(Morning Star News) – Five Christians were killed and five others are missing after attacks by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria’s Plateau and Benue states in the past two weeks.
Two members of the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) were killed on Sunday (Nov. 12) in Plateau state’s Wereng village, Riyom Local Government Area (LGA), as they were returning to their village at about 9:30 p.m., area resident Gyang Dahoro, a COCIN elder, told Morning Star News.
Christopher Musa Chong, 28, and Bulus Dantoro, 35, were ambushed and shot death, and their corpses cut with machetes, according to Dahoro.
“The two did not return to the village on Sunday evening,” Dahoro said. “A search was organized, and their corpses were found in bushes the following morning with bullet wounds and machete cuts.”
The Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the COCIN, said in a text message to Morning Star News that the church keeps losing its members as Muslim herdsmen have continued to ravage the countryside in a series of armed attacks.
“These armed Fulani herdsmen have continued with their attacks, and the church is at the receiving end,” Datiri said. “We have lost our members to these unprovoked attacks. We are on our knees praying for God’s mercy.”
Police in Plateau state reported recovering items belonging to the herdsmen at the scene of the attack. Plateau State Command spokesman Matthias Terna confirmed in a press statement the two Christians were ambushed and killed by the herdsmen.
“The dead bodies were recovered on the scene at about 8:15 in the morning by miners who were on their way to mining camp,” Terna said. “The police recovered two sticks belonging to the gunmen, and a motorcycle belonging to the deceased persons in the scene.”
Lamenting incessant killings of Christians in the state by the herdsmen using guerrilla tactics, a member of Nigeria’s parliament, the National Assembly, demanded the government declare the herdsmen as terrorists. Istifanus Gyang said in a press statement that the time has come for herdsmen to be classified as terrorists.
“The truth is that there is a quest by the herdsmen to forcefully acquire land and territory for occupation,” Gyang said. “Under this unfortunate development, the Nigerian state and government, which have the constitutional responsibility of protecting citizens from aggression, have left the victims at the mercy of the marauding herdsmen. These attacks have to be profiled and classified as acts of insurgency and treated with the same response as Boko Haram has been handled.”
Benue State Killings
In Benue state, three Christians were killed and five others abducted by Muslim Fulani herdsmen, sources said.
One of the Christians, Saater Kwaghdom, was killed in an attack in Gaambe-tiv village, Logo LGA, on Nov. 2 in which the herdsmen took away the five Christians, Joseph Anawa of Makurdi told Morning Star News.
Another Christian, Apesuu Uhula, was killed in Isho village, Guma LGA, on Tuesday (Nov. 13), and the same day herdsmen killed another Christian, Ortse Kwaghdoo, in Azdege village, Logo LGA, according to Anawa.
All three slain Christians were members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church, in Nigeria known as the NKST (Nongo U KristuU I Ser Sha Tar), he said.
Among those kidnapped, also NKST members, were Hingir Akaa Azemgbe, Doosul Nambo, and Ladi Mhbahme, he said.
Moses Yamu, spokesman for the Benue State Command, said in a press statement that some herdsmen who carried out the attacks have been arrested.
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Benue state is majority-Christian, and a report released this month describes attacks there as a “Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen invasion of Benue.”
“Nigeria: Benue State Under the Shadow of Herdsmen Terrorism,” commissioned by the World Watch Research unit of Open Doors International and Voice of the Martyrs Canada, says ethnic, socio-economic, environmental and political factors play some part in attacks, but that policy makers have diminished the underlying jihadist motives.
The ideology of the Hausa-Fulani Muslim invasion of Benue is based on the slogan, “Everything belongs to Allah. Every piece of land belongs to Allah and not you; it is not for you infidels but for Allah,” the report notes.
“Thus, with climate change, competition over limited resources and environmental threat to the ways of life of the herdsmen, the use of terror and its religious justification has been intensified, particularly in Benue,” the report states. “Herdsmen use terror tactics to conduct jihad, displacing local communities from their land to make room for their herds, to occupy those lands and to spread Islam.”
Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen are generally misperceived as people who are only in search of a better environment for caring for their sheep, the report states.
“They are mostly considered as people whose life, survival and tradition is embedded in the value attached to the herds, and the capacity they retain to protect their way of life,” it states. “Yet, historically, it is necessary to emphasize the fact that herdsmen in Africa have always played an important role in Islamic jihad. Their actions clearly demonstrate that their use of terror is premeditated; it is ideologically driven and sometimes politically motivated depending on the place, time and socio-political context.”
The report also asserts that the government is complicit in the violence by failing to stop attacks or prosecute assailants.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
(Morning Star News) – Nine Christians were buried in north-central Nigeria yesterday after Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed and killed them earlier this week, sources said.
The victims, all members of the Church of Christ In Nations (COCIN), were buried after a funeral service in Plateau state’s Riyom Local Government Area. They were killed, and three others seriously injured, on Tuesday (Nov. 7) evening at about 7:30 p.m. in Rim village as they returned from a nearby market.
In a text messsage to Morning Star News, COCIN Church Rim elder Gyang Dahoro identified those killed as Felix Ngwong, 34; Gyang Emmanuel, 29; Chuwang Bitrus, 31; Daniel Nini, 52; Dagam Danbwarang, 29; Rueben Danbwarang, 25, Sunday Danbwarang, 52; Dachollom Shom, 37; and Daniel Shom, 45.
Dahoro said the injured Dalyop Bwede, Darwang Samuel and Toma Sunday were being treated at the Plateau State Specialist Hospital in Jos.
