Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians (2013) and The Al Qaeda Reader (2007). His writings have appeared in a variety of media, including the Los Angeles Times and Middle East Quarterly.
Ibrahim regularly briefs governmental agencies, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and testifies before Congress. He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Media Fellow at the Hoover Institution, 2013.
“Dr. Berhane Asmelash, a former prisoner and victim of torture, described prisoners being tied up and hung from trees. One form of hanging is known as the ‘Jesus Christ,’ he said, because the victim looks as though they are on a crucifix.” — Eritrea.
Five Christian girls were kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and forced to marry their captors. — Pakistan.
“We expect the Swedish Government and the concerned authorities to immediately make sure that these people are safe. A distinct asylum accommodation for Christians and other asylum seekers is essential. We appeal to you to set off such a place and give the word asylum back its true meaning of protection and safety.” — Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
In his response, the Director General of the Swedish Migration Board said that separate housing for Christians and other vulnerable groups “would go against principles and values that are central to Swedish society and our democracy.”
But, apparently, Christian persecution does not!
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
United States: A pro-ISIS group called the United Cyber Caliphate defaced the website of the Christian Reformed Church in Lamont, Michigan. A 15-year-old girl discovered the vandalism, which consisted of an ISIS propaganda video and Arabic text. The recruiter featured in the video says, “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses and enslave your women by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us, He is glorified and He does not fail in His promise.”
Ethiopia: Muslims in the majority-Christian country started riots in the East Shewa Zone to attack Christians whom they accused of converting Muslims. They burned down 14 churches of different denominations and left more than 2,000 Christians without places for worship. One church cemetery was also vandalized. A church leader said: “We have been worshipping outside and sitting on the bare ground bearing the hot sun. We appeal to our brothers elsewhere to come and assist us. The attackers poured petrol and were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [Allah is Greater] before setting the church building on fire.”
Uganda: Around midnight on April 12, a mob of Muslims demolished a Christian church. They were heard chanting: “We cannot live together with neighbors who are infidels. We have to fight for the cause of Allah.” Musical instruments, more than 500 plastic chairs and other property were also destroyed. Two days earlier, a group of Muslims shouted “Allah only is to be worshipped, and Muhammad is his prophet” and slaughtered a church leader’s pigs, a key source of income. He had previously received a text message saying, “Let this be known to your church members that pigs are extremely unholy and an abomination before Allah, very outrageous and shameful. They are haram [forbidden] and unlawful as our holy Quran does prohibit them.” A church member also received a message that read, “We are soon coming for the heads of your pigs.” He soon found that eight of his swine had been killed.
Iraq: The Islamic State blew up Mosul’s iconic Clock Church, famed for its soaring clock tower, with explosives. According to the Assyrian International News Agency, “Militants cordoned off areas surrounding the church and looted the building for profitable artifacts and antiquities before destroying the remaining parts with explosives…. The Clock Church….became a target of ISIS attacks last year, when its cross was removed.” Although Mosul was once home to about 45 churches, most have either been destroyed or converted into courts or jailhouses since the Islamic State took over in June 2014.
Indonesia: An Islamist group vandalized a new church in Bekasi and demanded that the local mayor cancel its permit. The Santa Clara Church had received its permit in July 2015 and opened this year on March 7. The Islamic Forum Community and other Muslim leaders accused church leaders of acquiring the permit through false means. The mayor of Bekasi denied the allegation and refused to annul the church’s permit. He said it had fulfilled all the legal requirements necessary for construction. “Despite this,” explained the Asian Human Rights Commission, “law enforcement agencies have failed to protect the Santa Clara Church congregants; in fact, it seems the agencies have no will or policy to enforce the law against vigilantes. As a result, the church congregation lives under pressure and intimidation.” The rights group further called upon the local police to “take a strong stance” against the Islamic Forum Community and “ensure that the government guarantees protection to the Santa Clara congregation to practice their religion.”
Algeria: “Churches in Algeria are facing intimidation and harassment, despite constitutional provisions guaranteeing freedom of worship in the country,” noted World Watch Monitor on April 29. That week, authorities claimed that a church in the Kabylie region was ordered to cease all religious activities on the grounds that it was violating a 2006 law that regulated non-Muslim worship. Authorities threatened to commence legal proceedings against the church if Christian worship continued there. Last February, authorities issued a notice to the church in the town of Aït Djima, also in Kabylie, citing the same law. Critics say the 2006 law, which is aimed at regulating all religious worship except Islamic worship, is used as a tool of persecution by the authorities. According to Rev. Haddad, pastor of a Protestant church in the city of Algiers: “It is an unjust law against Christians, who were denied their right to worship and the opportunity to share the Gospel freely…. the situation of Christians in Algeria will not improve until the outright law, which is no longer justified, is repealed.”
