The Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: As many as 55 Christians and one church were torched following a Muslim attack on a crowded market in Kaduna state on October 18. “A Muslim raised a false alarm about a thief in the market, which caused stampede, and then other Muslims started chanting ‘Allahu Akbar [the jihadist slogan, God is Greater],’ attacking Christians, burning houses and shops belonging to Christians in the town,” a local source explained. “When people heard ‘Thief! Thief!’ they were confused and started running,” the reverend James Moore elaborated. “Unknown to the people, it was a strategy by the Muslim youth to attack the people. They went into killings, looting and burning.” After visiting the site, Kaduna governor Nasir El-Rufai reported that so far “55 corpses have been recovered; some burned beyond recognition.” He added that such Islamist attacks “cannot continue…. This country belongs to all of us; this state belongs to all of us. No one is going to chase anyone away. So, you must learn to live with everyone in peace and justice.”
Separately, the Islamic State, West Africa Province, a faction of the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, released a video depicting the execution of Hauwa Leman, a 24-year-old aid worker with the Red Cross. A month earlier, on September 15, they killed another aid worker, Saifura Khorsa. Both women were earlier abducted during jihadi raids and killed on the charge of apostatizing from Islam. In the video, the Muslim terrorists make Hauwa kneel down on the ground with her hands tied before shooting her. In the same video, they threatened to keep Leah Sharibu, a 15-year-old Christian girl who refused to renounce Christianity, and Alice Loksha Ngaddah, a young Christian nurse with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and mother of two toddlers, as slaves for life. A spokesman for the Islamic terror group explained:
We have kept our word exactly as we said, by killing another humanitarian worker, Hauwa Leman, who is working with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)…. Saifura and Hauwa were killed because they are considered as Murtads [apostates] by the group because they were once Muslims that have abandoned their Islam the moment they chose to work with the Red Cross… If we see them, we will kill the apostates among them, men or women, and choose to kill or keep the infidels as slaves—men or women.
“From today,” the Islamic terror group added that Leah and Alice “are now our slaves.”
Finally, suspected Islamic terrorists abducted and murdered a Catholic tribal leader. Raphael Galadima and his wife were abducted on October 19, after he met with and complained to the local governor of the recent killings of his people by Fulani and other Muslim raiders; four other people in his convoy were killed. Although a large ransom was reportedly paid for his release, his slaughtered body was found on October 26.
Kenya: More than 20 Islamic militants bombed a housing unit for non-local teachers and killed two Christians around 1 a.m. on October 10 in Mandera, near the Somali border, where the Islamic terror group Al Shabaab is based. “The non-local teachers were members of the Catholic Church and the East Africa Pentecostal Church,” a survivor said. “The attackers knew who to attack… But thank God two of us managed to escape…. They razed the house down with the hope that none of the non-local teachers survived.” Non-local teachers are often and correctly assumed to be Christian. Three other Christian teachers were killed in a nearly identical incident that occurred eight months earlier; and in 2014, Islamic militants massacred 28 Christians, after boarding a bus and separating Christians from Muslims. Such ongoing Islamic attacks are causing Christians and their churches to rethink their existence along the Kenyan-Somali border: “I am concerned for my church members and the future of the church in Mandera,” said a pastor. “I know our presence meant a lot for the kingdom of God, but our hearts have been gripped with great fear. As a non-local pastor, I feel frightened of a possible attack on our church. My members are in a great, fearful state. We really need prayers for God’s protection.” “It is unfortunate that innocent teachers who are out to bring light and open up the northeastern region are being slaughtered time to time just because of their faith,” said Martin Kamutu, a teacher in Mandera. “It is painful to lose our colleagues through such a heinous act of cowardice. Our hearts bleed because even after dedicating our time and professionalism in serving this [Muslim] community, they still hate Christians.” Also commenting on the situation, reverend John of Mandera said, “This is another bad example of what religion can do. We are losing Christians at a very high rate in Mandera. Last month we lost five to terrorism and now again we have lost two teachers. We ask the international community and human rights groups to get involved in northern Kenya.”