The Rev. Dacholom Datiri, president of the COCIN, confirmed the killing of members of his church.
“We are saddened again by yet another attack on members of our church,” he said. “We have continued to be forced into mourning the death of some our members for no just cause. Whatever it is, our faith is dependent on Jesus Christ, our Savior.”
Istifanus Gyang, a member of parliament in Nigeria’s National Assembly, decried unabated attacks on Christians in Plateau state. Gyang said the attacks were carried out by “blood-thirsty killers and terror militia” whom he said were prosecuting “ruthless banditry and brutal slaughter” in order to wipe out Christian communities and occupy their lands.
“We shall therefore overcome this season, as it is written, “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning,” he said.
A similar attack was carried out in the same area a few weeks ago, when a Christian woman and her son and a daughter were brutally killed by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen who have been raiding Christian communities in the central Nigerian states of Plateau, Kaduna, Benue, Taraba and Niger.
The chairman of the Riyom Council, Emmanuel Damboyi, called for the arrest of Fulani leaders in Riyom, according to Nigerian newspaper The Nation, as they had vowed to attack Berom communities due to the alleged killing of a missing Fulani boy.
The Fulani leaders made the threat at a Security Council meeting, according to Damboyi.
“I think the Fulani leaders are not ready for peace, they should be arrested and questioned for these killings,” he reportedly said.
Plateau State Police Command spokesman Terna Tyopev said in a press statement that the number of those killed was 11, with four injured.
“Eleven people who were returning from a weekly village market of Makera were shot dead at about 7:30 p.m.,” he said. “No arrests yet, but investigations are ongoing, and we shall definitely get to the roots of this.”
Christians make up 51.3 percent of Nigeria’s population, while Muslims living primarily in the north and middle belt account for 45 percent.
Nigeria ranks 12th on Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians suffer the most persecution.
Jesuit Father Henri Boulad, an Islamic scholar of the Egyptian Greek Melkite rite, held no punches in an interview concerning the motives of Islamic terror and Western responses to it. “Islam is an open-ended declaration of war against non-Muslims,” declared the priest, and those who carry out acts of violence and intolerance are only doing what their creed requires. The report continues:
Those who fail to recognize the real threat posed by Islam are naïve and ignorant of history, he said, and unfortunately many in the Church fall into this category. Citing a letter he wrote last August to Pope Francis, Father Boulad said that “on the pretext of openness, tolerance and Christian charity — the Catholic Church has fallen into the trap of the liberal left ideology which is destroying the West.” “Anything that does not espouse this ideology is immediately stigmatized in the name of ‘political correctness,’” he said. The priest went so far as to chastise Pope Francis himself—a fellow Jesuit—suggesting that he has fallen into this trap as well. “Many think that a certain number of your positions are aligned with this ideology and that, from complacency, you go from concessions to concessions and compromises in compromises at the expense of the truth,” the priest wrote to Francis. Christians in the West and in the East, he wrote the Pope, “are expecting something from you other than vague and harmless declarations that may obscure reality.” “It is high time to emerge from a shameful and embarrassed silence in the face of this Islamism that attacks the West and the rest of the world. A systematically conciliatory attitude is interpreted by the majority of Muslims as a sign of fear and weakness,” he said. “If Jesus said to us: Blessed are the peacemakers, he did not say to us: Blessed are the pacifists. Peace is peace at any cost, at any price. Such an attitude is a pure and simple betrayal of truth,” he said. The priest also stated his belief that the West is in an ethical and moral debacle, and its defense of Islam is a denial of truth. “By defending at all costs Islam and seeking to exonerate it from the horrors committed every day in its name, one ends up betraying the truth,” he wrote.
June’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Attacks on and Desecration of Christian Churches
Philippines: On June 21 in the village of Malagakit, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)—which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State—vandalized a Catholic church. Describing the desecration as “wicked,” the chief police inspector said the “crucifix and images of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ were destroyed while the sacred hosts were thrown all over the floor.” Cardinal Quevedo, who condemned the sacrilege in the strongest terms possible, challenged the leaders of the BIFF to punish its men who desecrated the chapel: “If the BIFF wants to have an image as a respecter of all religions, it must punish its members who perpetrated the odious desecration and educate all its members in strictly respecting other religions,” said the prelate. “Last month, terrorist gunmen also desecrated St. Mary’s Cathedral in Marawi, some 150 kilometers from Cotabato,” notes the report. “The gunmen were seen on a video [here] destroying religious images and burning the cathedral.”
Egypt: An Islamic terror cell consisting of six members, two of whom were described as “suicide bombers, was planning on bombing yet another Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, but was exposed and arrested by police before they could launch their attack. According to a statement from the Egyptian Interior Ministry, “one attacker had planned to detonate an explosive vest inside the church and the other to blow himself up when police arrived to the scene.” Several similar and successful attacks on Christian churches in Egypt in the months before had left about 100 church goers dead and hundreds more severely wounded.
Separately, authorities raided a church-owned building that was being used by the local Coptic Christian community for worship; after police removed furniture, Christian iconography and other items from the building, they chained down the doors to prevent Christians from accessing the building. Christians had for some time tried to have the building legally recognized as a church, only to face a backlash from both local Muslims and authorities. According to a local Christian, “During the early hours of Friday, June 16, we [Christians] were surprised to find the furniture, rugs, icons, pictures, and worship utensils … had been thrown outside and the building closed down with seals and chains. We took the belongings into our homes. We don’t know why the police did that.” When dozens of church leaders met with the local governor insisting that they need a place to worship, he responded by telling them that the building they were using had been found to be in a state of disrepair and need to be demolished.