Turkey: Six churches were seized by the government this April. After ten months of conflict in the nation’s southeast, the government expropriated huge sections of property in the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir. “But to the dismay of the city’s handful of Christian congregations,” notes a World Watch Monitor, “this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey’s ancient church buildings – some of which pre-date Islam – have been managed, historically, by church foundations. The new decision has effectively made the Diyarbakir churches – one 1,700 years old, another built only in 2003 – state property of Turkey, an Islamic country of 75 million.” Few Christian houses of worship remain in Turkey’s southeast. Although it is the ancestral homeland of Syrians and Armenians, well over a million of these ethnic Christians were massacred and sent on death marches during the final years of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century.
Palestinian Territories: In Gaza City, authorities demolished a recently discovered, 1,800-year-old Christian church and its treasured artifacts, despite attempts by Palestinian Christians to save them. Protests failed to win the attention of the international community, including United Nations agencies such as UNESCO, whose mission is to secure the world’s cultural and natural heritage. The ancient church was found in an area where Hamas is planning to build a shopping mall. According to the report:
Did you see this one on the news? No, of course you didn't.
“The dramatic discovery of the antiquities did not seem to leave an impression on the construction workers, who removed artifacts and continued with their work at the site… Bulldozers were used to destroy some of the church artifacts — a devastation that drew sharp criticism from Palestinian Christians, some of whom rushed to accuse both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) of copying ISIS tactics in demolishing historic sites. For Palestinian Christians, the destruction of the church… ruins is yet a further attempt by Palestinian Muslim leaders to efface both Christian history and signs of any Christian presence in the Palestinian territories.”
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: Muslim Fulani herdsmen slaughtered approximately 40 people in a Christian majority village and burned Christ Holy Church International to the ground. Ten homes were razed by arson, cars and motorcycles were destroyed, and animals randomly killed. From his hospital bed a survivor said, “I was coming out from the house when I heard the community bell ringing. I was going with a friend to know what the bell was all about, only to see about 40 Fulani herdsmen armed with sophisticated guns and machetes. They pursued us, killed my friend and shot at me several times but missed. They caught up with me and used machetes on me until I lost consciousness.”
Pakistan: After a Christian man warned local Muslim drug dealers to “stop recruiting young Christians to participate in the sale and consumption of drugs,” two men assaulted him while he was working in the field and “sliced open his throat.” According to local pastor Alfred Azam, “This is not the first incident of persecution of Christians in our village, local Muslims are always creating problems for our Christian community. Before and after our church services Muslim drug dealers swarm around our church trying to sell drugs to our vulnerable youth…” Azam explained that drug pushers regularly beat young Christians and force them to take drugs to try to get them addicted. “When our older men tell these criminals to leave our young people alone they get killed.” As usual, police officials “refused to register a report for the crime or take any action whatsoever.”
Separately, Muslims lynched a Christian, 18-year-old Qaisar Masih, on the accusation that he was romantically involved with a Muslim girl. He was “killed by the girl’s family in an attack led by her father, Mohammad Billa.” They had warned Qaisar not to have anything to do with her and threatened to kill him. According to Qaisar’s sister, he was hanged after being killed to make it look like suicide:
“My brother was innocent, he tried not to contact Mehwish [the Muslim girl] but Mehwish said that she cannot live without him… We told her sisters to ask Mehwish to avoid my brother because her father is a criminal and he will kill my brother. But none of our efforts could save my brother.”
Qaisar’s mother, Rani Sardar, said: “We all know who killed my son, he was the youngest, he was the apple of my eye and they killed him brutally and hanged him in front of our house. I only demand justice.”
Syria: ISIS militants slaughtered 21 Christian hostages, three of whom were women, in the town of al-Qaryatain. This was discovered after the town was retaken by Russian-backed Syrian forces in April. Some were reportedly killed for violating the terms of their “dhimmi contract,” Islam’s discriminatory body of rules that govern Christian minorities and others. Another five missing Christians were believed to be dead, while many girls are believed to have been sold into sex slavery.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
(No Apostasy, Blasphemy, or Proselytization)
Uganda: A Muslim man beat and threatened to butcher his wife because of her commitment to Christ. The 38-year-old woman had fled to another village with their four children after he first beat her a year ago upon discovery of her conversion. “My husband shouted, ‘Allah Akbar,’ then he took a blunt object and hit me on my left hand,” she said. “I cried for help, and neighbors arrived and saved my life. I then slept at a neighbor’s house with my four children that very night.” Last April she went back to visit her estranged husband to discuss child support. It wasn’t long before the man began again to harass the woman again her faith:
“Again I answered him that Jesus is my Lord and Savior, and he took a panga[machete 16 to 18 inches long], but I managed to get hold of him before he could hit me, so the panga dropped, and he started strangling me. His younger brother woke up and rescued me. I then managed to escape.”
