"Some Muslim villagers had a meeting in one of the mosques. They incited people against us. After the meeting they set fire to a wood store owned by my brother, and four other houses."
— Christian resident, Egypt (Police arrested five Christians trying to put out the fire)
"On April 27, the government made the death penalty 'mandatory' for anyone who blasphemes against Islam... And in the case of blasphemous remarks or sacrilegious acts, according to the law, the death penalty is now mandatory."
— Voice of the Martyrs, Mission Network News, Mauritania
A Christian nun who was driven out of her convent in Qaraqosh, Iraq by the Islamic State, was denied a visa from the nation that provided refugee status to tens of thousands of Muslim men.
— United Kingdom
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: A Muslim man set a Christian woman on fire because she refused to convert to Islam and marry him. Asma Yaqoob, 25, with burns covering nearly 90 percent of her body, died five days later. According to her father, his son and he were waiting for Asma, a domestic servant, at the home of her employer, when she answered a knock on the door. "After some time we heard her screaming in pain," he said. They "rushed outside to see what had happened" and saw Rizwan Gujjar, 30, a onetime family friend, fleeing "while Asma was engulfed in flames." Three months earlier Gujjar had begun pressuring Asma to marry him. She, "not wanting to recant her Christian faith," politely declined and tried to avoided him, says another report. So, on April 17, when she answered the door, he doused her with gasoline and set her aflame. According to her mother:
"Asma told us that on the night of the attack, Gujjar had come to Zaman's [her employer's] house and told her that she has no other choice but to renounce her faith and marry him in court the next morning. My daughter refused, upon which he emptied a bottle of petrol on her body and set her alight... My daughter is a staunch Protestant Christian and had been resisting Gujjar's pressure for a long time. She was not interested in him and had repeatedly complained about his misbehavior. When all efforts failed to convince Asma to cave in to his demand, Gujjar attempted to kill her."
In a separate incident, Islamic jihadis killed at least six Christians and wounded several others in two attacks, both in Quetta, Pakistan, near the Afghan border. In the first, on April 3, armed men riding motorbikes opened fire on a rickshaw carriage and killed a family of four Christians returning from the previous day's Easter celebrations. A 12-year-old Christian girl received bullet wounds but survived. A note saying that "this is the first episode of genocide against Christians," was found at the murder scene.
"Asma's family were persistent in getting her the best treatment they could find, and traveled hundreds of miles to a hospital equipped with a burn unit," said an activist acquainted with the case in a statement. "They did everything they could possibly do. This family will have a lot of trauma to work through and they are in shock. It is hard for anyone to see the life of a loved one so young and full of talent snuffed out."
The Islamic State claimed responsibility. In a statement, it said that a "covert unit" of jihadis had "managed to target a number of the combatant Christians.... [the jihadis] shot them with a pistol, which resulted in the killing of four of them, and all praise is due to Allah." One official, however, said other Sunni militants operating in the region might have been responsible. "Since security was tight in churches, we believe that the terrorists chose to target the Christians on the roads instead," he added.
As the genocidal note had predicted, Christians were targeted again. Less than two weeks later, another group of unidentified assassins riding motorbikes opened fire on Christians as they left church after Sunday service on April 15. At least two worshippers were slain and five others—including two girls aged 11 and 13—were injured by bullets.
Lamenting his son, Azhar, whose corpse was riddled with 14 bullets, his father said , "The terrorists have not just killed Azhar. They have also killed me and his mother." His son was still alive when locals took him to a hospital, "but there was no doctor present there to attend to him."
Talking of his slain nephew, Iqbal—who as the only able-bodied male was his family's breadwinner—his uncle said, "We are poor and hardly make enough money to meet both ends. These Islamist terrorists have taken away the only hope of a better future for my sister's family."
Four months before these two attacks, Islamic suicide bombers assaulted Bethel Memorial Methodist Church in Quetta, where they killed nine and wounded dozens. "The Christian community is feeling insecure and threatened," said Pastor Simon about the bombed church: "We are not safe at places of worship, schools, or residential apartments. The majority of Christians are so depressed they are not sending their children to school and even avoid going to gatherings such as social or religious events."
Nigeria: Muslim Fulani herdsmen slaughtered about 350 Christians and torched hundreds of homes and scattered churches in 27 different attacks throughout the month of April.