Persecution of Christian Apostates, Blasphemers, and Preachers
Iran: Two Muslim converts to Christianity were sentenced to eighteen and twelve months jail time for “spreading propaganda against the regime.” However, the verdict appears to have been more specific as it reportedly said that “believing in the Bible’s authority and Jesus as Lord are attacks against Islam.” Mike Ansari, an Iranian Christian activist, explained:
If there is no codified law with respect to a particular issue, judges must deliver their judgments on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources. Iranian courts typically follow the lead of conservative clerics such as Ayatollah Khomeini who viewed apostasy a crime punishable by death…. In the last few years, most extrajudicial killings in Iran have been slowly replaced with arbitrary arrest and detention. Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house church activities and those of their friends, under the threat of criminal persecution or arrest of family members.
Around the same time that these two Christians were sentenced for “believing in the Bible’s authority,” Iranian president Hassan Rouhani boasted of his nation’s human rights record before the United Nations. He said his government was dedicated to “moderation and respect for human rights,” adding: “We in Iran strive to build peace and promote the human rights of peoples and nations. We never condone tyranny and we always defend the voiceless. We never threaten anyone…”
Uganda: Pastor Umar Mulinde, a former Muslim who survived a horrific acid attack that permanently disfigured his face in 2011, was attacked again. “Muslim extremists forcefully broke into my home in the middle of the night,” he said, though he and his family managed to escape through the backdoor. “We narrowly survived—I only lost a number of my personal household goods and office items such as laptops, iPads and phones, but precious life remained intact…. I narrowly survived this close attempt on my life…” Police made no arrests. The former Muslim turned Christian pastor recalled the fateful events of Christmas Eve, 2011: “As I entered my vehicle, people came and poured acid on my face, which caused my skin tissue to melt…. Indeed it was a catastrophic effect on my human flesh which dramatically changed my life. The acid would have burned me to near death had God not helped me.” Doctors managed to save his life and he continues to evangelize throughout Uganda. Because Uganda is only about 12 percent Muslim, government authorities are reluctant to take the threat of radicalization seriously, he said: “All Ugandans should be concerned, because today it is me and tomorrow it may be somebody else. In my case I have been lucky to survive, but who knows whether another person will also survive like me? Christians need to have a closer look at the effects of Muslim extremist ideology and to do something about it.”
Separately an October 10 report revealed the abuse a Muslim father inflicted on his wife and children after they became Christian in Uganda. According to his wife, Dorika Kabuo, “My husband of over 20 years turned violent against us when we converted to Christianity and joined the nearby evangelical church in Bwera, Western Uganda. The man we looked upon for love and care turned into a beast, beating me and my children daily because of our new faith in Christ Jesus… Being a Muslim family, my husband’s relatives joined in fighting us even to the extent of abusing my children whenever they met with them…” Sarah, one of the children, added: “During that period, our father stopped paying for our school fees and taking care of us. He also used to beat us even without reason. He refused us to go to church, but we could sneak and go when he was away. If he learned that we were in church, he would pick his rubber whip and flog all of us.” Finally, “One evening,” continued the mother, “my husband beat us up and threatened to butcher us the following day if we continued professing the Christian faith. That very night, he chased us away. We packed a few belongings and left the place we called home to Kasese, not knowing how we would get there or where we would be staying.” However, as Christopher, another of the children, explained, “Nothing could stop us from fellowship with other brethren because that is where we got encouragement, nourishment, and love. The church became like a home for us. The more we insisted about remaining in Christianity, the more my father’s hostility escalated.” Although a pastor from the All-Saints Church of Uganda eventually found accommodations for the homeless woman and children, the husband continued “to send Muslim sheikhs who pledged to hunt me down and poison me, but the Lord protected us,” said Dorika. “We have since changed our names and it is hard for anyone to identify us now…. Although life has not been easy after converting to Christianity, we are determined to finish the race and keep the faith.”
