but issued no comment. Those killed were a doctor and a father and son visiting the hospital. "As they were walking out of the hospital, the security guard opened fire on them, killing three and wounding another one," said a statement from the Interior Ministry. The attack was one of increasing attacks against Christians and Westerners in the country. Three weeks earlier, Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus, 48, was killed and reporter Kathy Gannon, 60, wounded while they were sitting in the back of a car in the east of the country. Also in March, a gunman shot dead Swedish journalist Nils Horner, 51, outside a restaurant in Kabul.
Central African Republic: Father Labbe Christ Formane Willbona was slaughtered by Muslim herdsmen believed to be close to the Islamic rebel organization, Seleka. Local security sources reported that the corpse was mutilated before being buried.
Egypt: A Coptic Christian teacher at the Marzouk prep school in Minya province was shot in the head by a student belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Eyewitnesses said that the student was caught smoking in class and was reprimanded. Apparently he decided to show his "infidel" teacher his place, and therefore shot him in the head while he was returning home. Two more Christian Copts were killed in villages near Asyut, according to Agenzia Fides, during "sectarian clashes" over land disputes between a Coptic family and local Muslims. On the same day as the Coptic funeral, a young Coptic entrepreneur, Mohsen Morris, was also kidnapped near Asyut. The kidnappers extracted a ransom of 250,000 Egyptian pounds [$35,000] from his family.
Libya: Three more Coptic Christians—all cousins—were targeted in post "Arab Spring" Libya. One was slaughtered and brought back to Egypt to be buried in a Coptic cemetery; another, half dead, was carried back home in an ambulance, with a bullet lodged in his skull; another cousin disappeared and is believed to have been killed by Islamic militants. Islamic enmity for Christians has been regularly on display in Libya after the U.S.-supported "Arab Spring": Christians—including Americans—have been tortured and killed (often for refusing to convert) and churches bombed. Earlier, Islamic militants said they would reward any Muslim who finds and kills Christians. Such persecution did not occur under the leadership of the late Colonel Moammar Gaddafi.
Pakistan: A Muslim security guard is accused of murdering a Christian worker who refused to convert to Islam. According to Morning Star News,
Sunny Masih, a father of two, was working as a cleaner at a branch of Bank Islami under construction on Nisbat Road in Lahore. On Wednesday morning (April 16), the bank security guard informed police that Masih had shot himself in the forehead with a pump-action shotgun that the guard had left unattended before going to the washroom.
The guard, Omar Farooq, of Khushab District in central Punjab Province, told police that Masih "looked depressed" when he arrived at the bank at 8 a.m. Sub-Inspector Muhammad Iqbal of the Nolakha Police told Morning Star News that Farooq told officers Masih was in the lobby of the bank when Farooq went to the washroom, leaving his weapon unattended.
Haider Masih, father of the deceased, told Morning Star News that his son was a lively young man and had shown no signs of depression.
On April 15, my son told me that Farooq had mocked his Christian faith and had asked him to 'embrace' Islam. He told my son, 'You are a good-looking boy, and I don't like to see you sweeping floors and cleaning the washrooms. If you embrace Islam, I'll connect you with people who will take good care of you, provide you with a decent job and even get you married into a wealthy Muslim family.'"
Masih said his son told Farooq that he was satisfied with his Christian faith, and that he should stop nagging him.
"My son told me that when he snubbed Farooq, the guard had threatened him that he would have to face the consequences for refusing the Dawaat [an invitation to accept Islam]," the grieving told Morning Star News at the Mayo Hospital mortuary. "I took the matter lightly and told my son not to worry, as being Christians we have to face such people every second day. I told Sunny to avoid discussing religion with Farooq even if he brought up the matter and keep distance from him, and everything would be alright. Little did I know that my son would end up in a mortuary a day later."
According to a Christian activist involved in the case,
Masih was hit on the forehead just above his eyes, and his skull and brain were completely blown away by the impact at point blank range. The doctor said he found it hard to believe that Masih could have shot himself in the head with a big weapon such as a shotgun. This is what we want the police to find out, but instead they are trying to cover up the matter. We believe the police are showing bias in its probe because it involves a 'righteous Muslim' who was trying to convert a Christian.