In one instance, the Islamic herdsmen stormed St. Ignatius Church during the service and massacred 19 Christians, including two priests, on April 24 in Benue State. According to a report, "the parishioners and the priests had gone for early morning mass at about 5:30 a.m., when the herdsmen who stormed the village and the church wasted no time in spraying bullets on everyone in sight...." The motivation of the murderers was not missed on the Catholic Diocese of Makurdi, which in a statement, regretted the "deadly attack by herdsmen/Jihadists."
On the following day, April 25, in the Guma region, "Seven Christian villagers who were displaced in previous attacks and were taking refuge in the church premises were killed," according to a local authority.
Another statement concerning another of the deadly raids (in Saghev village, Friday, April 20) noted:
Although Western media often portray these attacks as based on land disputes with no religious motive—but rather Muslim Fulani herdsmen wanting Christian land for their flocks to graze on—20 of the 27 regions attacked have no-grazing laws, meaning that even if there were no Christians on the land, the Fulani would still be unable to graze there.
"Ten [Christian] corpses have so far been recovered, with many others injured. The armed herdsmen also burnt numerous houses, shops and other property in the area. This mindless attack was unprovoked, and we urge security agencies to arrest the herdsmen behind the killings for prosecution."
Egypt: One month after a Christian soldier was killed by his Muslim commander over his faith, another Christian soldier was killed on April 22. The family of Michael Farahat Saad, 22, was told that he died when a rifle he was cleaning accidentally fired, killing him instantly. According to one report, however, "a doctor at Qusiya General Hospital who examined the body said the bullet wound entered from the back and exited from the front, shattering the jaw. The entry and exit wounds indicated someone else shot him." Michael is one of about nine Christian soldiers to be murdered in recent times by Muslim officers and soldiers because of their faith.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Philippines: In an attack described by police as bearing "the signature of an Islamic extremist group," a bomb explosion rocked a church during Sunday mass. According to the report:
Egypt: Local Muslims attacked the Virgin Mary and Pope Kyrillos VI Church in Beni Meinin on 14 April—hours after the Building Authority Committee came to inspect the building to prepare for legalizing its status as a church. One local resident said:
"Attendees of the mass christening at St. Anthony Parish Church ... were left in shock after an explosion just outside the church on Sunday, April 29, followed by authorities detonating a separate IED [improvised explosive device] just a few meters from the church. The explosion, which injured 2 persons [who required hospitalization], was heard around 12 p.m. while the church was packed with people attending a mass christening..."
Two days later, Christian homes in the region were attacked again. "Some Muslim villagers had a meeting in one of the mosques. They incited people against us. After the meeting they set fire to a wood store owned by my brother, and four other houses," said another Christian resident. Police responded by arresting five Christians as they tried to put out the fire. "The police are conniving with Muslim villagers. We were attacked, our homes destroyed, some of us arrested—where are our rights? ... There is a situation of fear and panic among the Christians and there isn't any protection for us."
"Many Muslim young men from our village and villages nearby gathered in front of the church building and began pelting it with stones and bricks while shouting 'Allahu akbar' ["Allah is the greatest"], and 'We don't want a church in our village.' ... Windows and a door were smashed and some of the church's contents destroyed. They also pelted Coptic-owned houses next to the building. Five Copts received minor injuries."
Separately, three Islamic militants were apprehended before they managed to bomb Christian churches in Egypt. According to a report, "police at a security checkpoint found a bag in the possession of one of the defendants which contained printed material detailing support for Daesh [Islamic State]. During the investigation, one of the suspects confessed to the charge of forming a cell with some of his friends to target churches during the Easter celebration." During the previous Easter's celebrations, "nearly 40 Christians were killed and 100 others were wounded in two suicide bombings..."
Finally, a Muslim man appearing to be in his thirties attempted to break into the St. George church in Cairo. According to the report:
Police eventually came and took him in. Although police said it was not clear whether he acted independently or as part of an organization, "Passers-by say that, on the other side of the street, there stood four other young men who cheered the assailant and egged him on."
"... [the man] angrily shouted Islamic slogans of 'There is no god but Allah,' 'The nation of Muhammad will triumph,' and 'I will uphold Islam,' as well as cheers denouncing Christianity and the Cross. He held a club in his hand, with which he began attempting to destroy whatever he could reach, and succeeded in breaking a lamp on the church gate before the guards, who had hastened to close the gate, caught him."