Algeria: Two Christian men were charged with “inciting a Muslim to change his religion”—a criminal offence in the Muslim-majority nation—after a Muslim woman and her husband, a convert to Christianity, were invited to dinner at a Christian household. While her husband, Rachid Ouali and his 67-year-old friend, Ali Larchi, continued talking about the joys of leading a Christian life during dinner, Ouali’s wife suddenly jumped and cried out, “You have brought me here to convert me and to deny my religion. You laid a trap for me,” explained her husband. “She kept raising her voice to make herself heard outside.” She then stormed out and went to complain to her family who lived nearby. Soon afterwards, and partially due to pressure from her family, she filed a complaint saying that her husband and his friend had taken her to a church service where they tried to pressure her to become Christian. The nation’s penal code calls for a prison term of up to five years and a fine of as much as one million dinars (US$8,687) for anyone who “incites, constrains, or utilizes means of seduction tending to convert a Muslim to another religion, or using for this purpose the institutions of education, health, social, cultural, or educational institutions, or other establishment, or financial advantage; or makes, stores or distributes printed documents or films or other audiovisual medium or means intended to undermine the faith of a Muslim.”
Sudan: Security officials interrupted a Christian worship service on October 10 in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur State, and arrested all 13 Christians present. Personnel from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services gave no reason for arresting the Christians “except to say that they were all converts from Islam,” said one report. “Authorities are targeting Christian converts from Islam in Darfur.” “We are worried because their whereabouts are still unknown,” said a local source who feared they might be tortured. According to the report,
NISS [Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services], widely regarded as a notorious agency staffed by hard-line Islamists, may hold people in detention for up to four and a half months without charges. Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir vowed to adopt a stricter version of sharia (Islamic law) and recognize only Islamic culture and the Arabic language. Church leaders said Sudanese authorities have demolished or confiscated churches and limited Christian literature on the pretext that most Christians have left the country following South Sudan’s secession.
An October 23 report notes that the 13 were eventually “released but only after they faced severe pressure for their faith and were beaten while in detention…”
Pakistan: A court sentenced a mentally disabled Christian to life in prison on the charge of blaspheming against Islam. Yaqoob Bashir, 25, was first accused of burning a booklet containing Koran verses in June 2015. He was reportedly receiving treatment at a mental health facility prior to the blasphemy accusation and subsequent incarceration. “It’s unbearable and unjust,” Kasur Bibi, Bashir’s mother, said. “My son is innocent. He did not insult or do blasphemy. He does not care much of these issues as his mind works differently than that of a normal person’s. I am illiterate and don’t know much about laws and policies, however, I just want justice for my son and to see him at home as soon as possible.” According to the report,
During Bashir’s three years and three months of imprisonment prior to his conviction, approximately 96 hearings were conducted as a part of his trial. During this period, Bashir was attacked by fellow inmates on several occasions. In June 2018, he was brutally beaten by fellow inmates for praying in their shared jail cell and sustained multiple injuries. The young Christian also found little sympathy from the courts as his appeals for bail were twice rejected, once by the Session Court and then again by the High Court of Hyderabad. While awaiting trial, Bashir suffered from multiple serious illnesses due to the poor conditions in jail and the lack of adequate medical care from jail authorities…. Since the day Bashir was accused of blasphemy, his family has been continuously monitored by extremist groups. These groups have repeatedly threatened and harassed them during court hearings.
General Persecution of Christians
Uganda: Muslims strangled and threatened a young Christian boy with death for rejecting Islam. Emmanuel, 12, was performing family chores near his home when four Muslim men abducted and carried him to a plantation a mile away sometime after 9 p.m. on October 25. “Ali Lukuman tried to persuade me to become a Muslim, which I refused, and he slapped me and I started screaming,” the youth reported from a hospital bed, where he was being treated for deep strangulation marks and the ingestion of chloroform, which the abductors apparently used in an effort to knock him out. “They continued threatening me that they will kill me if I will not convert to Islam.” When he noticed his son had disappeared, the father and others formed a search party; they eventually heard a cry and found the boy alone, “unconscious and half-dead,” said his father. “My son’s words could not be constructed well, as he looked confused and could not turn his neck with the strangulation marks.” Ali, the head of the Muslim gang, had previously sent threatening messages to the father, such as, “If you want to stay with us in our village, then you have to become a Muslim, but if not then you have to leave.”
Pakistan: Nusrat Shaheen, the head teacher of the Government Boys Primary School of District Attock, Punjab Province assaulted Sharjeel Masih, a 12-year-old Christian student, after he touched a water tap in her presence. “I was just trying to turn off a running tap when the teacher grabbed me, called me churha (a derogatory term used for Christians) and asked why I had touched the tap and made it filthy. ‘This tap is not from the country of your mother,’ she said before abusing me,” the boy said. “I had to sit outside the school for five hours.” He was then suspended from school. On the following day, he and his mother returned to the school to apologize in hopes of gaining re-admittance. “She [Nusrat, the head teacher] asked me to grab her feet for the mistake of my son and threatened that her brother, a police officer, would sell my younger daughter to a brothel,” the mother related. The incident was reported to Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Human Rights, Shireen Mazari, who responded by suspending Nusrat Shaheen.