Algeria: On 9 June, the state oversaw the demolition of the Catholic church located in Sidi Moussa, 15 miles from Algiers. According to Kamel Abderrahmani, an Arab journalist who covered the incident, “Algerian authorities found a very shallow argument to justify this anti-Christian act. According to the authorities concerned, the church was listed in the red category by the technical inspection services. The legitimate question that arises from this is, since the building was deemed in danger of collapse, why was it not restored and listed as part of the national heritage? The statement of the mayor was of unprecedented clarity. He had announced the construction of a mosque and a Quranic school on the same site. Such statements caused outrage, as many saw the demolition as an act of vandalism.” Kamel also noted how the Algerian government had demolished other churches on other pretexts, and concluded by calling Muslim governments and activists “hypocrites”: “If the mayor of Paris or Rome had destroyed a mosque to build a church, what would have happened? Sunni Muslims would have shouted scandal and Islamophobia! This question shows the hypocrisy of Islamists and their double standards. They defend freedom of worship in the West in order to ban it in their homeland. They fight to build mosques in someone else’s homeland whilst destroying churches and synagogues where they have power.”
Iraq: In June 2015, when Mosul was under the Islamic State’s control, the group had announced it was converting St. Ephraim Church into a “mosque of the mujahedeen.” The cross from the dome was accordingly broken off, and all Christian symbols were purged from within the house of worship. Now, months after Mosul was liberated, the occupied church was exposed as being used as a sex-slave chamber where approximately 200 Yazidi girls and women were abused by the Islamic State. A report recounts “ISIS’ depravity towards Yazidi women and girls. On the floor of the iconic house of worship lie tiny pieces of pink and yellow underwear and flower headbands belonging to the very young Yazidi sex slaves the barbaric terrorist group took captive.” The June 14 report also notes that “Last week, according to local activists, ISIS publicly caged and burned alive 19 Yazidi girls for refusing to have sex with ISIS fighters, according to local activists. Yazidi leaders last year showed Fox News photographs of the Islamic jihadists burning babies to death on a slab of sheet metal, photos that show tiny, roasted bodies side by side as flames engulfed them….The butchered Christian building and its Yazidi remnants serve as chilling reminders of the genocide experienced by the two religious minorities.”
Spain: A Muslim man stormed a Christian church during a marriage ceremony, started shouting “Allahu Akbar”—“Allah is greater”—and “tried to throw liturgical objects around him to attack the priest and churchgoers,” says a report. A number of wedding attendants managed to apprehend the 22-year-old Moroccan and hand him over to police, who reportedly charged him with “disturbing public order, crime against religious feelings and threats.” Police also investigated the church for potential explosives before permitting the wedding ceremony to resume. According to the officiating priest, the incident began when a “group of young troublemakers” started making offensive noises at the back of the church. “Suddenly, someone started to shout and charged at the altar. A lot of people, including the bride’s mother, were crying, and there were people who had already jumped out of the pews because we did not know whether this person came alone or not, or if he was armed.”
Turkey: The Erdogan government seized at least 50 Syriac churches, monasteries, and Christian cemeteries, many of which were still active, in the Mardin province, and declared them state property. According to the report, “The Syriacs have appealed to the Court for the cancellation of the decision.” The Chairman of Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation—a 1,600 year-old monastery that was still in use and also seized—said “We started to file lawsuits and in the meantime our enquiries continued.”
The Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: A Chinese Christian couple—Lee Zing Yang, 24, and his wife Meng Lisi, 26—were abducted in Quetta and executed on the accusation that they were preaching Christ to Muslims; the Islamic State claimed responsibility for their killing and released “video footage showing the bloodied body of the Chinese man, Lee Zing Yang, taking his last breaths,” says a report. The Pakistani government cited the murdered couple’s “misuse of the terms of a business visa” as playing a major role in their deaths: “instead of engaging in any business activity they went to Quetta and under the garb of learning Urdu language … were actually engaged in preaching.”
Kenya: Armed Muslims connected to neighboring Somalia’s Islamic terrorist group, Al Shabaab, walked into an elementary school compound in Garissa and shot a Christian teacher to death. When a Muslim teacher interfered with their attempts to abduct another Christian teacher, “Al Shabaab got angry,” reported another anonymous teacher, “and told the teacher, ‘We are going to teach you a lesson for protecting the infidels,’ and immediately the two were carried away to unknown destination”—but not before the Somali militants proceeded to “beat Muslims of Somali descent at the school for housing Kenyan Christians.”
Philippines: More news and revelations concerning the jihadi uprising that began in late May in the Islamic City of Marawi appeared in June. The eight or nine Christians originally reported as being tied together and shot dead, execution style, had apparently been first ordered to recite the Islamic confession of faith, which they refused, leading to their execution. “Their bodies were reportedly thrown into the ditch, and a signboard was placed beside them reading ‘Munafik,’ which means traitor or liar,” says a report. “The assailants also asked Police Senior Inspector Freddie Solar to recite the Muslim creed, and as a non-Muslim [Christian] he too declined and was killed.” Seventeen otherswere found ritually decapitated or butchered by the Islamic State-affiliated militants. A priest and 13 parishioners from the St. Mary Cathedral were also kidnapped; the priest “appeared in a propaganda video on Tuesday (May 30) pleading for his life.”
Egypt: More eyewitness details concerning the Islamic State massacre of 29 Christian pilgrimstraveling to a Coptic monastery in the Egyptian desert in May 2017 emerged. One ten-year old boy, who witnessed the slaughter of his father, recounted how “We [he and his 14-year-old brother] saw dead people, just dumped on the ground. They asked my father for identification then told him to recite the Muslim profession of faith. He refused, said he was Christian. They shot him and everyone else with us in the car…. Every time they shot someone they would yell God is great [Allahu Akbar].” Although President Sisi had depicted the terrorists as “foreigners,” the ten-year-old said that the fifteen assailants “had Egyptian accents like us and they were all masked except for two of them … They looked like us and did not have beards.” The same report states that, a month after the massacre, the Egyptian government had failed to provide adequate security for the residents of Dayr Jarnous, a Christian village that was home to seven of those killed, “and has done nothing to help the victims’ families.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Religious Freedom
Pakistan: A new blasphemy case was registered against yet another Christian. After Mohammad Irfan refused to pay a repair bill to Ishfaq Masih, a Christian who fixed his bicycle, the Muslim denounced the Christian of blaspheming against Islamic prophet Muhammad, leading to the Christian’s arrest. According to Masih’s cousin, “During the argument, Irfan said that he obeys only one master, Prophet Muhammad, to which Ishfaq said that he was a Christian and his faith ends at Christ. Upon hearing this, Irfan raised a clamor that Ishfaq had blasphemed against Muhammad. Soon a mob gathered at the spot, and someone called the police, who took Ishfaq into custody.” Mohammad Irfan also rallied a number of other Muslims—including Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Naveed, and Mohammad Tahir—who claimed that they “heard Ishfaq Masih say derogatory words against the Muslim prophet.” According to the Christian’s lawyer, only one of the four “witnesses” was even present during the altercation. Instead, “Irfan had gathered the other men, including the complainant Mohammad Ishfaq, and they then concocted the allegation against Ishfaq Masih and got him arrested…. The FIR [First Information Report] is quite weak, as it does not contain any specific blasphemous words that my client may have allegedly said…. It also shows that the police did not even bother to investigate the charge before registering a case against the poor man. This is the routine practice of the police in blasphemy cases, and it’s a shame that nothing is being done to stop it.”
Separately, after a Christian couple was slaughtered for preaching Christ among Muslims (see Slaughter section), a South Korean Christian was arrested for allegedly also engaging in “illegal preaching activities.” Authorities revoked his visa and ordered him to leave the Muslim nation.
Philippines: A Muslim teacher in the Muslim majority island of Mindanao forced Jen-Jen, a young Christian schoolgirl apparently of Islamic origins, to pray Islamic prayers in class or else fail the class. According to the report, “Despite being uncomfortable, Jen-Jen learned the words of the prayer to recite to the teacher. But rather than asking Jen-Jen to say the words in an oral test, the teacher later announced students would be required to go to a mosque and pray the prayer aloud.” When the girl and another Christian classmate told the teacher that praying in a mosque contradicts their faith in Christ, the Muslim teacher “ignored the request and told them to turn away from Christ,” adding: “You must comply or else you will fail in this subject. You should revert to your Islamic faith.” The girl was then “forced to complete the long walk to the mosque while wearing a traditional Muslim dress and veil covering, despite burning up with a fever.” She “got so sick, however, that she lost consciousness and blacked out. Even as she came back to, the teacher refused to excuse her from listening to the entirety of the Muslim imam’s message. Since the day at the Mosque, Jen-Jen has been pressured to conform to many other Muslim practices, such as fasting during the month of Ramadan…. [O]ther students have also teased and bullied Jen-Jen because of her faith, sometimes bombarding her as she walked to and from school and pushing her or insulting her.”
Malaysia: The Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy—the statement of purpose of which is to define and promote “Human rights from the Muslim perspective”—asserted that all forms of Christian evangelicalism should be banned. According to the CEO of the Centre, Azril Mohd Amin, “It is a fact that the groups that are spreading Christian propaganda to Malaysians, especially Muslims, will keep up their efforts as they believe that there is no effective law that can stop them.” Jo-Anna Henley Rampas, a leading member of a more progressive and inclusive party, responded by saying this move is “reflective of the erosion of religious freedom in the country” thanks to the “federal government’s failure to instil [sic] proper understanding, tolerance and harmony among citizens.”
Muslim Contempt for and Abuse of Christians
Pakistan: A Christian sanitary worker died after pious Muslim doctors who were fasting for Ramadan refused to touch the “unclean” infidel’s body. Thirty-year-old Irfan Masih had fallen unconscious along with three other sanitary staff while cleaning a manhole on June 1. He was rushed to a governmental hospital where the doctors refused to treat him; he died hours later. “The doctors refused to treat him because they were fasting and said my son was napaak [unclean],” said the mother of the deceased. A few weeks later, a court, responding to complaints from hospital officials accusing the family and friends of Irfan of terrorizing the hospital, ordered police to register a complaint against them. “The hospital has levied a false charge against us in order to save themselves,” explained a cousin of the deceased, who also works in sanitation. “The doctors were responsible for Irfan’s death, because he would have been alive today had they not refused to treat him immediately. Our outburst against the doctors was natural, but we did not damage or steal anything from the hospital. It is a lie, and even the police know it.” A senior police official admitted that “we believe that the hospital is making frivolous accusation against these people….. The hospital is ostensibly trying to pressure the family to withdraw their case.”
Egypt: Suzan Ashraf Rawy, a 22-year-old Christian woman, was reportedly kidnapped on the morning of June 5 while walking to the Coptic Orthodox church she worked at. “When she did not return home that evening, her mother called the church,” an area Christian leader explained. “That is when she discovered Suzan did not arrive at the church in the morning. It is expected that she has been abducted.” She is the third Christian woman in the area of Al Khosous, a predominantly Christian town on the outskirts of Cairo, to disappear since May 30, when a Copt accidentally shot and killed a Muslim bystander during a quarrel with someone else. “Since then, the Muslims started to wage revenge attacks on the Christian community living there, especially the women,” the Christian leader said. According to the report, “Two other young Coptic Christian women disappeared without a trace after the May 30 incident. The families of the women suspected to have been kidnapped have received no communication from alleged kidnappers, the sources said. Area Muslims have long disfigured Christian women for not wearing veils by throwing acid on them, but there has been a surge in such attacks in the past few weeks, sources said…. Fear has seized Coptic Christians in the area, with women afraid to leave their homes. One of the church women’s meetings, which Rawy attended, has been suspended until further notice out of fear for the safety of the participants.”
Bangladesh: Three Muslim men sexually assaulted a 20-year-old Catholic girl in the village of Madarpur on June 18. Her loud cries drew the attention of village locals who came to her rescue, prompting the rapists to flee. After her parents filed a complaint, they began to receive threatening messages to withdraw it or else. “Last year her family was involved in a land dispute,” adds the report. “The violence – a premeditated attack – was also witnessed by the police, deployed by the Muslims who wanted to expropriate the land. The young woman, along with her parents, was forced to leave the house and live in a slum.”
Pakistan: The home of a journalist who extensively covers the plight of religious minorities in the Muslim nation was vandalized. When Rana Tanveer, chief reporter of The Express Tribune, went to the police, they failed to register a formal complaint. Days later, an unidentified vehicle intentionally ran over Tanveer, while he was riding his motorcycle in Lahore on Friday, June 9. According to the report: “Tanveer underwent surgery for a fracture in his pelvic bone on Saturday. His recovery may take months and he has expressed fears for his safety as well as that of his family…. Tanveer says that his work on exposing the poor treatment meted out to the country’s religious minorities like the Ahmadis and the Christians has made him a target of extremists.”
Sudan: A court in El Gedaref fined a number of Christians for selling food and tea during Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting: “This is a clear discrimination against Christians and contrary to the slogans of religious coexistence launched by the Sudan Government for the international community,” contended one defense layer. About a dozen people were each fined $2,000 Sudanese dollars ($298 USD).
Iraq: “[T]roubling issues related to discrimination and even violence targeting ethnic and religious minorities” are widespread in Kurdish-ruled territories, one report found, adding, “Christian citizens of the KRI [Kurdish Region of Iraq] have issued complaints and held protests against Kurdish residents for attacking and seizing their land and villages in the provinces of Dohuk and Erbil…. Some Assyrian Christians accuse Kurdish government and party officials of taking lands for personal use or financial gain. These Christians believe they are specifically targeted as part of a policy to Kurdify historically Christian areas…. Minorities continue to fear growing extremism in the majority population, which they believe could threaten them in the long term.” Most Kurds are Sunni Muslims.
Nigeria: A presidential order replaced Christian education with Islamic Studies in Secondary Schools. While the subject, “Christian Religious Knowledge” no longer exists, Islamic, Arab, and French studies have been introduced in the new curriculum. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which protested the new changes in front of the presidential palace, currently filled by a Muslim, described the change as “a time-bomb, obnoxious, divisive and ungodly…. To us in CAN, its introduction is an ill-wind that blows nobody any good for so many reasons.” According to the report, “The end result [of these changes] is that a Christian student will be left with no option than to settle for Islamic Arabic Studies since French teachers are more or less non-existent in secondary schools,” all of which “will deprive pupils of moral trainings which CRK [Christian Religious Knowledge] offers.” The Christian Association of Nigeria further denounced this move “to force Islamic studies down the throats of non-adherents of the religion,” as being an “agenda deliberately crafted towards Islamization.”
Separately, a Christian priest and his companions who were abducted by Islamic militants in April told of their experiences in June, when they were released. Fr. Sam Okwuidegbe identified his “kidnappers as Fulani herdsmen, an Islamic radical group that has killed thousands of people in Nigeria, including many Christians, in the past couple of decades” notes the report. That he was unable to recall any phone numbers for the Islamic terrorists to call to negotiate a ransom for his release “triggered a series of beatings,” says Fr. Sam; “they huddled me up, hands and feet tied to the back with a rope like a goat before a kill. They removed my cassock, then my shirt, threw me into the dirt on the ground, and began to beat me with the back of their guns, they’d kick me hard on my sides, slap across my face, push and pull me hard across the ground … one of them said ‘We are going to burn you alive!’” Another man in captivity did manage to recall a phone number, a ransom was set, and the men were eventually released.
Due to the ongoing bleeding of Nigeria’s Christian population—increasingly at the hands of Muslim Fulani herdsmen and not just the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram—a number of leading Nigerian churches issued a statement calling on the government “not to abdicate its responsibility of protecting all Nigerian citizens.” According to the communique: “We are worried that the murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen have continued unabated and unchecked. The recurring and orchestrated killings of Christians in Southern Kaduna, mass killings in parts of Benue State and others across the country have increased suspicion that the so-called herdsmen are an extension of terrorist groups carrying out an evil agenda of ethnic and religious cleansing. Characteristically, these mindless attacks are often unprovoked.” Earlier in January, Bishop Diamond Emuobor, chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said that, because Christians are facing increasing dangers at the hands of extremists, so “Christians should defend themselves and he who has no sword, should sell his coat and buy one to defend himself. We are all human beings, nobody should catch you like a snail and slaughter because you believe in Jesus Christ.”
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.
(World Watch Monitor) Eritrea’s security forces shot at protesters, using live ammunition, in the capital Asmara on Tuesday (31 October) during a protest against the government’s plans to turn all schools public. This would mean forbidding students from wearing religious items such as Christian crosses or Muslim headscarves.
A local source told World Watch Monitor students had been told the move was “to prevent interreligious strife”.
According to the Eritrean news site Asmarino Independent the Eritrean government has had longstanding plans to transform all schools into ‘community’, or public, schools. In September it notified the schools, saying the changes would take place with immediate effect.
The website reports that one of the schools which received the notification was the Catholic Medhanie Alem Secondary School in Asmara. In the letter, dated 18 September, the regional Minister of Education is said to have ordered the school leadership “to close the school and to report to the [regional administration] the list of all the students”.
The Minister cited a 1995 government declaration, stating that all social activities, such as private schools, clinics and orphanages, should be government-controlled. The role and responsibility of the churches was solely to look after the spiritual needs of its members, it said.
When the Catholic Church refused, the government reportedly closed the school and incarcerated a nun, Sr Tinsaw, and a priest, Abba Haile Paulos.
It has been 15 years since the government introduced a law prohibiting Christian practice outside of the Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran denominations, as well as Sunni Islam.
But even the sanctioned Catholic Church says the government has tried to isolate the community “by not permitting its seminarians, priests and religious workers to go abroad for further education”, the Asmarino Independent reports, saying it is because the Church objects to its clergy being forced to become conscripts in the indefinite and compulsory military service imposed in Eritrea.
Following the government’s announcement, Al Diaa Islamic School, a well-known private school in Asmara, asked for time to consult the wider school community. The Honorary President Haji Musa Mohamed Nur spoke passionately during a meeting on 15 October which, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, was attended by thousands of people who expressed their rejection of the proposed expropriation. He was arrested a few days later and along with several others taken into custody.
Some 100 students from the school then apparently took to the streets to protest and request the release of Haji Musa and the others. CSW reports how they encountered armed security officials who allegedly assaulted them as the crowd of protesters grew. When they in turn responded by throwing stones, security officials started shooting, using live ammunition. Online footage shows people being chased through the streets and the sounds of gunfire can be heard. The US Embassy in Eritrea “received reports of gunfire in several locations in Asmara due to protests” and advised its citizens to avoid the city centre.
Although calm was restored by the end of Tuesday, armed undercover security officials still patrolled the streets, according to the Asmarino. It says some students and women who were detained have been released, but some of them say they were mistreated by police in order to obtain information. Meanwhile the school was reopened “quietly”.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW said: “The targeting of educational establishments belonging to two of the faith communities which are permitted to function in the country is indicative of an enduring unwillingness to respect and protect both the right to education and the right of freedom of religion or belief”.
As there are no independent news sources in Eritrea, news of the protest only reached international news media a day after the event. Protests are an extremely rare occurrence in Eritrea, one of the most repressive countries in the world.
Dubbed the “North Korea of Africa”, the Eritrean regime is authoritarian and intolerant towards any form of unregistered organisation, dissent, or free expression. There is no safe place in the country – as is confirmed by the large number of Eritrean refugees in Europe and elsewhere.
Although there are no reliable statistics on religious affiliation in the country, sources estimate that the country is half Christian and half Sunni Muslim.
Eritrea is 10th on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.
Arrests of Christians have escalated in the past year. A new wave of arrests that began in May saw the number of Evangelical Christian prisoners rise to more than 200. Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are at particular risk, although the Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch, Abune Antonios, has been under house arrest since 2007 after he refused to comply with government attempts to interfere with church affairs.
In July the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations” in Eritrea. This followed a report by a UN commission that the country’s “crimes against humanity” should be investigated by the International Criminal Court.
Series of attacks in Egypt targeting Coptic Christians forces churches to close
Egypt has been one of the worst places for Christian persecution in recent months. A series of attacks targeting Christians and forced closure of churches have caused Egypt’s Christian population to call on authorities for help.
The Minya Coptic Orthodox Diocese said authorities sealed off two churches in the southern province, citing harassment and attacks by extremists. A third was closed because of fear of attacks. The statement was issued late Saturday. Read more
Father of slain Christian teenager condemns Burewala Police for intentionally fudging investigation
(PCP) A report by Burewala Police Constabulary who have been suggesting that the death of Christian boy Sharoon Masih was not a culmination of the bullying he received whilst studying at MC Model Boys Government School Burewala in Punjab, but a personal conflict with one boy, has hurt members of the former student’s family.
The grieving father of Sharoon Masih has asked BPCA to set the record straight after several publications seem to have joined forces with Muslim detractors in attempting to thwart justice for Sharoon who was only 17 when he was killed. Read more
Chicago Immigrant: Assyrians Suffered ‘So Much’ But ‘Still Have Hope’
Atoor Merkail, an Assyrian Christian whose immediate family — seeking stability and a better life — left their native Iraq last year to settle in the Chicago area, part of a Middle East minority with a rich history but targeted by ISIS in recent years.