Cyprus: On "Wednesday night [April 4], about 20 Muslim migrants attacked a Christian congregation outside St. Mary's church during the holy liturgy in Leukosia," according to one report (original Greek here).
Pakistan: Unidentified vandals in Lahore set a church under construction, the Gospel of Jesus Mission, ablaze by apparently lobbing a bomb over its open roof, on April 15. "The altar, pulpit, dozens of Christian books, carpets, pedestal fans, plastic chairs, tables, wall clock, wooden crosses, tarpaulin, handmade fans, and worship instruments were desecrated and burnt to ashes," stated the report. "We are a poor community," said one church member. "We did not have enough funds to complete the [roof] construction. Everything we had has burnt, I don't know how we will be able to restore the church as the officials even have not visited us." According to church pastor, Yousaf Aziz John, local Christians "started constructing this church about three years ago and [are] still collecting small donations for it... We could not blame anybody for doing such [a] horrible act, however it's clear that Christians are unacceptable in this society and are not given equal rights, equal dignity, and freedom of religion."
"Most of the Christians were inside the church when 20 Muslims suddenly arrived at the temple's yard and began screaming, cursing, and beating the attendees. According to statements given by locals at Sigma live news, one of the Muslims was waving an adze [axe-like tool] and tried to use it against members of the congregation. The Muslims disappeared after the police, called in by the terrorized believers, appeared on the scene."
Discussing this incident, one human rights activist said:
Explaining how "[a]ttacking places of worship is an unchecked trend in Pakistan," the report concludes:
"There is a hostile attitude against Christians in the society. In 2014, we had to face a severe resistance while building a church in a village near Lahore. People abused us and threatened us of dire consequences. The Muslims pelted stones at our under-construction church. Such things are conducted to create a fearful atmosphere that the community may abandon the place."
Germany: A Muslim migrant from Pakistan who vandalized two churches was hospitalized. According to the report:
In September 2013, All Saints Church was bombed in Peshawar, killing hundreds of worshippers. In March 2015, two churches were bombed in Lahore which killed roughly two dozen Christians. In 2016, two other churches were set on fire in Kasur and Lahore. In October 2017, militants threw a grenade at Gospel Faith Church in Quetta. In December of 2017, another church was attacked in Quetta, killing nine worshipers. In 2018, several attacks on Christians, their properties, and their places of worship speak volumes about the situation of religious freedom in Pakistan. The community as a whole is frightened and worried for what is to come in the future.
Although attacks on churches in Muslim nations are common, "state police ruled out a political or religious motive for his actions" and said the man had been "housed in a specialist clinic."
"For the second time in a few days, a church in Chemnitz has been damaged by vandalism. Several stained glass windows were smashed in at the St. Peter's Church in Theaterplatz on Monday evening [April 23]. The man who is responsible for the deed had already broken into the church of St. Mark on the Sonnenberg over the weekend and had also rampaged there. He was provisionally arrested at the church. The suspect is a 24-year-old asylum seeker from Pakistan. The property damage incurred at the church amounts to around 3000 euros, according to police."
Nigeria: An April report says that Muslim Fulani "herdsmen had destroyed 500 church buildings since 2011 with attacks that have displaced 170,000 people."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom and Dignity
Mauritania: On April 27, the government made the death penalty "mandatory" for anyone who blasphemes against Islam, says one report, thereby "increasing worry among Christians in the African nation." According to the Voice of the Martyrs:
Discussing the persecution Christians face, the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance warned that "the gospel of salvation is severely repressed" in Mauritania.
"This new law sort of becomes more stringent — that three days [originally granted to blasphemers] to repent disappears. Everyone is going to be punished. Even if you do repent, you are still going to be punished. And in the case of blasphemous remarks or sacrilegious acts, according to the law, the death penalty is now mandatory."