Separately, Muslim men attacked and tortured Cecil, a 15-year-old Christian boy living in Karachi. The youth’s problems began when he confronted a group of Muslim seminary students who were apparently trying to convert the Christians of his village. They threatened and told him not to “become a hurdle in their mission.” Soon thereafter, “an armed mob attacked our house and tortured family members which resulted in minor injuries to the family’s women and head injuries to Cecil,” said his father, Yousef. “The mob made their way in, breaking the main gate of the house at midnight. The attackers broke the doors, windows, fans, furniture, damaged the vehicle, and looted the valuables, including two laptops, four mobile phones, and cash.” For his protection, Cecil was sent to an undisclosed location for six months, at which point his family hoped things would settle down. But when he returned home, the same “religiously motivated group thrashed him badly. His foot was hit with some sharp weapon causing the skin on his foot to peel off, exposing the bones…. Cecil is still under medical treatment and his life is being threatened.” His father also said that the attackers are threatening his family not to pursue legal action against them or else.
Iraq: “Another wave of persecution will be the end of Christianity after 2,000 years” in Iraq, said Chaldean Archbishop Habib Nafali of Basra in an interview. He discussed how more than a decade of violent persecution has virtually annihilated the nation’s ancient Christian minority. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the Christian population has dropped from 1.5 million to about 250,000—an 85 percent reduction. During those 15 years, Christians have been abducted, enslaved, raped, and/or slaughtered, sometimes by crucifixion; about one church or monastery has been destroyed every 40 or so days—meaning about 135 Christian houses of worship, said the archbishop. While it is often assumed that the Islamic State was the source of the persecution, since that terror group’s retreat from Iraq, the situation for Christians has marginally improved the archbishop said, as Christians continue to suffer from “systematic violence” designed to “destroy their language, to break up their families and push them to leave Iraq.”
Italy: The government announced in an October 12 statement that it had “repatriated”—that is, deported—three African men deemed a “danger for national security” for their links to “Islamic extremism.” One of the men, a 24-year-old Gambian, had expressed a desire to kill “white tourists” and “Christians,” as well as attack churches. Another, a 22-year-old Moroccan, had been arrested before for petty crimes, as well as drunken and disorderly conduct; in October 2017, he waved a kitchen knife and threatened passersby near a synagogue while shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Allah is greater).
Algeria: Authorities closed another Christian church, even though its leaders had complied with all legal and building codes. On October 16 eight policemen appeared and sealed off the front doors of the Church of Jesus Christ in Azaghar village. Earlier, in December 2017, “After their visit to our place of worship,” said pastor Ali Benkhelat, the local administrators “asked us to provide another emergency exit door and fire extinguishers, which we have done. We even had to close the premises for three weeks for different development work. If they let us work until today, it’s because they had nothing to reproach us for.” The government order to close the church down says that the “building was originally meant to be used for a poultry business.” However, the pastor and other “Christian leaders said it was clean and never had chickens in it,” notes the report, adding, “The sealing of the church building comes amid a rash of church closures in the past year in Algeria.”
Nyankiir Kual Mayen, a 24-year-old university student, was on her way to a church service when she noticed a Public Order Police officer following her in his vehicle. Identified only as Akasha, the officer stopped her as she reached the town’s main market area, she said. Women not dressed according to strict Islamic customs in Sudan are easily identifiable as non-Muslims. The officer grabbed her and groped her breast, Mayen said. He ordered her to come with him to the police station, but she insisted that it was illegal to arrest women on the street without a warrant, Mayen said. Annoyed, the officer said he would arrest her for indecent dress…. The business administration student, who is choir director at her church, was wearing a long skirt and blouse, witnesses said….The officer left…. Rights activists say Sudan Public Order Police routinely violate human rights, including religious freedom, often arresting women and forcing them to pay fines and bribes to secure their release.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim