VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

Category Archives: Iraq

IRAQ – Iraqi Christians celebrate the feast of Mar Behnam, in the shrine devastated by jihadists

Fraternité en Irak

Qaraqosh (Agenzia Fides) – On Sunday 10 December hundreds of Iraqi Christians were able to take part in the celebrations for the feast of Mar Behnam (San Behnam) at the Shrine-Monastery where the relics of the Saint are kept. The Mar Behnam Monastery, a few kilometers from the city of Qaraqosh, in the Nineveh Plain, is being rebuilt after the massive devastation carried out by the jihadists of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (Daesh). The project to rebuild the important place of worship is supported in particular by the French association Fraternité en Irak. The large participation of the faithful in Eucharistic liturgies, celebrated outdoors, was an important sign of the will of the Iraqi Christians to return to live their daily life, marked by the feasts and celebrations of the liturgical year, in the places of its traditional roots.

The jihadist militiamen of the self-proclaimed “Islamic Caliphate” already in July 2014 had driven out the three Syriac Catholic monks who had officiated the monastery until the day before. Even some families residing at the monastery had been expelled. Since then, concerns have been expressed about the fate of the heritage kept in the ancient monastery, dating back to the fourth century and dedicated to the Assyrian martyr prince Behnam and his sister Sarah, which is one of the oldest and most venerated places of worship of Syriac Christianity. After a few months from the beginning of the jihadist occupation, as early as 2014 (see Fides 15/10/2017) the militiamen of Daesh had removed all the crosses and burned ancient manuscripts kept in the monastery. Then, in 2015, they had largely devastated it with explosives, and had not spared the Saint’s grave.

Last July (see Fides 17/7/2017), the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) had arrested some members of the so-called “Babylon Brigades” on suspicion of looting private houses and churches Christians, including the Mar Behnam monastery.
The Nineveh Plain Protection Units represent a local military organization, formed in part by native Christians and established in 2014 as a territorial self-defense militia.

The so-called “Babylon Brigades”, headed by Ryan al Kildani (Rayan the Chaldean), also claim their militia label composed by Christians, even if their connection with Shiite militias such as the People’s Protection Units is documented (Hashd al Shaabi) who also operate in the area. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 11/12/2017)

Saints Behnam, Sarah, and the Forty Martyrs

…were 4th-century Christians who suffered martyrdom during the reign of Shapur II. They are venerated as saints in the Oriental Orthodox Church and their feast day is 10 December.

Behnam and Sarah were born in the 4th-century in Adiabene, and were the children of Sinharib, an Assyrian king. Whilst hunting on Mount Alfafwith forty slaves, Behnam became separated from his entourage and was forced to spend the night on the mountain. He received a dream in which an angel instructed him to seek Saint Matthew, who lived on the mountain, as the saint could heal his sister Sarah, who was afflicted with leprosy. Behnam met with his entourage the next day, and they discovered Saint Matthew in a cave and requested he join them on their return to the city, to which he agreed.

Behnam and his entourage returned to the city ahead of Saint Matthew and told his mother of his dream and the saint. His mother allowed Behnam and Sarah to return to the saint in secret, and he healed Sarah of her leprosy, after which Behnam, Sarah, and the forty slaves were baptised and Saint Matthew returned to Mount Alfaf. Sinharib discovered Behnam and Sarah’s conversion and demanded they abandon Christianity. Stalwart in their faith, Behnam, Sarah, and the forty slaves, fled to Mount Alfaf, but were slain by soldiers sent by Sinharib.

Following his children’s death, Sinharib was afflicted with madness. Behnam spoke to his mother in a dream and instructed her to seek Saint Matthew, as he could heal the king. The queen took the king to the place of Behnam and Sarah’s death, where he met with Saint Matthew and was cured. Sinharib and his wife returned to Assur with the saint and were baptised. The king had a monument to the martyrs built at the place of their martyrdom, and, at the request of Saint Matthew, constructed a monastery on Mount Alfaf, which later became known as the Monastery of St. Matthew. Sinharib had the martyrs buried at the monastery atop Mount Alfaf. In the 6th century, a Persian merchant constructed a shrine to the martyrs alongside Sinharib’s monument, and would later develop into the Monastery of Saints Behnam and Sarah. Source: Wikipedia

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“We Are Going to Burn You Alive!” Muslim Persecution of Christians, June 2017

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.”

SpainA 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.

by  cross posted on Gatestone Institute

Congress Clashes With Trump Administration Over Aid for Iraqi Assyrians

Two young Assyrians fled with their families from Islamic State’s held Mosul to Koysinjaq, Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo Flickr christiaantriebert

AL Monitor  By Bryant: Harris Disappointed with United Nations efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Iraqi minorities, Congress is calling on the Trump administration to bypass the world body and provide assistance directly to Christians and other genocide victims.