Morocco: Security agents detained for 24 hours a Christian man for having gospel literature and four other religious books in his backpack. Authorities stopped the 35-year-old Moroccan as he left his home in Rabat on the morning of April 18. The Christian was released without charges after being detained for 24 hours. Things might have been different if he had more books or was perceived as evangelizing to Muslims. According to one report:
Algeria: Authorities in the city of Tizi-Ouzou closed down Early Childhood Home, a day-care center for Christian children established 14 years ago by the Full Gospel Protestant Church. On April 17, Pastor Salah Chalah was summoned to the local police station, where he was accused of illegally running the center, which is located on the church's premises. He was ordered to close it down. At the time, around 20 children, aged between one and five, were enrolled in the center, under the supervision of four teachers, all Christians. "Since it was established 14 years ago, the care centre has never been threatened by authorities, though the church premises have been inspected on a regular basis by the intelligence agency," Chalah said. "The centre only exists to teach Christian values to our children in their early childhood, because in neighbouring nurseries, the teaching of the Quran and Islamic values form an integral part of the official curriculum."
"Article 220 of the Moroccan Criminal code calls for imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of 200 to 500 Moroccan dirham (US$20 to US$ 49) for employing enticements 'to shake the faith of a Muslim.' Such 'enticements' could include education, health care, orphanages and other aid that Christians consider biblical commands. The harassment comes as Moroccan Christians are beginning to call on the government to respect their religious rights."
Gaza: In an interview, Fr. Mario da Silva, a Catholic priest, said that the local Christian population has shrunk to its last 1,000 inhabitants—five times less than it was six years earlier—in part because "there is now a lot of fear with the news that the Islamic State has arrived, coming from the Sinai Peninsula, in Egypt ... There have already been threats. There is also fear of the Salafist groups who are coming in from the south." He explained how, "[e]very year Christians have one permit to leave and visit the holy places on Easter and Christmas," at which point many of them never return.
Iraq: "An explosive charge believed to be planted by Islamic State militants went off while four children were playing outside a medical complex at the Christian-majority Bartella town in eastern Mosul," said a local source. "The explosion left the four children injured." The report adds that "Bartella, largely inhibited by Christians, was emptied from inhabitants when the IS group seized the town in August 2014. After controlling the town, IS ordered the Christians to pay a tax, convert to Islam, or die by the sword, prompting the residents to flee the town." Documentarian Gwendolen Cates, who spent year in the Arab nation, also said, "The Christians of Iraq, along with other religious minorities, live in constant fear and face potential genocide. ... The minorities are being increasingly 'ghettoized,' with their land being taken."
Pakistan: a Muslim man raped a 13-year-old Christian girl on April 11 in Lahore. According to the brief report, "Three young Muslim men stood guard while another identified only as Shehryar raped her."
According to the victim's mother, "They are now pressing us to reconcile by offering us money, but we have resolved not to compromise over our daughter. The Muslim boys have ruined the life of my daughter, and we will not rest till we get justice."
United Kingdom: A Christian nun who was driven out of her convent in Qaraqosh, Iraq by the Islamic State was denied a visa from the nation that provided refugee status to tens of thousands of Muslim men. Four years earlier, ISIS had invaded and occupied Sister Ban Madleen's convent, prompting her to flee for her life. She settled with thousands of other internally displaced persons, mostly Christians, in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan), where she set up kindergartens for the children. When the opportunity for her to visit her sick sister in the UK came, officials denied her. According to the report:
The letter from UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office, gives the reasons for refusing Sister Ban a visa: that she had not provided evidence of her earnings as a kindergarten principal, and that she had not provided confirmation that the Dominican Sisters of St Catherine of Siena would fund her visit. For these reasons, the letter says the clearance officer is not satisfied that she is genuinely seeking entry for a permissible purpose. Rather than allowing Sister Ban to provide the necessary evidence, the letter, a copy of which the Catholic Herald has seen, ends: "In relation to this decision there is no right of appeal or right to administrative review." The letter acknowledges the importance of family visits, and accepts that Sister Ban had previously travelled to the UK and complied with the terms of her visa, but points out that she was issued that visa seven years ago in 2011 and comments specifically on her absence of recent travel to the UK.
"Do they not know what happened between 2014 and now?" wondered one Fr. Kiely, who is acquainted with her case. He further confirmed that denying religious orderlies visas in not uncommon in the UK: another nun with a PhD in Biblical Theology from Oxford was denied twice; another nun was denied entry for not having a personal bank account; a Catholic priest was refused a visa for not being married; and three archbishops from Iraq and Syria were refused entry despite being invited by the country's Syriac Orthodox Church for the consecration of the UK's first Syriac Cathedral, an event attended by Prince Charles.
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.
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.