Before a judge, the Muslim man showed no regret. “I cannot live with the kafir [infidel] in my house,” he explained, “unless she returns back to my religion. If not, I will not stop hunting for her life, because our Holy Koran allows us to kill any apostate from Islam.”
Kenya: After a Muslim man named Godana converted to Christianity, his life changed for the worse. His troubles began last October, when his wife was hospitalized and treated for an unspecified but deadly illness for three weeks with no signs of recovery. “Soon thereafter,” notes the Morningstar News, “they received a visit from an Evangelist with the Evangelical Christian Church of Africa (ECCA), who prayed for her. His wife was not completely healed, but she was able to go about most of her daily activities, and a week later the couple invited the Evangelist and two other church leaders to their home. The couple decided to become followers of Jesus after talking and giving thanks with the church leaders, and they began meeting at their home for Bible study and prayer.” Soon Muslim neighbors informed Godana’s relatives that the couple had left Islam for Christianity. The same report continues, “Godana’s in-laws began sending him threatening texts: ‘You had a Muslim marriage, so it is against Islam to change your faith,’ one read. ‘If you continue in the Christian faith, we shall come and take our daughter.’ Then, in February, Godana’s in-laws took his wife. A few weeks later, they came and seized his young children as well.
Turkey: An American Evangelist was detained and later released by authorities—but only on the condition that he leave Turkey and never return. David Byle was declared “a danger to public order,” by authorities on April 6. The grounds for the claim that Byle was a “danger to public order” were never specified. Those close to Byle, 46, describe him as being “mild-mannered, polite and calm” and believe that he was detained and ordered deported because of his Evangelical activities. He was released on April 14 and given a “no-reentry order.” The arrest took place days before Byle was set to teach a class to a group of Turks on how to tell people about the gospel.
Egypt: An Egyptian Christian, Bishoy Kameel Garas, was finally declared “innocent”— but not before serving more than half of his six-year sentence. Bishoy was jailed in September 2012 for his alleged defamation of Islam. The charges were all connected to a fake Facebook account in his name. Bishoy was imprisoned even though he had posted warnings on his own Facebook page regarding the false account and had alerted cyber police whose subsequent investigation supported his innocence. According to the Barnabas Fund, “The court was besieged by mobs demanding his punishment and even accusing his defense lawyers of blasphemy for defending him.” Although innocent of the defamation charge, he lost his job as a teacher, which left his already impoverished father to pay for his legal fees; and although he spent more than three years of his life in prison, rights activists believe it is highly unlikely he will receive any reparations from the state.
Europe: Muslim migrants who thought they were now free to quit Islam and convert to Christianity continue to ” fear murderous Islamic retaliation in Europe.” According to a Breitbart report:
Many migrants who are recent converts to Christianity fear retaliation from Muslims and that converting may become a “death sentence.” One of the more surprising aspects of the migrant crisis has been the number of Muslims from places like Syria and Afghanistan, that have been converting to Christianity in Austrian churches. The Archdioceses of the Austrian capital in Vienna can hardly keep up with the requests as they get five to ten per week. So far this year 83 percent of the recorded adult baptisms into the Catholic faith have been Muslims compared to 2015 when they were only 33 percent, reports Kurier. Muslims who convert and leave Islam face a very real potential for violence and even death. A migrant to Austria who now calls himself Christopher told the Kurier, “this could be my death sentence.” Christopher came to Austria in 2012 and requested that his new Christian name be used because he fears not only reprisal against himself but his family as well.
(Contempt, Hostility, and Violence for “Infidels”)
Eritrea: Hundreds of Christians are currently believed to be in Eritrean jails, while tens of thousands have fled the country. According to Christian Today , for more than a decade the regime has been persecuting Christians, who make up roughly half of the population. Many churches have been closed and many Christians have been tortured. Christians who fled from Eritrea and are currently housed in an Ethiopia-based refugee camp revealed some of their experiences:
Elsa fled after her sister was beaten to death by prison guards: “We were kept in underground cells. Sometimes the guards put us both in a metal shipping container to torture us. This became so hot during the day and then in the night it became freezing cold. We didn’t get much to eat and there was no medical treatment. The guards offered to let us go, but only if we renounced our faith in Jesus. We said no.” One night the guards took turns beating Elsa and her sister. Recalling that night, Elsa said, “I will never forget hearing the screams of my sister. I never saw her again.”
According to a refugee named Dawit, “When I was living in Eritrea I was arrested because of my Christian faith. That’s why I left. In Eritrea almost every Christian faces imprisonment.” He spent more than a month in prison, and later in a hard labor camp. He was tortured and forced to sleep every night with his hands and feet lashed together behind his back.
“Dr. Berhane Asmelash, a former prisoner and victim of torture, described prisoners being tied up and hung from trees. One form of hanging is known as the ‘Jesus Christ,’ he said, because the victim looks as though they are on a crucifix.”
