"Why Are You So Silent?": Persecution of Christians, August 2019
By: Raymond Ibrahim
"Why Are You So Silent?": Persecution of Christians, August 2019
In Turkey, St. Theodoros Trion, an abandoned, historic church — the original Greek congregation of which was purged by the Ottoman Empire — was vandalized in August; the graffiti included genocidal slogans. Pictured: St. Theodoros Trion in 2008. (Image source: Chanilim714/Wikimedia Commons)
Hate for and Violence against Christians
Cameroon : Militant Muslims, allegedly affiliated with the Nigerian-based Islamic terror group Boko Haram, " reached new heights " of depravity. Boko Haram, after devastating the Christian village of Kalagari in a raid and kidnapping eight women, later released them but some had their ears "chopped off" (image here ). The report adds that Boko Haram "has terrorised Christian communities in Nigeria for the last decade and has now splintered and spread its violent ideology into Cameroon, Niger and Chad."
Nigeria : On August 29, Chuck Holton, a CBN News reporter, aired a segment on his visit with Christian refugees who had fled Boko Haram's invasions into their villages. Among the stories of death and devastation, the following, spoken by a young man, stood out:
"On 29 September 2014 was the day that they attacked my village. Around ten I had a call that they have killed my dad. They asked him to deny Christ and when he refused they cut off his right hand. Then he refused [again], they cut to the elbow again. In which he refused, before they shot him twice, at the head, the forehead, the neck, and chest."
Indonesia : A Muslim preacher in a Christian-majority region referred to the Christian cross as " an element of the devil ," thereby prompting outrage among Christians and some moderates. Sheikh Abdul Somad made the comment during a videotaped sermon when he was asked why Muslims "felt a chill whenever they saw a crucifix." "Because of Satan! Was his response : "There's an evil jinn in every crucifix that wants to convert people into Christianity."
Christians and moderates condemned his words. Even so, "I can't imagine the reaction if it had been another preacher of a different religion insulting an Islamic symbol," one moderate said. "There would have been a tsunami of protests, with the perpetrator severely punished." Sheikh Somad responded by releasing another video; his excuse was that he was unaware that non-Muslims might hear his words: "The Quran reciting session was held in a closed mosque, not at a stadium, a football field, nor aired on television," he explained . "It was for Muslims internally. I was answering a question about statues and the position of the Prophet Isa (Jesus) relative to Muslims."
Burkina Faso : Although most mainstream media downplay the religious element in Muslim on Christian violence in Africa, attacks on the Christians of Burkina Faso have become so single-mindedly based on religion that on August 21, the Washington Post published a report entitled, " Islamist militants are targeting Christians in Burkina Faso ." Its author, Danielle Paquette, noted that "A spreading Islamist insurgency has transformed Burkina Faso from a peaceful country known for farming, a celebrated film festival and religious tolerance into a hotbed of extremism." She noted that the jihadis have been checking people's necks for Christian symbols, killing anyone wearing a crucifix or carrying any other Christian image. In a separate report , Bishop Dabiré, discussing several deadly attacks on Christians and their churches, said , "If this continues without anyone intervening, the result will be the elimination of the Christian presence in this area and — perhaps in the future —in the entire country.
Egypt : Authorities, despite strong opposition, reinstated to the pulpit ( minbar) Sheikh Yasser Burhami, a notoriously "radical" cleric and hate preacher. Burhami had previously issued numerous fatwas—clerical opinions based on Islamic scriptures—that demanded hate and hostility for non-Muslims, most specifically the nation's largest and most visible minority, the Christian Copts. Burhami has referred to them as " a criminal and infidel minority ," and has invoked " Allah's curse " on them. He once went so far as to say that, although a Muslim man is permitted to marry Christian or Jewish women ( ahl al-kitab ), he must make sure he still hates them in his heart —and show them this hate—because they are infidels; otherwise he risks compromising his Islam. Burhami has also stated that churches—which he refers to as "places of polytheism ( shirk ) and houses of infidelity ( kufr )"—must never be built in Egypt. He issued a separate fatwa f orbidding Muslim taxi and bus drivers from transporting Christian clergymen to their churches, an act he depicted as being "more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar." Burhami's fatwas also called for the persecution of Muslims who apostatize from Islam; permitting Muslim husbands to abandon their wives to rape; permitting " marriage " to 12-year-old girls, and banning Mother's Day. In a video , Dr. Naguib Ghobrial, a Coptic activist, politician, and head of the Egyptian Union for Human Rights Organization—which over the years has lodged 22 separate complaints against Burhami—repeatedly questioned Egypt's leading religious authorities' decision to reinstate the hate-preaching sheikh:
"Is what Burhami teaches truly what Islam teaches—is that why no one has done anything to him [regarding the 22 complaints lodged against him]? Truly I'm shocked! Please answer Sheikh of Al Azhar; please answer Grand Mufti: are the things Burhami teaches what Islam teaches? Is this why none of you oppose him or joined us when we lodged complaints against him?... Why are you so silent? Amazing!"
The Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan : "A ten year old Christian child who chose to work in a dangerous scrap factory so he could support his mother who had to fend for a family of two boys and a drug-addict husband, was raped and tortured before being killed by his Muslim employers," according to a report (with photos). Badil, 10, worked at the men's factory in order to support his impoverished mother, Sharifa Bibi:
"I worked hard for many hours just for the sake of my two sons so that they would not have to suffer as I have suffered without education. My son Badil couldn't bear to see the struggle of his mother and insisted on working to help the family—despite my insistence that he avoid work till he was older. Badil was such a responsible son. Daily before leaving for work he asked me what should bring in the evening from his wages. I insisted that he kept his money for himself, but he brought groceries like sugar, rice, flour, ghee daily."
Badil had to walk long distances and work for many hours a day to earn the equivalent of one dollar a day. Soon his employer began to cheat him on his wages. His mother insisted that he quit, but the boy persevered; at one point he took his younger brother, 9, with him to help. When the employers refused to pay his brother anything for his contribution, Badil finally decided to quit—which angered his Muslim employer. His younger brother recalls :
"As Mr Akram heard this he ran to hit Badil but Badil ran from the shop and Akram gave chase. However, A friend of Akram was standing nearby on his motorcycle and told Akram to sit behind him, then both men chased Badil till they caught up with him. Akram then got off the motorcycle and dragged Badil back to the store. They took Badil inside the store which is full of scrap. For half an hour I was completely unaware of what was happening with Badil inside. Eventually both men came outside and pretended as if nothing had happened inside. I thought my brother had also left the store from another exit so I went to look for him. I searched vigorously for 15 minutes and then saw my mother [approaching to walk the boys home], so I rushed to her to tell her what had happened."
Sharifa and her younger son searched frantically for Badil and finally found him collapsed on the ground near their home. They rushed to him, thinking he was exhausted from the day's work and subsequent thrashing, but quickly realized that he was barely breathing: "At this point the whole situation was too much to bear for Sharifa who began to scream and wail hysterically," the report notes. Badil was taken to a hospital where, seven hours later, the boy was pronounced dead. His brother "has been traumatised following his brother's death and hasn't left his house since and often screams in terror thinking the men responsible will take him too."
Cameroon : A Bible translator "was butchered to death on Sunday morning [August 25] during an overnight attack while his wife's arm was cut off," according to a report :
"Bible translator Angus Abraham Fung was among seven people said to have been killed during an attack carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen sometime during the early hours of Sunday morning in the town of Wum, according to Efi Tembon, who leads a ministry called Oasis Network for Community Transformation."
Fulani herdsmen are Muslim, and currently the chief persecutors of Christian farmers in Nigeria. "They went into houses and pulled out the people," Tembon said . "They attacked in the night and nobody was expecting. They just went into the home, pulled them out and slaughtered them." Fung's wife, Eveline Fung, who had her arm hacked off, was last reported receiving a blood transfusion at a local hospital.
Attacks against Apostates and Evangelists
Iran : Authorities sentenced a 65-year-old woman, a Muslim convert to Christianity, to one year in prison, on the charge that she was "acting against national security" and engaging in "propaganda against the system." According to the report:
"The hearing was owing to her arrest shortly before Christmas when three agents from Iranian intelligence raided her home and took Mahrokh to intelligence offices where she endured ten days of intensive interrogation before she was released after submitting bail of 30 million Toman (US $2,500)."
Friends of the woman said that "the judge was very rude and tried to humiliate Mahrokh after she disagreed with him."