Even as the Islamic State (IS) loses its last grasp on Iraq, the group’s Yazidi and Christian victims are clamoring for a boost in US support so they can rebuild their lives. They complain that ethnic minorities are having trouble accessing the $1.3 billion that the United States allocated for humanitarian aid to Iraq in 2017, and have turned to Congress for help.

Testifying at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week, a former Yazidi sex slave who goes by the pseudonym Shireen warned that IS’ genocidal campaign will succeed without international help. The hearing aimed to hasten congressional action on the Iraq and Syria Genocide Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, which would authorize the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund faith-based entities providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqi and Syrian genocide and war crime victims rather than funnel the money through UN agencies.

Read the full story here.

‘Risk of genocide’ linked with level of religious freedom

(World Watch Monitor) Yemen is the country where the risk of genocide, or mass killing, rose most last year, says Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in its 2017 Peoples Under Threat index, which also includes a large number of countries in which it is most difficult to live as a Christian.

Nine of the Index’s top 12 are also in the top 12 of Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List– namely Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Nigeria.

MRG calculates its annual index based on a number of indicators directly linked to the level of freedom of religion and expression, including democracy and governance, conflict data, and displacement.

Yemen, for instance, ranks 8th on the MRG Index and 9th on the WWL. The civil war that erupted there in 2014 has caused chaos and lawlessness, creating a climate where oppression can flourish.

Radical Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State have exploited the power vacuum in Yemen to gain significant influence. Christians have been killed and abducted, including 16 people killed in an attack on a Christian care home for the elderly in March 2016.

According to MRG’s index, which lists the top 70 countries most at risk of genocide, mass killing or systematic violent repression, two-thirds of the countries where this risk has risen are in Africa.

Also, an increasing number of people are living at “deadly risk” in a growing number of “no-go zones” around the world. MRG says its reports shows “how a lack of access from the outside world allows killing to be perpetrated unchecked in disputed territories, militarized enclaves, and in some cases, whole countries… International isolation is a known risk factor for genocide or mass killing”.

Syria, for example, leads the list for the third consecutive year and, according to the report, UN human rights officials have been “granted no access to Syria since the crisis began in 2011”.

Cholera outbreak

Meanwhile the civil war in Yemen has so far killed more than 8,000 people and injured over 45,000 civilians. The fighting between Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the north and the Saudi-backed government in the south has furthermore displaced more than 3 million people – over 10 per cent of Yemen’s population – reports the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHA says these figures are most likely lower than the reality because of the lack of reporting capacity and people not having access to health centres.

Those who have not been killed or injured in the fighting might still lose their lives in the largest ever recorded cholera outbreak in a single country in a single year, aid agencies warn. With a crumbling health system, with less than half the country’s hospitals operational and a lack of available medication, nearly 2,000 people have died of cholera so far, with an estimated 5,000 Yemenis becoming ill every day. More than 600,000 Yemenis could have cholera before the end of the year, the International Committee of the Red Cross has warned.

Detroit judge blocks deportation of Iraqi immigrants for 90 days

A woman holds a sign and cross as members of the local Chaldean community demonstrate June 16 outside the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building to protest the arrest and detention of more than 100 Chaldean Christians from the Detroit area. (CNS photo/Jim West) See CHALDEAN-PROTESTS June 19, 2017.

Detroit (Agenzia Fides) – A judge Mark Goldsmith in Detroit has temporarily halted the deportations of Chaldean Christians and other Iraqi immigrants ordered last June by virtue of the new immigration rules implemented by the Trump Administration. The measure had already been temporarily blocked by the same judge for shorter periods, and all the suspensions ended yesterday, Monday 24 July. Yesterday’s new ruling by Judge Goldsmith also took note of Iraqi citizens who referred of the risk of being subjected to violence and persecution once back in the country of origin. Goldsmith also pointed out that the criminal and judicial cases weighing on many of the Iraqis threatened with deportation were actually “dormant” cases. The judge declared that the constitutional rights of Iraqi immigrants, many of whom have long been resident in the United States, have been violated, and that guarantees for the protection of fundamental freedoms can be suspended only in rare cas es of foreign invasion or internal insurgence.

The Iraqis already arrested on June 12 at the disposition of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE, US Federal Agency responsible for border control and immigration) were 114, but potential expulsion measures threatened about 1,400 immigrants from Iraq. Most of the Iraqis already arrested (see Fides 11/7/2017) lived in the area of Detroit and belonged to Chaldean Christian families. The operation was implemented after the agreement between the United States and Iraq with which the government of Baghdad had agreed to host a number of Iraqi citizens subjected to the expulsion order, while being removed from the black list of affected nations from the so-called “Muslim ban”, wanted by President Donald Trump to prevent access to the United States for citizens from six Muslim majority countries considered as potential “exporters” of terrorists. Even some of the arrested Christians had in the past had problems with justice.

Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako also intervened on the case: in a letter to Chaldean Bishop Frank Kalabat, at the head of the Eparchy of St Thomas the Apostle in Detroit, the Primate of the Chaldean Church expressed solidarity and closeness to Iraqi families affected by the provisions of expulsion, and hoped for an adequate solution to the humanitarian emergency caused by the expulsion measures, also directed against family men with small children.

Now Iraqi immigrants, at risk of deportation, have three months to arrange their legal strategy with their lawyers to render ineffective the expulsion orders issued by the ICE. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 25/7/2017)

In June, protesters against federal agents’ rounding up more than 100 Iraqi-American immigrants told local media that those who were detained had no prior warning that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would be arresting them.

The report shared that U.S. Democratic Reps. Sander Levin and Brenda Lawrence of Michigan joined members of the Chaldean Christian community gathered in front of the Patrick V. McNamara Federal Building. They held up signs, crosses and American flags, venting their frustration against federal authorities who detained their father, brothers and uncles, many of whom have been in the community for decades.

Late June 20, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington released a letter that conference officials sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, urging him from a moral perspective to defer deportation of the individuals apprehended by ICE, particularly Christians and Chaldean Catholics, “who pose no threat to U.S. public safety” and would be sent back to a region where the persecution of religious minorities continues.

VOP note: Please speak out and pray for our Iraqi brothers and sisters to remain safe in our country.

Iraqi Assyrian Girl Freed From Islamic State Says ‘Mum, Dad’ Again

Iraqi Assyrian Christina Ezzo Abada, a former hostage of Islamic State militants for three years, sits next to her sister inside a cramped home at a refugee camp in Erbil, Iraq June 10, 2017. ( Reuters/Erik De Castro)

(AINA) Reuters– A six-year old Iraqi Christian girl, kidnapped by Islamic State when she was three, was reunited with her family on Friday, and getting used to saying “mum” and “dad” once more.

“The best day of my life is the day when Christina came back,” said her mother, Aida Nuh, on Saturday.

Dark circles around her eyes are evidence of sleepless nights since August 2014, when the militants snatched Christina from her, a few weeks after overrunning the town of Qaraqosh, 15 km (10 miles) southeast of Mosul.

“She stayed three years with the terrorists. Of course she forgot who her mother is, who her father is, that we are her family, but she will learn again.”

Islamic State has kidnapped thousands of men, women and children from Iraq’s minorities, mainly Yazidis.

Christians who did not or could not escape in time were faced with an ultimatum – pay a tax for protection, convert to Islam, or die by the sword. Some, like Christina, were kidnapped.

Christian families who remained in Qaraqosh were forcibly displaced on Aug. 22, 2014. The militants took away Christina from the minibus which had driven them to the edge of Islamic State territory, after threatening Aida, who desperately resisted.

The family’s efforts to track her though Arab friends were rewarded on Friday, when they got a call telling them Christina had been found in Hayy al-Tanak, a poor neighborhood of Mosul.

Eighth months into the U.S-backed offensive to take back Mosul, all of the city has fallen to Iraqi government forces except a pocket by the western bank of the Tigris river.

We went to a dirty place in Hayy el-Tanak (..), we took the child,” said Christina’s blind father, Khader Touma, wearing dark glasses and surrounded by the family now complete with the return of his youngest daughter.

Her two sisters and two brothers had escaped to Kurdish territory before the arrival of the militants.

“I’m with mum and dad,” said Christina, playing with a plastic toy, in a mobile home for displaced people in Ankawa, a Christian suburb of the Kurdish capital Erbil, east of Mosul.

The parents said they now hoped to emigrate, to put their ordeal behind them.

In the meantime, they face a long wait in the cramped cabin, because their home in Qaraqosh was almost completely destroyed in the fighting to dislodge the militants.

Syndicated News
By Hamuda Hassan and Isabel Coles

Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Andrew Bolton.

Half of Syria and Iraq’s Christians have left since 2011, says report

(World Watch Monitor) Three years to the day since the Islamic State group took control of the Iraqi city of Mosul, a new report estimates that 50-80% of the Christian populations of Iraq and Syria have emigrated since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

The arrival of IS was only the “tipping point” of a trend already gathering pace as Christians experienced an “overall loss of hope for a safe and secure future”, according to the report, produced by Christian charities Open Doors, Served and Middle East Concern.

The report also notes that for the Christians who have settled elsewhere, there is “little incentive” to return, with several interviewees saying “the Middle East is no longer a home for Christians”.

