As in former years, Easter was under attack in various Muslim nations, most spectacularly in Egypt. On April 9, two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday Mass, which initiates Easter holy week, were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers. Twenty-seven people—mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, northern Egypt. “Where is the government?” an angry Christian there asked AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.” Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. Since the original building, founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century, was burned to the ground during the seventh-century Muslim invasions of Egypt, the church has been the historic seat of Coptic Christianity. Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—emerged unharmed. About 50 Christians were killed in the two bombings, 126 wounded and many mutilated. (Graphic images/video of the aftermath here.)
A few days earlier, on April 1, 3,000 fatwas [opinions by Islamic authorities] inciting the destruction of churches in Egypt had been circulated throughout Egypt. A number of Egyptian Christians interviewed after the twin bombings said that government-funded mosques regularly incite hatred and violence for Christians over their loudspeakers. In other mosques, according to Michael, a middle-aged Christian, “there are prayers to harm Christians. They incite to violence, youths are being filled with hatred against us and acting on it. It concerns us all. It leads to terrorism and to Christians being targeted.” Separately a Christian woman said, “The problem starts at school where children are treated differently. In school, some refused to speak to me because I was a Christian.”
In Nigeria, Muslim Fulani herdsmen randomly opened fire on a Christian village. According to Bishop Bagobiri, “The attack came when the people were in the church for the Easter Vigil celebration.” The Muslim gunmen killed “at least 12 persons on the spot, with many injured,” including women and children. Instead of celebrating Easter Sunday, the bishop and a local priest presided over the burial of “at least ten Catholics.” The bishop publicly accused the local governor, a Muslim, of complicity with the perpetrators and bias against their victims.
In Pakistan, a “major terrorist attack” targeting Christians during Easter celebrations was foiled, according to the nation’s military. An Islamic militant was killed and four soldiers injured during the raid. Among the Muslim terrorists arrested was a female second-year medical student who said she was preparing to “martyr” herself as part of a suicide attack on a church during Easter Sunday. Last year in Lahore, an Easter Day Islamic attack left more than 70 people dead.
In Indonesia, 300 Christians from two churches that remain sealed by authorities in West Java, celebrated their fifth Easter by protesting outside the presidential palace in hopes that the president lifts a banning order preventing them from holding services in their own houses of worship. Both churches are legally registered but “are being persecuted by local authorities who refuse to allow them to worship in their own churches, after citing opposition by local Muslims,” according to the report. One church, in order to open, had to agree that a mosque could be built next to it. The church officials agreed and the mosque was built, but the church remains closed.
In Seville, Spain, men, shouting “Allah is great” during a Good Friday parade, prompted a mass stampede that left 17 people hospitalized. The report notes that “the eight people arrested are not of Arabic origin”; however, as many Muslims are not Arabs, that leaves other possibilities—not to mention that this incident highlights how widespread and known Islam’s historic war cry has become in European nations.
The rest of April’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Egypt: A Christian boy was murdered “by Islamic extremists hoping to intimidate Christians” according to a report. Gamal, 16, described as being “loved by all his friends and teachers at school” and “a very peaceful and polite person,” was found by his family in a village in Upper Egypt “with his throat slit and lying in a pool of blood” four days after the Palm Sunday church bombings. According to the slain boy’s father, the Islamic State was responsible: “They are the only ones who slaughter people like that. They slaughtered my son because of his faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a war on Christians, and all honest people should stand up to those who are waging this war.”
Another report, based on eyewitness testimonials, gives the details—including demands of conversion to Islam—behind the slaying of one of several Christians killed by ISIS-linked Muslims in el-Arish, Egypt last February:
Two Isis fighters wielding guns approached their target. Bahgat Zakhar, 58, was an Egyptian Copt on a “kill list” and the terrorists had been tracking him for days…. Bewildered, the polite veterinary surgeon stood up to shake the hands of the jihadists. They rammed him into the concrete terrace. “Repent, infidel. Convert and save yourself,” one of the men said, pressing the gun barrel to Mr. Zakhar’s temple and forcing him to his knees. The father-of-two shook his head, an eyewitness later told the family. So they shot him and strolled off. “They didn’t even run.”
Sudan: In response to the Islamist government’s ongoing attempts to purge the nation of all Christian vestiges—which includes a recent decision to demolish 25 churches on claims that they were built on land intended for other use—on April 3, Christian minorities gathered around the Evangelical School in Omdurman for a peaceful protest against its illegal appropriation by a Muslim businessman. Police came to arrest the men, while a mob armed with knives and other weapons attacked and beat the women. A number of Christian men from the nearby Bahri Evangelical School rushed in to help the women. One church elder was stabbed to death during the clash, another wounded, hospitalized, and later released.
Pakistan: When Ameen, 45, an impoverished Christian husband and father could not make his instalment payments to Muslim shopkeepers, they and their accomplices raided the Christian man’s home, beat him with sticks and cricket bats, and threatened to kill him if he did not instantly finish his payments (Ameen had nothing and had already sold some of his possessions to make ends meet). Early the next morning, on April 4, “the shopkeepers returned, trapped him in his home, set the room on fire and locked it,” says the report. “They stayed outside the room and did not allow any of the family members or local residents to unlock the room to save Ameen’s life.” The man was burned alive. His three children who were present during the ordeal were left “traumatized” and “shocked after witnessing the brutal death of their father,” said his widow.
Egypt: One week after the two churches were bombed on Palm Sunday, militant Muslims attacked the police checkpoint guarding the entrance to the St. Catherine Monastery in south Sinai, one of the world’s most important Christian sites. At least one policeman was killed and four others wounded in the attack. Founded in the sixth century, St. Catherine’s, one of the world’s oldest monasteries, is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site. Muslim militant groups around the Sinai regularly refer to it as a premier infidel site that needs to be demolished.
In a separate incident, on April 13, shortly after Christian villagers held a prayer service in the home of a local Christian, a Muslim mob burned three Christian homes and injured eight Christians, including two women, in the village of Kom El-Loufy, in Egypt’s Minya Governorate. One of the Christians presents spoke on condition of anonymity: “We asked the local security authorities to grant us a permit [to] hold prayers and they agreed. They granted us a permit to hold these prayers and the security forces came to secure the mass. At about 10:00 a.m., after the worship ended, we started on our way to our homes. Then, a mob of Muslims gathered and began to attack us and our homes. They hurled stones at our homes and set fire on three houses owned by Christians.” The village, which holds about 1,800 Christians, has no church and local Muslims and governors refuse to allow one to be built. A similar attack occurred less than a year earlier; the homes of four Christian brothers were plundered and torched on the rumor that they were attempting to build a church in the village. Another Christian eyewitness present said “All these attacks occurred despite the presence of the police in the village. There are eight big cars from the central security and more than 15 police cars. I don’t know why the police haven’t arrested anyone who [has] attacked us till now.”
Uganda: Muslims armed with swords and clubs tore through a Christian pastor’s property, attacking his church, farm, and home. The pastor, Christopher Kalaja, a married father of six, said, “As they were approaching, they were shouting ‘Allah Akbar‘ and immediately started cutting down the trees on my farm, and thereafter pulled down the church building. I then took off for the sake of my life.” He filed a lawsuit against the vandals, prompting police, who was initially unresponsive, to visit the site and summon the suspects. “Since then, I have been receiving threats that they will come for my life, that they will soon destroy me completely.” Driven from his home, he and his family have since taken refuge inside a thatched hut of a friend. This is only the latest attack on him and his family from the residents of the predominantly Muslim region: “My outreach to Muslims has led to all these fights that I have been receiving from the Muslims. These people have been hunting for me since the early ’80s. And as a result, they even managed to kill my mother by poisoning, and after the death of my mother, they went ahead and killed my livestock. They are provoking me to leave the area.”
Saudi Arabia: A towering concrete sculpture that had long stood by a governmental building in the city of Buraydah was demolished after residents complained that it resembled a Christian cross. A book about Saudi Arabia published 30 years ago describes Buraydah as “a hotbed of fundamentalism even in the most normal of circumstances.”
Australia: In Muslim enclaves of southwest Sydney, Christians are regularly warned (by both Muslims and Christians) not to wear overtly Christian symbols such as crucifixes. One Australian man of Greek Orthodox heritage discovered too late what happens to those who ignore the warning. Mike, 30, wore a large cross while traveling on a train from Belmore Station, Sydney, with his girlfriend. Suddenly four young men of “Middle Eastern” appearance violently ripped the crucifix from around his neck, threw it to the ground and stomped on it, while yelling “F*** Jesus” and making references to “Allah.” They then punched and kicked him, including in the face. When his girlfriend attempted to defend him, two Arabic-speaking women attacked her. Mike said that five uniformed railway transport officers stood by idly watching the attack. According to a local Orthodox priest, “This is not an isolated incident. There are gangs of these young fellows of Muslim background who have been harassing people they identify as Christian… You don’t hear about it because no one’s reporting it.” He said there have been at least three other similar attacks around public transport in southwest Sydney recently: “It’s like their territory; they don’t want Christians or other types of infidels there… ”
Pakistan: Despite several promises to reform, schools continue to “teach their children to hate Christians and other religious minorities,” a new investigation found. Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace said the government has failed to keep its promise of eradicating religious “hate material” from textbooks used in schools, which it vowed to do after a deadly Taliban attack on a school in 2014 when Islamic gunmen killed 132 students. According to the report, however, “instead of minimizing hate materials and discouraging religious extremism, the opposite seems to be occurring with a growing trend toward a more biased curriculum and more religious extremism being taught in Pakistan’s public schools.”