Egypt: Another Christian child was kidnapped and later released for a staggering ransom. Anthonius Farag, 13, was abducted from his school on April 5, in the village of Mansheyyit Manbal. His kidnappers released a Muslim child after identifying his religion by his name, but kept the Christian boy. According to the parent of another Christian pupil who was also nearly kidnapped:
“My son, Kyrellos, was standing with both fellow pupils Anthonius and Mohamed when one of the kidnappers approached them. [The kidnapper] inquired about their names. They let go of Mohamed, but [because of their Christian names] gripped hold of Kyrellos and Anthonius. My son managed to escape, while other boys started screaming. One of the kidnappers shot rounds in the air to disperse the crowd, as the others quickly pushed Anthonius into the car and fled.”
Three days later, the kidnapped boy’s father received a call demanding a ransom of two million Egyptian Pounds—more than $225,000 USD—in return for his son. The father, who received little help from police, eventually managed to get the kidnappers to drop the ransom to 300,000 Egyptian Pounds ($34,000 US)—still more than 300 times an agricultural worker’s monthly wages. It was all that he, a farmer, could raise, taking up a collection from Christians who earned more. After he was released, Anthonius recalled his ordeal, which included beatings and being kept in a dark room blindfolded. This latest case is not isolated. According to records from the Upper Egyptian province of Qena alone, there have been at least 72 cases of kidnappings, extortion and related violence against Christians in the period from 2011 to 2014.
Separately, Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, Egypt’s premier Salafi, was exposed in a video inciting hate for and violence against the nation’s Christians. He also decried giving them their full human and civil rights: “When you cooperate with a criminal, aggressive, oppressive, infidel minority, you attack the rights of the majority [Muslims].”
Pakistan: Two Muslim men invaded the home of a Christian woman while her husband was away serving in the army. After beating her, they tied her arms and legs down to her bed and gang raped her while threatening to slaughter her 2-year-old infant daughter if she did not comply. According to the victim, 30-year-old Asia Mushtaq:
The men treated me like an animal, telling me I was a worthless Christian, but I know my God is a great God. When I screamed they told me that they knew my husband was away and that I was unprotected. They threatened to kill my child if I did not comply with their perverse demands. They said Christian women are all whores and they would come back and repeat their debauchery if I ever told anyone. I feel so unclean now, but have done nothing wrong. I want these men to be punished and hope the law will protect me.
Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), said of the incident:
Another woman finds herself a target of the whims of brutal Muslim rapists in Pakistan, in a society that targets its most vulnerable community: Christians. Furthermore, this time a soldier, whose only desire was to serve and protect his country, has found that the majority of his country do not feel the same way about him. Moreover, the army he serves has offered little or no protection despite threats being made against him and his family. It pains me to say this but the complex acts of betrayal leave me feeling that Christians have no place in Pakistan’s theocratic society.
In a separate incident in April, five Christian girls were kidnapped, converted to Islam, and forced to marry their captors.
Sweden: Christians continue to be persecuted by Muslims in asylums. One Christian was threatened with “slaughter” — having his throat cut — by a self-proclaimed Jihadi. According to the same report by Christian Today, “A Pakistani Christian couple moved into a church when the husband’s name was sprayed on a wall near their room calling for his death. A separate group of asylum seekers were forced to leave their accommodation when their harassment escalated.” Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church, called on Swedish authorities to get involved in the crisis. “This situation does not reflect the culture of the peaceful and loving Swedish people,” he wrote, adding:
Christians do not live in refugee camps in the Middle East, because, there too, they are persecuted by Muslim extremists… To witness that they are once more being persecuted at Swedish asylum accommodations make[s] us very sad. We expect the Swedish Government and the concerned authorities to immediately make sure that these people are safe. A distinct asylum accommodation for Christians and other asylum seekers is essential. We appeal to you to set off such a place and give the word asylum back its true meaning of protection and safety.
In his response, the Director General of the Swedish Migration Board, Anders Danielsson, said that separate housing for Christians and other vulnerable groups “would go against principles and values that are central to Swedish society and our democracy. It would be considered a great failure having to resort to segregation as a measure.”
Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II (left) of the Syriac Orthodox Church requested that Sweden’s government ensure the safety of Christian refugees in Sweden, by moving them out of asylum seekers’ housing where Muslim residents are persecuting them. Anders Danielsson (right), Director General of the Swedish Migration Board, replied that separate housing for Christians and other vulnerable groups “would go against principles and values that are central to Swedish society and our democracy.”
Sudan: An Egyptian-born Christian monk serving in the African nation was kidnapped. Rev. Ghabrial al-Antony was working on his brother’s farm in Sudan’s Darfur region when three men appeared, tied up his brother, and abducted al-Antony. “We don’t know who they are or why they kidnapped him.”