The Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria
Three masked gunmen targeted and killed Bassem Attallah, a Christian man, 27, after identifying him as a Christian by the cross tattoo on his wrist. According to his older brother, Osama, 38, the siblings and a Muslim colleague, Muhammad, were walking home after work when three armed men, aged between 23 and 25 stopped them. "We thought they were policemen because they weren't masked... They were wearing black jackets," Osama recalled. "They approached us and asked Bassem to show them the wrist of his right hand, and when they saw the tattoo of the cross, they asked him: 'Are you Christian?' Bassem answered 'Yes, I am Christian,' and repeated that again in a loud voice."
The men then asked Muhammad his name and to show them his wrist. They saw no cross and allowed him to leave. On learning Osama's name, which is popular among Muslims, and not seeing any cross tattoos on his wrist, they also allowed him to leave. "And then they shot Bassem in the head. I could not believe what happened to my brother. He fell on the ground in front of me and I was unable to do anything.... We lost a person dear to our hearts. My brother Bassem was a very good and kind man. He had a strong relationship with God. He was always reading in the Bible, praying and going to the church. He was loved by all people," said his grieving brother. The murder took place in Al-Arish, Sinai, which in recent years has been the scene of many attacks on Christians—including the murder of two priests and the mass upheaval of Christian villages.
Separately, on New Year's Day, which the Muslim calendar does not recognize or celebrate, two Christian brothers were gunned down in public by a masked man on a motorcycle. While they died en route to a hospital, the murderer escaped. At the time of the attack, they were near Christian friend's store, which sold liquor. Coptic-owned stores that sell liquor have been targeted by those who consider alcohol haram, or forbidden by Islam. Almost one year to the day, on January 3, 2017, a Muslim man sneaked up behind a Christian shop owner in Egypt and slit his throat for selling alcohol.
Finally, more details concerning the Islamist terror attack on a Coptic church on December 29, which left nine dead, continued to emerge. One mother sacrificed herself to save her two young daughters. Nermin Sadik, 32, was walking her two daughters, aged 11 and 7, to Sunday school, when one of the gunmen ran up to her. When she realized what was happening and that he was about to open fire, she flung her daughters away and received a bullet. When the terrorist turned on the two girls, their mother, "with her last breath held them between her arms to protect them from flying bullets," says the report. Although the girls survived the ordeal, in the end their mother's body had several bullets in it. Speaking after the tragedy, Nermin's widower said his wife, who was a nurse, "was affectionate for everyone and she liked to help without charge."
The Slaughter of Christians in Nigeria
Various attacks on Christians by Muslim Fulani herdsmen continued throughout the month of January. "At least 16 people have been killed by gunmen in southern Nigeria after a New Year's Day church service," says one report. "The group had attended a midnight service before they were ambushed in the early hours of Monday."
According to another report, in one week alone, 55 people were killed and 200 homes torched, in the Lau local government area of Taraba state.
In yet another instance, 80 Christians were slaughtered by the Muslim herdsmen, many hacked to death by machetes, in Logo and Guma County. Speaking from a hospital bed, one survivor, Peter, said the attackers who went after him "were people I had interfaced with in that community. I got up and called them by their names and tried to wrestle the machete they had out of their hands, but to no avail. I was overpowered and they began to cut me."
Discussing these ongoing raids, Rev. Musa Asake, the General Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said "Under President [Muhammad] Buhari, the murderous Fulani herdsmen enjoyed unprecedented protection and favoritism to the extent that the herdsmen treat Nigeria as a conquered territory. Rather than arrest and prosecute the Fulani herdsmen, security forces usually manned by Muslims from the North offer them protection as they unleash terror with impunity on the Nigerian people."
The Rape of Christians in Pakistan
"A Christian boy of only 7 years old was brutally sodomized by a Muslim rapist," says a report. Daim Masih, a first grader, was walking home from school when he was met by Shan Muhammad, 19, a local: "Hi Daim, it's nice to see you," he began. "I have good news, some of our cows have given birth to young calves. Would you like to come with me and see them?" Because the unsuspecting child was fond of animals and knew Shan, he went with him. Walking hand in hand, Masih began to realize that they were not headed for the farm but a secluded place. When he pointed this out to Shan, the latter responded that he had "another big surprise for him." The report continues:
They walked a few meters to some trees when suddenly Shan ripped off Daim's shirt, then the rest of his clothes and threw Daim to the ground. Shan then jumped on Daim and proceeded with a sexual assault and sodomization of poor Daim. While the attack was happening the tiny 7-year-old struggled to fight off Shan who was much bigger and more powerful then him. Daim was punched, slapped and kneed by Shan who was shouting obscenities during the attack and demanding Daim to stop his screaming. The violence and the unlawful penetration of Dain was so painful however, that he could not stop his screaming. Desperate for him to be quiet or thrilled by the power and subjugation of his prey, sexual predator Shan began to tighten his hands around Daim's neck and was slowly throttling him to death while having his wicked way with him.