Syria: Frans van der Lugt—a 76-year-old Jesuit priest from the Netherlands who had established a community center and farm near the city of Homs where he had worked for over forty years for the betterment of people with disabilities and for Christian-Muslim harmony—was shot dead in the garden of the community center. After the Islamist-led siege of Homs, the priest continued to care for the sick and the hungry. In early 2014 he made a number of YouTube videos, asking the international community to help the besieged city. Yet he chose to remain in Homs, struggling with the daily bombings and the lack of food, until he was slain.
Uganda: The teenage daughter of a Muslim man managed to attend one church service after converting to Christianity before her father killed her. Abdul Hakim Ibanda severely beat his 17-year-old daughter and her 19-year-old sister with a blunt instrument after learning that they had attended a church service on April 6. The surviving sister said, "On Sunday morning we arrived at the United Believers Church... After prayers we then went to church, where the pastor introduced us to the church and that we were new members of the church. The church faithful were cheerful to receive us." However, local Muslims who saw them enter the church immediately reported it to the father. He gathered a group of 32 "youths" to attack the church but the mob was eventually dispersed without incident. When the girls returned home, the father, described as "furious," began questioning and eventually beating them with a blunt object, killing the girl. According to the pastor of the majority-Christian nation, where Muslims make some 11.5 percent, "The girl [surviving sister] is still traumatized as a result of the death of her sister and needs prayers and counseling." Said the girl: "I know I cannot go back to my father because I have become a Christian. I am grateful to the church for welcoming me and taking me as their child. I now have a new home."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Austria: After reportedly listening to Muslim chants, a man, known only as Ibrahim A., went on a church-vandalizing spree, desecrating four churches. According to the Vienna Times, "the attack left Lazaristenkirche with all of its statues and side altars largely destroyed as well as statues damaged at St. Stephen's, the Breitenfeld church in Josefstadt and the Neuottakring church in Ottakring." The Archbishop of Vienna described the attack on churches as "so far the worst act of vandalism in my time as Archbishop…. I am shocked by the devastation in the churches. I hope that the perpetrator or perpetrators did not know what they were doing." Ibrahim A., 37-years-old, was caught in the act of vandalizing St. Stephan's but was released at the time because police did not realize it was one of many attacks that that had been carried out that day. Police have since been unable to find him.
Nigeria: According to AP, "Witnesses and an official say angry Muslim youths set ablaze a Catholic church and tried to destroy an attached school in northern Nigeria over an alleged insult to the Prophet Muhammad. Witness Tukur Musa says soldiers on Monday stopped the mob from setting ablaze the school in Funtua town in Katsina state, but they arrived too late to save St. Rita Catholic Church. He says the town was in an uproar about an examination question last week which they considered an insult to the Prophet Muhammad. They reported the matter to district authorities. When no action was taken, young Muslims attacked. Deputy Police Superintendent Aminu Abubakar Saddiq confirmed the church was burned and school damaged but said no one was injured. Religious strife is common in central and northern Nigeria." Also, during early Easter Sunday morning, unknown gunmen, later attributed to the Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram, launched an attack on the Christian-majority regions of Taraba State. The Christian Church of Nigeria was burned down, as well as many Christian homes. At least 15 corpses were seen littering on the streets.
Syria: Gregorios III Laham, Greek-Melkite Catholic patriarch of Antioch, visited some of the dozens of Christian churches hit by Islamic rebels, particularly churches in the historic town of Ma'aloula, where the Christian inhabitants still spoke Aramaic, the language of Jesus, and where some were executed for refusing to convert to Islam. (Click here for several pictures of the types of desecration that churches undergo if they fall into the hands of the Islamic terrorists. In St. Mary's Greek Catholic Church alone, icons had their faces scratched out, church pews broken, statues of the Virgin Mary and Christ smashed, and Bibles burned.) In the prelate's words: "An apocalyptic spectacle presented itself. Other churches have been destroyed in Syria, but I have never seen anything like this. I cried and I sought in vain a moment of solitude to pray. I am heartbroken. Ma'aloula's four historic churches were hit. Our parish church, dedicated to Saint George, is riddled with bullets. The convent's dome was damaged in two places. The walls were ripped open by cannon fire. Some parts of the convent is in danger of collapsing and must be rebuilt. The icons are scattered on the floor, dirty, or stolen. It is currently completely uninhabitable." The patriarch further described the wanton destruction of churches as a "war crime."
Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism
Malaysia: An Islamic organization known as Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia accused a Christian church of trying to evangelize to Muslims, simply because they used Bahasa Malaysia, the national language, for an Easter pageant. The organization's website said that while freedom of religion for non-Muslims was guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, the open use of Bahasa Malaysia to promote the event outside the church compound was an abuse of this liberty. The organization also called on Muslim officials "to closely monitor this Easter Musical." It further declared that "the notion of Easter was against Islam." In Malaysia -- regularly portrayed in the West as an example of a moderate Muslim nation—any attempt to promote religions other than Islam is illegal.
Pakistan: Eight days after a court in Lahore sentenced Sawan Masih, a Christian man, to death for allegedly insulting Islam's prophet, Muhammad, another illiterate Christian couple in Punjab Province was sentenced to death for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages. Along with Asia Bibi, a wife and mother incarcerated since 2010, there are now four Christians on death row in Pakistan for allegedly blaspheming Islam or its founder. Also, a Muslim landlord almost beat to death his Christian tenant and employee, Saleem Masih, for observing Easter. According to Mushtaq Gill, a Christian activist and lawyer, because Saleem took time off to observe Easter, "the landlord became furious and beat him severely. He was eventually rescued and saved by some other villagers, otherwise he could have been beaten to death." Gill added that many other Christian field workers "are forced into bonded labour, denied minimum wages and harassed and implicated in fake cases if they try to resist the oppression of their influential masters." As for Mushtaq Gill, the Christian lawyer representing these Christians, he is facing death threats. In his own words: "On April 2, a stranger came to the Lahore Court and warned me that I might be attacked or involved in some fake criminal cases or even killed." Such threats are not limited to "extremists." Gil received information that he could also be expelled and barred from practicing law. "What am I supposed to do, stop?" said Gil. "Psalm 118 says: 'The Lord is with me, I have no fear of anything. What can man do to me?' My other colleagues and I have been threatened and attacked several times by strangers because of our work for human rights in Pakistan. But we are not afraid. We know that we could be killed because we support the campaign for the abolition of the blasphemy law. But this will not close our mouth and will not stop our work on human rights. The Lord tells us to have courage."
Uganda: Muslim relatives of a convert to Christianity tried to poison him to death. Hassan Muwanguzi converted to Christianity in 2003. Soon thereafter, his wife left him and he was fired from his job as a schoolteacher. Most recently, he was hospitalized after an aunt put insecticide in his tea. According to Hassan: "After eating and taking tea, I started feeling stomachache, then I realized that she was the one responsible for it—and I believe she did not do it alone, since they have been hunting for me directly and indirectly, because when I left them and converted to Christianity it pained them so much. The reason they want to kill me is very clear—it is because of being a convert to Christianity; above all, to them it is like I brought shame by converting…" During the family meeting, when he started to feel ill, he telephoned a local Christian bishop, who advised him that he should leave secretly. "I knew if he were to mention to them that he was getting sick, they would harm him more," said Bishop Kinyewa.
Uzbekistan: Christians are being prevented from burying their dead in the state cemeteries of the Muslim-majority nation. There have been three known cases so far this year. Most recently, the family of Gayrat Buriyev, who died on 9 April, was told by officials, "The cemetery is state property, but is under the management of the local mosque, and if the imam is against the burial then it will not take place." And the local imam said he was "acting in accordance with sharia law," even though Uzbekistan is officially a secular state. The imam also cursed the family for being Christians, calling them "unclean and defiled infidels." Although they took the matter to local authorities, officials refused to intervene, siding with the imam. (According to Islamic teaching, being buried next to an "infidel" could cause the Muslim corpse to suffer the "torments of the grave.")
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.
Raymond Ibrahim, a Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).