“There is little incentive to return, with several interviewees saying the Middle East is no longer a home for Christians.”

In a policy paper released alongside the report, the three charities call on the EU to help establish an “accountability mechanism” to deal with incidents of religious and ethnic persecution and discrimination in Iraq and Syria.

“Creating a national accountability mechanism for grievances is a long-term solution which aims to restore faith in a system that ensures all religious and ethnic communities are affirmed as equal citizens and deserving of protection, while also deterring negative actors from taking adverse actions against these communities,” the charities write.

They urge the EU to “advocate for the establishment of the mechanism through its contacts with the Iraqi and Syrian governments” and to provide funding, technical support and monitoring. The mechanism, the charities add, “should be transparent and inclusive, ensuring all key stakeholders at all levels (government, community leaders, civil society and the public) are represented adequately”.

Major findings

The report, ‘Understanding the recent movements of Christians leaving Syria and Iraq’, acknowledges the difficulty of producing definitive figures, as it estimates that the overall Christian population of Iraq has reduced from “well over 300,000” in 2014 to 200,000-250,000 today – “many” of whom are now displaced internally. In Syria, meanwhile, the charities estimate that the Christian population of around 2 million in 2011 has “roughly halved”.

“Factors for leaving included the violence of conflict, including the almost complete destruction of some historically Christian towns in the Nineveh plains of northern Iraq, the emigration of others and loss of community, the rate of inflation and loss of employment opportunities, and the lack of educational opportunities,” the report notes. “While direct violence, such as the movements of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, was the tipping point for displacement, the ultimate decision to leave the countries was portrayed as an accumulation of factors over time.”

A greater number of Christians are thought to have left Syria, but only because the initial population was higher, according to the report, which adds that a greater proportion of Iraq’s Christians have left the country.

The Christians have emigrated via a range of routes, including resettlement programmes through churches, formal refugee registration and “illegal routes” – though the deaths of Christians trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe have reportedly “dissuaded some”, while “the high price of these routes have made them unavailable for others”.

Lebanon has reportedly taken in the most Christians, while thousands more have resettled in Jordan and Turkey, and a smaller number in European countries such as Sweden and Germany. However, “recent policy changes, as well as living conditions, have made arrival or staying in many of these countries, such as Sweden, incredibly difficult”, the report concludes, adding: “There were reports of returns [home], but many expressed the sentiment that Christians have given up hope of returning.”

However, the charities note that “many” of those who remain “want to play their part in rebuilding the shattered societies of Iraq and Syria. They want to be seen as Iraqi or Syrian citizens, enjoying the full rights of citizenship, such as equality before the law and full protection of their right to freedom of religion or belief, including the ability for everyone to freely worship, practise, teach, choose and change their religion. They are not calling for special privileges as a religious minority.”

IRAQ – Bishops ask for international protection for Christians in the Nineveh Plain

Mosul (Agenzia Fides) – The widespread statement released on Friday 12 May by three Syriac Bishops (a Syirac-Catholic and two Syriac-Orthodox) in northern Iraq, asking for the creation of a protected area reserved for Christians in the Nineveh Plain to be placed under international protection, to take away Iraqi baptized from sectarian persecution and violence, is causing embarrassment.

The Nineveh Province, scattered by Christian-majority towns and villages, was conquered by the jihadists of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (Daesh) between spring and summer 2014. In those months, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians fled from their villages in front of the advancing jihadist militia, finding shelter in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The statement issued last Friday to regional and national authorities and to international organizations was signed by two Archbishops of Mosul – Syriac Catholic Boutros Moshe and Syriac Orthodox Mar Nicodemus Daud Matti Sharaf – and by Mar Timotheos Musa al Shamany, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Bartellah. The three Archbishops ask to transform the Nineveh Plain into an autonomous area under UN international protection to take it away from conflicts and safeguard the rights of Christian communities that have their traditional roots in those lands. The statement also claimed the right of administrative autonomy for Christian communities in the Nineveh Plain.

On Saturday, May 13, the Chaldean Patriarchate issued an official statement to underline that the statement released the previous day does not reflect the position of the Chaldean Church, and does not represent it. The Patriarchate’s statement refers to a recent statement by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako. In that text, as reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides 6/5/2017), the Primate of the Chaldean Church underlined that in this critical stage the priority for so many displaced Iraqi Christian is to try to return to their home towns. This implies the urgent need to rebuild the destroyed infrastructure, also taking advantage of international aid. But only after the return of stability in the Country, processes to require the creation of new autonomous administrative units can be initiated, such as instruments to protect the rights and continuity of minority ethnic-religious groups”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 15/5/2017)

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