Indonesia: According to a new study, 59% of Indonesians who responded to a survey have carried out acts of intolerance against non-Muslim minorities, and religious radicalization is on the rise. Only 11% of Indonesians are strongly opposed to an Islamic nation that governs according to strict Islamic law, Sharia. Around 11.5 million Indonesians are “spiritually” ready to make radical fundamental changes in Indonesian society. “They want to adopt laws inspired by Sharia, and their demands will become more and more radical,” said a spokesperson for the statistical study.
Central Asia: When a Muslim family in an unidentified Central Asian nation learned that their deaf daughter, Saida, had become Christian, they demanded she renounces Christ. She refused, was beaten, and had to be hospitalized in intensive care.
United States: Ehab Abdulmutta Jaber, 45, a Muslim man, recorded himself on Facebook Live brandishing a gun outside a Christian event and warning viewers during a profanity-laden declaration to “be scared.” Because the Christian event in Sioux Falls featured a former Muslim-turned-Christian pastor who spoke unflatteringly against Islam, the local Islamic Center denounced the event as “Islamophobic.” According to the report, “Jaber had been spotted filming the event with his cell phone in the back of the room and was advised by a security guard that recording was not allowed. The Facebook Live video shows Jaber filming the cover of his Koran before scanning the crowd of approximately 500 people…. After being ejected from the gathering because he was carrying a firearm, Jaber recorded another Facebook Live video in his car in which he brandished several handguns and rifles, warning viewers amid expletives to ‘be scared.’” He was charged with one count of making terrorist threats.
Pakistan: Armed Muslim men broke into and robbed a Christian household before kidnapping the family’s 14-year-old daughter at gunpoint. Although cash and jewelry were taken, the family says that Maria was the primary objective for the 3 am raid: they heard men outside the house shouting, “Have you got the girl yet?” They said one of the kidnappers was a Muslim neighbor named Amjad, who had apparently taken a liking to Maria. The family was told to forget about the girl – that they would never see her again — and were threatened with death if the matter was reported to police. Although the parents immediately contacted police, they, as is typical in such cases, did little. “Every day I am without my daughter I feel like dying,” said Maria’s mother. “I asked the men to take me and leave my children but they stole my eldest child from me.” Up to 700 Christian girls are kidnapped, raped and forced into Islamic marriages each year, according to a 2014 report.
In a different incident, the father and brothers of a Muslim woman assaulted a 21-year-old Christian man, stripped him naked, and burned him with fiery hot iron rods for being involved in a romantic relationship with her. Although he survived, he suffered severe burns. His family has since been pressured to drop the case by both the assailants and the police.
Tanzania: Two years ago, a nine-year-old Muslim girl came to disrupt a church service at the Free Pentecostal Church. Pastor Yohana Madai, who was preaching, went outside where the girl was banging on the door, took her by the arm before she could run away, and brought her to local government leaders. The next day the girl’s mother went to police and filed a charge of child abuse. She said the pastor had removed her daughter’s veil and had touched her breasts. Although a conviction would have carried a 30-year prison sentence, the case was eventually dropped for lack of evidence and witnesses. However, after the officer in charge was transferred to another area, the mother—this time accompanied by an Islamic sheikh and other Muslims—filed charges again against the pastor. After several more hearings—in which the accuser again could not produce any witnesses or evidence—the judge dismissed the charges. Nonetheless, as the pastor walked out of the courtroom, he was arrested again on unspecified charges and jailed. According to a statement from the leaders of the Pastors Alliance of Zanzibar, they “went there on Friday [April 7] to question officials and struggled much to help Pastor Madai be released, but we found that it was a religious matter with the purpose of persecuting the Christians. We were not given a hearing. Those handling the case are all Muslims…. They have started with Pastor Madai, and tomorrow they will arrest another…. [I]f the case is manipulated, pastor Madai will be sentenced to not less the 30 years in jail according to Tanzania and Zanzibar laws.”
Europe: According to Martin Kugler, an Austrian historian who also serves as head of an anti-discrimination group, Christians are increasingly being marginalized on the continent while Muslims are treated with great respect. Europe’s elites are pressuring Christians into hiding their faith while permitting Muslims to display theirs. Whereas it was long believed that secular Europe would no longer offer special accommodation to any religion, the establishment has gone out of its way to accommodate Islam. It has, for instance, removed crosses from public places but allowed the Islamic veil. “If Christians had the freedom to follow their conscience, with their schools and their rights,” Kugler said, “it would be much easier for them to confront the rise of Muslim culture.”
Reprinted with author’s permission from Raymond Ibrahim