Separately, a Kurdish bookseller in Bokan, Western Azerbaijan province, was arrested for selling Bibles. According to the August 27 report :
"Mostafa Rahimi was arrested on 11 June on charge of selling bible[s] in his bookstore, and he was released later on bail until the court issued his sentence. Hengaw Organization for Human Rights has learned that Rahimi is sentenced to 3 months and 1 day imprisonment. Later in mid-August he was arrested again, and he is currently at the central prison of Bokan."
Another report elaborates :
"Iran's government is officially Islamic, and authorities actively restrict access to Bibles and other Christian literature. Sharing one's faith is categorized as a criminal offense, usually of the national security nature. The authorities often pressure Christians so extensively, routinely violating their human rights, that they are given no choice but to escape their country."
Somaliland : An August 16 report shares the experiences a married Muslim woman, 32, underwent after her husband discovered a Bible in her possession.
"I told my husband that I found the Bible in Nairobi and wanted to read it," the woman responded. "He just pronounced the word talaq [Arabic for divorce] to me. I knew that our marriage had just been rendered null and void because I joined Christianity, so without wasting time I left the homestead.... There and then he took our two daughters [ages 4 and 7] away from me and divorced me. He gave me a stern warning that I should not come close to the children, and that if I do, he will take the Bible to the Islamic court and I will be killed by stoning for becoming an apostate."
Her former husband proceeded to expose her clandestine conversion to her Muslim family. "My brothers beat me mercilessly with sticks as well as denying me food," she said . "I feared to report the case to the police or the local administration, because they will charge me with a criminal offense of apostasy in accordance with the sharia." She has since relocated to an undisclosed location: "God has spared my life, and my fellow underground Christians in other regions of Somalia have received me and shared the little they have, but I am very traumatized." According to the report ,
"Somalia's constitution establishes Islam as the state religion and prohibits the propagation of any other religion, according to the U.S. State Department. It also requires that laws comply with sharia (Islamic law) principles, with no exceptions in application for non-Muslims. Somalia is ranked 3rd [after North Korea (1 st ) and Afghanistan (2 nd )] on Christian support group Open Doors' 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian."
Pakistan : After opening a summer education program for youths, a Christian family was " terrorized " and forced to shut it down after being accused of clandestinely trying to convert Muslim children to Christianity. According to a family member:
"We started a project for interfaith harmony and education teaching marginalized children from different faiths about a year ago. In June, we started a summer camp that provided a free program for children that have dropped out of school. The design of this program was to provide guidance for these children to become civilized and tolerant."
Two weeks into the summer program, a group of men, two of whom were armed, stormed into the academy, did violence to the property and harassed the children, and beat one of the instructors:
"They threatened us with consequences if the academy was not shut down. They alleged that we were promoting Christianity and were doing Christian evangelism. For safety and security, we had no other choice but to obey the extremists and shutdown the academy.... I don't want to lose my son or any family member. This terrorizing incident has already put us into trauma."
In a separate incident in Pakistan, around 4 a.m. of August 2, seven Muslim men stormed into a parish house, where they tied up and savagely beat two young priests, Fr. Anthony Abraz and Fr. Shahid Boota, all while they "humiliated and abused them for preaching the Gospel in a Muslim-majority neighborhood." The invaders also vandalized the building, broke windows, bookshelves, and cupboards, and desecrated Christian objects, including Bibles, Christian literature, and icons. Afterwards, "We were told we will have to face consequences if this house is not vacated," Fr. Abraz reported . "They said, 'We don't want a Christian center near the mosque.'"
Finally, increasing numbers of Christian girls continue to be targeted for kidnapping, rape, and/or forced conversion in Pakistan. According to one report ,
"In August, Yasmeen Ashraf, age 15, and Muqadas Tufail, age 14, were kidnapped and raped by three men in Kasur. The pair of Christian girls were taken when they were on their way to work as domestic workers. Also in August, another young Christian girl, named Kanwal, was kidnapped, raped, and forcefully converted to Islam by a group of Muslim men and a cleric in Lala Musa, located in the Gujart District. After reuniting her family, Kanwal shared that she had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and threatened with the deaths of her brothers if she refused to convert to Islam."
In the previous month of July, at least three similar cases occurred. "Oppression exists in different layers for Christian girls in Pakistan. They are suffering on the bases of gender, religion, and class. It has been documented that young Christian girls face higher levels of sexual harassment and are persecuted for their Christian faith," Nabila Feroz Bhatti, a human rights defender in Lahore, said in response to the incidents above. Similarly, the Pontifical charity, Aid to the Church in Need, announced in August that it "is sounding the alarm on the plight of young Christian women, and even teenagers, in Pakistan who are forced to convert to Islam." "Every year at least a thousand girls are kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam, even forced to marry their tormentors," elaborated Tabassum Yousaf, a local Catholic lawyer.
Meanwhile, those who try to protect Christian girls are punished. On August 16, Maskeen Khan and two other Muslim men attacked the home of Bahadur Masih, a Christian. While holding a knife, Khan and his partners tried to rape Masih's daughter, Rachel, but were prevented by the rudely awoken family that immediately and desperately responded. "Since the Christian family was defending themselves, Khan also got some injuries," Ahsan Masih Sindhu, a local Christian political leader, reported . "The family handed Khan over to police and he got medical treatment. However, he later died in police custody." Police arrested and charged four members of the family with murder, even though they were in their own home protecting their daughter from violent intruders. Other members of the family have gone into hiding due to threats from the dead would-be rapist's relatives. "We are sad about the death of Khan, however, the Christian family did have the right to defend," Sindhu explained . "The police must conduct a fair investigation into this incident." Instead, police are denying the family the "right to defend" itself.
Attacks on Churches
Algeria : On August 6, police barged into a church during worship service, evacuated reluctant worshippers, and sealed the church building off. "I am deeply saddened by so much injustice – it breaks my heart," Messaoud Takilt, the pastor said .
"This is not surprising since other Christian places of worship have been closed and sealed as was the case today. But anyway, we will continue to celebrate our services outside while the Lord gives us grace for a final solution."
When, with a veiled threat, police denied his request at least to let the worship service conclude, "The assembly finally yielded and agreed to leave the premises, but with much pain. Some went out with eyes full of tears." Police proceeded to empty the premises of all furniture and sealed off every door before the distressed pastor (picture here ). Responding to this latest church closure, the World Evangelical Alliance issued a statement on August 12 calling on Algeria to cease closing churches and instead reopen them. A portion follows:
"We deeply regret that two additional churches were forcibly closed by administrative decisions, in May and in August 2019 in the city of Boudjima, northeast of Tizi-Ouzou in Kabylie Region. This brings the number of forcibly closed churches to 6, including one house church.... Many more churches are threatened with closure, amid denial of formal registration and recognition by authorities."
Indonesia : Muslim protestors compelled local authorities to revoke a permit for, and cease construction of, a Baptist church in Central Java. On August 1, residents went to the partially constructed church and padlocked its fence. A meeting was later held among members of the church, local residents, and authorities, as well as others. Although the pastor displayed the government-issued permit to build a church, Muslim residents insisted that it was wrongly given, thereby leading to a standstill in negotiations. In the previous month, July , two other churches in Indonesia were shut down following local protests.
Turkey : St. Theodoros Trion, an abandoned, historic church — the original Greek congregation of which was purged by the Ottoman Empire — was vandalized; the graffiti included genocidal slogans. According to the report ,
"The vandals sprayed hate speech across the church's walls. The vandalism was largely a reference to the secularism that Ataturk, modern Turkey's founder, had forced into the governmental structure.... Just a few years ago, the same church was targeted by Islamist vandals who wrote slogans such as 'the priest is gone, he went to the mosque' — a reference to the country's genocide and the forced conversions which occurred during this time. There are no Christians attending this church. All of the congregants were victims of the genocide. They faced death, deportation, and forced conversions. Those few who survived have since fled the country. The church currently stands as a historic monument to the Christianity that once was commonplace in the region."
Egypt : A Christian toddler was the latest victim of Egypt's draconian restrictions on churches. According to an August 21 report , Youssed Ebid, a 4-year-old Christian boy ( photo ), was struck by a tractor while waiting outdoors for a bus to take him to church in another village. His own village is currently denied a church, forcing its Christian residents to travel long distances to attend one. Many Christians in Egypt face the same situation; accidents during their long treks frequently take place.
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.