Assyrians were among the first converted to Christianity — tradition has it by at least one of Jesus’ apostles.
“Most Assyrians, who belong to different Christian denominations and have a population of about 300,000 in Iraq, want to remain part of the country but aspire for political autonomy,” according to a recent article by Al Arabiya, a Middle East news outlet.
In the modern era, “Most Assyrians are in Iraq, Syria and Iran,” Merkail says. Read more
NPR gets it right about how bad things are for non-Muslims in Indonesia
…NPR report contradicts the widespread media fantasy of Indonesia as this happy inter-religious paradise. This recent New York Times article –- which attributes news of interfaith fights to ‘international news reports’ – is a case in point. Remember, former President Barack Obama showed up there last summer in Indonesia to tout the interfaith harmony there.
How he could wax eloquent about this with the Jakarta’s Christian governor recently jailed over blasphemy-against-Islam charges is beyond me. Obama doesn’t seem to realize that the Indonesia of his childhood no longer exists. Read more
Christian student loses appeal against university expulsion for ‘anti-gay’ views as campaigners warn of ‘chilling effect’
A devout Christian thrown off a Sheffield University social work course after being accused of posting “derogatory” comments about homosexuals and bisexuals on a Facebook page has lost a High Court fight. Read more
Prayer Networks collaborate to host conference call for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP)
This Sunday and the next, individually and corporately, we will have the opportunity to join with millions of other believers around the world to lift up our persecuted family in prayer. The first two Sundays in November (11/5 and 11/12) have been designated as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP 2017). Persecution Watch and Voice of the Persecuted, in collaboration with International Orality Network and other global ministries, will unite to host two 12-hour IDOP prayer conference calls for our persecuted family. This is your opportunity to come and pray and be the voice of the persecuted Church through those prayers. Please mark your calendar to stand in the gap and join the calls to lift-up our brothers and sisters suffering for Christ.
We believe prayer works. Stay on the call 5 minutes, 5 hours, or as long as you feel led. Your prayers make a huge difference in the lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. Details here
(World Watch Monitor) A law imposing a ban on cattle grazing has come into force today (2 November) in Nigeria’s central state of Benue.
The ban follows years of deadly clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsman and local farmers in Nigeria’s Middle Belt.
According to the BBC, the new law requires everyone to keep their livestock within ranches. Those breaking the law face the possibility of a five-year jail sentence.
The law is aimed at restoring peace, say officials, but opponents have cast doubts over its efficiency. The Fulani herdsman say it unfairly targets their nomadic way of life.
The Middle Belt of the country, which straddles the divide between the largely Muslim north and the majority-Christian south, has been the scene of ongoing violence between settled farmers, who are mostly Christian, and mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani herdsmen.
Many experts on Nigeria now believe that the violence across the Middle Belt, which World Watch Monitor has reported on at length, has been responsible for more deaths than Boko Haram.
Last September, a report by International Crisis Group also pointed out the failure of Nigerian government to counteract violence in the Middle Belt.
The report pointed out the persistence of impunity as one of the root causes of the continuing violence.
“Police occasionally arrest and prosecute both herders and vigilantes bearing firearms, but relatively few perpetrators of violence face justice. Impunity has encouraged actors to take matters into their own hands,” it said.
The report backed up the views of analysts including Professor Yusufu Turaki, Director of the Centre for the Study of Religion, Church and Society at Jos ECWA Theological Seminary in Nigeria, who spoke to World Watch Monitor recently.
“They [the authorities] will start something as if they are serious about it, but after a few weeks the thing sinks and nothing happens again,” he said. “We have seen a lot of that. This for me has become the culture: the culture of making ripples, making a noise and fooling the people into thinking that you are doing something, but actually not meaning it.”
Nigeria (Morning Star News) – A Christian woman and her two children were killed in north-central Nigeria last week, three days after a kidnapped priest was slain by his abductors in the southwestern part of the country, sources said.
Armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen on Tuesday (Oct. 24) ambushed and shot to death Rebecca Daniel Choji, her 16-year-old daughter Suzanna Daniel Choji, and her 29-year-old son Joel Choji, in Jol village, Riyom Local Government Area (LGA) in Plateau state, as the family members were on their way to a health facility in Vwak village, sources said.
Suzanna and Joel Choji died immediately, while their mother succumbed to her gunshot wounds two days later at Plateau State Specialist Hospital in Jos, sources said.
Members of the Church of Christ In Nations (COCIN) in Jol village, the three victims were being driven to a hospital by a relative, Dachung Yakubu, as Choji’s two children were ill. The herdsmen attacked at about 7 p.m. and also wounded Yakubu, who at this writing was in critical condition at the Intensive Care Unit at Plateau State Specialist Hospital, sources said.
The attack was the latest by herdsmen on Christian communities in Plateau state’s Riyom, Barkin Ladi, Bokkos, and Bassa LGAs.
“We have been under attack constantly from these Fulani herdsmen because we are Christians,” Gyang Dahoro, 55, an area COCIN congregation elder, told Morning Star News by text message. “Our villages have been ravaged, and our houses and churches destroyed, and in most cases these herdsmen have taken over the villages where Christians have been displaced.”
He added that the woman and her two children were some of the “Christians killed in recent times as the herdsmen in collaboration with Boko Haram continue to invade our communities.”
The attack came a week after similar assaults were carried out in villages around Miango town, in Bassa LGA.
“We are saddened by yet another attack on our defenseless members in Jol who were on their way to visit a health care center,” Dachalom Datiri, COCIN president, told Morning Star News by phone. “All we can do is to keep praying for an end to these attacks and hope that Nigerian government can halt these senseless killings.”
Emmanuel Jugul, chairman of the Riyom Government Council Management Committee, confirmed the killing of the Christian woman and her two children and the wounding of the fourth relative, as did Tyopev Terna, police spokesman for the Plateau State Command.
“The four persons were going to a clinic when they were attacked by gunmen,” Terna told Morning Star News.
In southwest Nigeria, a priest with the African Church was killed after being kidnapped by armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen.
The Rev. David Ayeola, 26, was kidnapped at gunpoint in an ambush on Oct. 17 and was shot to death on Oct. 21 after failed rescue efforts by police, sources said.
The priest was a chaplain at the headquarters of the African Church in Akure, Ondo state. A church bishop, his wife and driver escaped capture.
He was kidnapped while traveling to a burial for an in-law of the bishop in Ayegbaju as they drove from Imojo Ekiti, the bishop said in a press statement texted to Morning Star News.
The Rev. Samuel Ojo, bishop of the African Church, a denomination in Nigeria, said that somewhere between Imojo and Oye Ekiti, masked gunmen emerged from the bush, blocked the road and started shooting.
“Our driver attempted to turn back, but he discovered that members of the gang were also coming from the back,” Ojo said. “He suddenly drove into the forest. Myself, my wife, the priest and the driver ran into the bush. I told them to run for their lives, and we fled in different directions. I crawled in the forest like a snake for hours.”
After capturing Ayeola, the armed gunmen phoned church headquarters and demanded 100 million naira (US$275,368) for his release, Ojo said.
“The kidnappers started calling me from the priest’s phone number,” he said. “From their accents, they sounded like Fulani. They were threatening to kill him if we didn’t pay the money. When I offered them 500,000 naira (US$1,375), they insulted me and the church.”
Villagers saw the priest with three armed gunmen at a farm and reported it to police late the night of Oct. 21, he said, and officers from three divisions in Ekiti and Ondo states went into the forest and surrounded the property.
Bishop Ojo said the Fulani gunmen forced police back, and then shot Ayeola as they fled, leaving him to die in the forest.
Adeyemi Ademola, a police spokesman for the Ekiti State Command, confirmed the murder in a statement sent to Morning Star News.
“When the kidnappers noticed that the police and the hunters were coming, they shot the priest and escaped,” Ademola said. “We went after them for a while, but the team had to turn back when it was getting dark. This was to avoid endangering the lives of members of the team in a terrain that the kidnappers may be more familiar with. We took the priest to a general hospital, but sadly, we lost him.”
Ojo said Ayeola, a graduate of the African Church Theological Seminary in Lagos, was ordained two years ago.
“I ordained him in 2015. He was the best at the college of theology in his set,” he said. “He was an excellent and vibrant preacher of the gospel. We are all saddened by his death. We want the police to get the suspects and bring them to book. This is a great loss to the church.”
(Morning Star News) – Authorities in Sudan have detained a container of Bibles in Port Sudan without explanation for at least two years, a source said.
A Bible Society in Sudan representative told Morning Star News the container was one of two containing Arabic Bibles detained more than two years ago. The other container was released shortly after appeals to port authorities.
The detained shipments were destined for Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, said the source, who asked to remain unnamed for security reasons. At present the Bible Society in Sudan does not have a single copy of an Arabic Bible available in Khartoum, he said.
Other shipments of Bibles at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, have also been detained over the past two years, he added.
A church leader said availability of Bibles and Christian literature in the country is increasingly limited.
“There is difficulty in getting Bibles in the country,” he said.
The Bible Society in Sudan representative said a port official in the past week has been more willing to consider releasing the shipment. Sudan links Christianity with the West, and Christian leaders speculated that Sudan may be opening to releasing the shipment as the U.S. administration lifted sanctions on Oct. 12. The sanctions had been in place since 1997 for Sudan’s terrorist ties and human rights violations.
Port officials were unavailable for comment.
Other international Bible providers have also complained of Sudan detaining shipping containers full of Bibles – usually due to corruption, but in some cases also to keep Judeo-Christian scripture out of the country.
Detainment of Bibles in Sudan also took place before 2011, with one shipment held up for nearly four years, the Bible Society source said.
Following the secession of South Sudan in 2011, 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.
The Sudanese Minister of Guidance and Endowments announced in April 2013 that no new licenses would be granted for building new churches in Sudan, citing a decrease in the South Sudanese population.
Sudan since 2012 has expelled foreign Christians and bulldozed church buildings on the pretext that they belonged to South Sudanese. Besides raiding Christian bookstores and arresting Christians, authorities threatened to kill South Sudanese Christians who do not leave or cooperate with them in their effort to find other Christians.
Sudan fought a civil war with the south Sudanese from 1983 to 2005, and in June 2011, shortly before the secession of South Sudan the following month, the government began fighting a rebel group in the Nuba Mountains that has its roots in South Sudan.
Due to its treatment of Christians and other human rights violations, Sudan has been designated a Country of Particular Concern by the U.S. State Department since 1999, and the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommended the country remain on the list in its 2017 report.
Sudan ranked fifth on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List of countries where Christians face most persecution.