In fact, many Christian children—boys and girls—have been strangled to death during or after being raped in Pakistan over the years. Fortunately for Daim, his grandfather and uncle heard his cries and rushed to the scenes, at which point Muhammad pulled up his pants and fled the scene. The traumatized 7-year-old was subsequently hospitalized.
In another incident, a young, married Christian woman, the mother of a two-year-old girl "was brutally gang-raped by three men and then left tied in the courtyard of a Muslim man's house until she was found by police two days later," according to a report. Sidhra, 20, had just left her mother's home, when three local men began following her. She started to run towards her home, but they caught up with her, and, according to the report, "grabbed her at which point Sidhra blacked-out. She is unable to recall the events of the next 36 hours at this time." The family eventually learned that she was seen bound to a chair in the courtyard of a local home. The report continues:
[A]ll her family ran to the house of Mohammed Ilyas and peered through the gates when the mother saw her daughter tied up unconscious to a chair with a gag in her mouth, restrained in the courtyard of the neighbor's home, she started to scream. As each sibling saw their sister they too began to scream and shout hysterically. They banged on the gates and one brother climbed over and unlocked the gate from inside and rushed towards his sister. Sidhra was fully clothed and tied at her wrists and legs the rope securing her was so tight bruises could be seen on her wrists. Despite attempts to wake her it took a few minutes to revive her and she remained dizzy—she showed signs of having been drugged.
When she awoke, Sidhra, who "was unconscious for the whole two days and believes that she was subjected to rape," identified the three local men, all nephews of Mohammed Ilyas, the owner. Although her father went to lodge a complaint at the police station, "The Police refused to acknowledge her kidnap or rape and did not initially register a First Incident Report (FIR), as they told the family they had no evidence." After much pressure from the family and other local elders, police registered a crime and arrested two of the assailants—only to release them after some time. Although the family continued to seek justice, "the family holds little hope of any prosecution, as the courts and the police are exhibiting little empathy and seem keen on exonerating the wealthy Muslims," according to the report. Later, Sidhra said:
I am totally distraught, a visit to my mother has become a day of ruin for me. I have suffered a brutal kidnap and rape by disgusting men with no shame.... The thought of what the men done to me makes me shudder, I have nightmares and feel like my whole world has collapsed. I am terrified of walking on the streets at night and am finding it hard to cope with a deep depression that has consumed me. I had a happy life and that has been taken away from me, but the cruel men who stole my joy will soon be released to threaten me and to attack other women like me. There is no justice in this country.
Jihad on Christian Freedom
Kyrgyzstan: Unknown attackers torched a church building in the Muslim-majority nation. The small Baptist community was left "fear[ing] for its safety," says the report: "The damage to the church has forced its 40 Kyrgyz and Russian members to start searching for a new place of worship, while wondering if there will be a further attack."
An official told church members that the attack was "organized by those who don't like your church and Christianity in the midst of a Muslim country." "We don't believe that the police will find and punish those who burned our church," a congregation member said. The report adds that, "Instead of pursuing the arsonists, local Christians said police have asked questions about who funded the church building, how many Kyrgyz are members, and why, as ethnic Muslims, they do not go to the local mosque."
Kenya: Muslim students beat and stabbed their Christian counterparts for refusing to convert to Islam at Nairobi's Jamhuri High School. Hostilities began when Muslim students complained of discrimination. This prompted school officials to designate separate bathrooms and sections in the library for Christians and Muslims. It was not long, however, before the Muslim students began defaming Christianity and pressuring Christians to recite the shahada, the Islamic proclamation of faith, and to uphold Muslim rituals. "Some Muslim students forcefully tried to induct Christian students into their Islam faith, and those who refused were knifed, while others were physically beaten," a local source said. "The knives and machetes used are alleged to have come from outside the school." At least 35 students — including some Muslims, as the Christians did defend themselves — were injured in the melee. Some Christian students received hospital treatment for stab wounds and other injuries; the principal was also injured. The school was subsequently closed indefinitely.
Uganda: A Christian widow was poisoned by her Muslim neighbors on Christmas Day. Earlier that morning, the mother of five was pleasantly surprised when two female Muslim neighbors visited her with food gifts. After they left, she began preparing lunch for her family and used some of the recently brought ingredients. Before serving her family, she tasted the meal and within minutes, was vomiting. "When she started screaming and was continuously vomiting, I called in a taxi and rushed her to Kabuna dispensary, where it was found that she had been poisoned," a family member said. She was treated and discharged from the hospital the next day. An analysis of the food items gifted her were revealed to contain poison. A local meeting was convened and the Muslim neighbor, on being questioned, confessed to poisoning the food. "Accused of intending to kill Madina and her family members," the report notes, "Hajira asked for forgiveness, saying that since Madina's family left Islam two years ago, the loudness of their weekly worship at their house with some other church members had been disturbing her and other Muslim neighbors." Despite the attempted murder of the apostates, "village leaders made no legal decisions.
Police have not been called, apparently in order to keep tensions with the Muslim community from escalating, but the in-law [of Madina] said Muslim neighbors have started taunting Madina's children by calling them infidels."
In a separate account, according to one report, Munabi Abdullah, a 37-year-old Muslim man who embraced Christianity, was met with ostracism. On the evening of his conversion, and "with an irrepressible joy in his heart, he shared his experience with his wife, Aisha Namukoli. She became furious." In the convert's own words, "My wife shouted at me in front of the children, saying, 'Kafir, Kafir [infidel]! You are a big shame to the family.' She then pushed me out of the house." Later when he returned, he found several people including his father and mosque members at his house. When he tried to greet them, they silently and angrily stared at him; then his father stood up and said, "You are no longer my son, be cursed forever." "He hit me with a walking stick that was in his hand and hurt my left hand," Abdullah explains. "I managed to escape through a banana farm, and after a short while I was at the pastor's house" where he sought refuge. Local Muslim leaders have since prevented him from having any access to his wife and seven children, aged between 3 and 17.
Nigeria: To coerce, it appears, a Christian woman, 40, and her daughter 21, to convert to Islam, local Muslims falsely accused the two of kidnapping another family member, a child. Problems had begun soon after the husband/father of the family converted to Islam in order to obtain a government job. Amina Isa, his wife, explained: "They told him that he cannot be appointed as a ward head because he's a Christian, and that if he converts to Islam, he'll be appointed the ward head. I advised him against changing his religious faith for worldly position, but after much pressure from Muslims in our area, he succumbed to the demand and became a Muslim.... I reminded him that he should remember that all my family members are Muslims, but that I am the only Christian in that family, and that I married him because he was a Christian like me, so I cannot now convert to Islam simply because the Muslims have appointed him a ward head." Her five children also refused to convert and insisted on remaining Christian. She continues:
Because of their refusal to convert too, we have been threatened, beaten, and subjected to all forms of indignities by my husband and his Muslim collaborators. They've [her children] constantly been threatened, beaten, and harassed. In fact, at one time, [the oldest daughter] had to take her younger siblings and go into hiding, but both have been traced and captured by the officials and are currently being held against their will in a location undisclosed to me.... Right now, my daughters are in the custody of these Muslim officials and are being forced into Islam, while at the same time, we are being tried on false charges. All this is to force us to recant. We can never stop being Christians, and we are confident that the God we serve can never abandon us in our trying moments.
After the father forcibly enrolled his youngest daughter in an Islamic school, and her mother and older sister removed her and re-enrolled her in a Christian school, "Their father, in anger, came to me demanding for both girls. When I told him that the children have decided to remain as Christians, he and other Muslim officials in our village went to file charges against me on abducting my own children at the Magistrate Court in Tudun Wada town, a trial I'm still facing for refusing to change my religious faith. They summoned me and demanded I withdraw my daughter from the Christian school, bring her back to the village, and hand her over to them. Since I was helpless, I did as instructed by them and brought my daughter back to them."
Separately "Pastor Simput Eagles Dafup has been arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination ... for allegedly converting a Muslim girl to a Christian, in Plateau State," a report disclosed. Speaking of this incident, another pastor, Kallamu Musa Ali Dikwa, and executive director of Voice of Northern Christian Movement, said: "Nigeria security has declared war against Christians in this country." He also accused the Nigerian government of treating Christians and Muslims differently: "Muslims have abducted 100 Christian girls under the age of 18 and forcefully converted them to Islam and we have reported to several security agencies but no arrest was made or return of Christian girls to their parents.... The abduction of Christian girls has continued unabated. Such scenarios are serious cases of injustice against Christians in the country, and the perpetrators have often gone Scott free."
European Union/Switzerland: While uncritically taking in and conferring refugee status on countless Muslim migrants, European authorities continued singling out those most in need of sanctuary for deportation. In one instance, a Christian legal group filed an expert brief with the European Court of Human Rights in support of a Muslim man from Afghanistan who converted to Christianity and who risked being deported from Switzerland. The group, known as ADF International, said the man, if forced back to Afghanistan, would as an apostate from Islam face immense persecution, possibly including death: "Afghanistan is not a safe place for a Christian convert," it said. "The Court should ask Switzerland to stop turning a blind eye to the situation of religious minorities in Afghanistan.... This means much more than demanding a convert practice his faith in secret. Sending a refugee back to a country where they face persecution because of their faith is incompatible with the Convention."
Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist and a Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum.