Category Archives: Palestinian Authority Territories
- Sudan Orders Demolition of at Least 25 Church Buildings, Christian Leaders Say February 20, 2017
- Hope for victims of the Nigerian conflict claiming more lives than Boko Haram February 19, 2017
- Pastor in India Assaulted by Hindu Extremists February 19, 2017
- Demonstration of Christian Iraqi refugees: we do not want to go back to our Country February 14, 2017
- Iranian Christian Prisoner On Hunger Strike in Critical Health Condition February 13, 2017
- Pakistani Christians ‘attacked’ as land dispute escalates February 11, 2017
- Christian, 70, Charged with Blasphemy in Pakistan as 106 Muslims Are Acquitted February 8, 2017
- Indonesia Christians seek action against Islamists February 3, 2017
- Uganda: Pastor and Others Missing after Muslims Beat Men and Rape Women in Congregation February 2, 2017
- Christian Jailed in Chiapas, Mexico Told to Leave Area in Exchange for Freedom February 1, 2017
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(AINA) Klaus Wivel is a reporter writing for the Danish weekly Weekendavisen. His book about Middle Eastern Christians, The Last Supper: The Plight of Christians in Arab Lands, was just published in the United States. Wivel sat down with me recently to discuss his book, the Christian community in the Middle East, how those Christians are received in Europe, and what the future holds.
THE WEEKLY STANDARD: What drew you to the story of Middle East Christians?
KLAUS WIVEL: I started writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1998. At the time of the Second Intifada, 2000-2005, it became increasingly evident that Palestinian Christians felt vulnerable. They had been an instrumental part of the Palestinian national movement, but the character of Palestinian nationalism shifted in a more Islamic direction during those years. The Christians told me that they felt like strangers in their own land, and began to leave by the thousands. I was told by Christians in Bethlehem that if the emigration kept going at this pace, no Christians would be left in a couple of decades, besides a few monks and custodians maintaining the holy sites. Being only two percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, this assessment wasn’t an exaggeration.
Around 2006 even more catastrophic news made its way from Iraq where it was stated that up to two thirds of the Christian population–among the oldest in the world–had left the country. Several churches were bombed, priests were killed, Christians were kidnapped by the thousands, and whole areas of the major cities Baghdad and Mosul were being evicted.
Then in 2011, following the Arab Spring and the ouster of then-president Hosni Mubarak, the same stories were heard in Egypt. Christians here, too, were under attack and with even less protection from the security forces than they’d received under Mubarak. I decided at that point to travel to the area to investigate the story myself.
TWS: How does the Sunni-Shiite conflict affect Middle East Christians?
WIVEL: In Iraq, Christians were caught in the middle during the war. It’s worth remembering that the Christians in Iraq where not a part of the civil war and had no armed militias. They were left more or less unprotected. Both Shiites and Sunnis would kill or kidnap Christians, although it’s unclear whether their crimes had anything to do with religion or sectarian strife or if it was simply local thugs using the shield of militant jihad to get rich from hostage taking.
In Syria it’s a little different. Here the Christians have been allied with the Assad regime, made up of Alawites, who constitute a heterodox branch of Shia Islam. For that reason Sunnis have attacked Christians who are seen as Assad loyalists.
In Lebanon the Christians are divided against themselves. One part has been aligned with the Sunnis since the pro-democracy March 14 movement ousted the Syrians from Lebanon following the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. The other part of the Lebanese Christian community, led by Michel Aoun, is siding with Hezbollah.
TWS: What do the Middle East Christians want from the Christians of the West, especially North America and Europe?
WIVEL: Attention. Many of the Christians I met were baffled by the fact that the Christian West was not up in arms about this. But it’s a delicate matter. Some Christians think–especially among the clergy–that if Western governments state the case of the persecution of the Christians too forcefully, they will really place the Christians in the poisonous position of being accused of being lackeys of the West.
I’m certain that this was one of the main reasons why Western governments gave no warnings about the persecution of Iraqi Christians during the Iraqi war. They feared that if they did that, the invasion would be viewed as a Christian invasion, a “crusade”, a word President Bush learned the hard way never to use again. It was a fair point, but silence didn’t help either. Today there are hardly any Christians left in the areas outside of Kurdistan.
This is why it was important when Secretary of State John Kerry recognized Islamic State atrocities against minorities as a genocide. Nonetheless, Christians and Yazidis living in Kurdish refugee camps lack everything, including the most basic supplies like food and medicine. This is a scandal. If we can’t find the means to help the ones who are still in the area it’s no wonder millions of refugees are going to Europe. Our priorities need to be fixed.
TWS: Have lots of Middle East Christians found refuge in Europe? Are you working with Christian groups in Europe now to help Christians from the Middle East?
WIVEL: Many don’t realize the dire nature of the situation. In my home country, Denmark–officially a Christian nation, but among the most secular places on the planet–the most unpleasant experience a priest ever will encounter is preaching to an empty church. Middle Eastern Christians tend to choose to go to the Americas. They view Europe as a post-Christian society. However, there are some exceptions. For instance, the Swedish town of SÃ¶dertÃ¤lje has welcomed Christian immigrants since the 1970s, first from Turkey, then from Syria, and since 2003 from Iraq. SÃ¶dertÃ¤lje accepted more refugees from the Iraqi war than the US did.
TWS: How does this end for Middle East Christians? The Jews built their own state, but this is unlikely with the Christians. So does someone step in and save their towns and regions, or is this a community on the verge of disappearing?
WIVEL: There’s certainly a feeling among the Iraqi Christians that after 2000 years the Christian presence in Iraq, outside of the Kurdish area, is finished. Everyone knows that Sunni Muslim locals helped Islamic State in pointing out where the Christians lived in the summer of 2014 so that they could be evicted, enslaved or killed. Even if Islamic State is defeated the distrust toward the locals is monumental.
Many call for a safe zone in the Nineveh Plains guarded by troops from the international community, but that’s doubtful. In other Arab countries like Egypt, Christians will continue to leave, but since there are several millions still living there, there will continue to be Christian presence for a long time. There are two things preventing Middle East Christians from leaving. First is that there is no Christian version of Israel where they can find refuge in the region. Second, migration to the West is becoming increasingly difficult. Europeans are not more welcoming of Christians than of Muslims.
VOP PRAYER REQUEST:
With no end to radicalism and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East in sight, the signs seem to point to the prophesies and intensifying violence and battle in this war torn region. No matter your political or spiritual view regarding the current unrest, as Christians we can unite on the front line in the fight together in prayer.
- Almighty God, in the name of Jesus defend your faithful in their time of need. Help them endure all that may come against them. Comfort them in their suffering, fear and grief.
- We pray freedom for those held captive.
- We ask that you intervene when violence and evil plots against your people.
- Father, help them to forgive.
- Oh God, give us your heart for the persecuted Church and for the persecutors.
- Refresh your Church with the Holy Spirit.
- May your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
- Come quickly Lord Jesus, our Savior.
In His Holy name, we ask these things. Amen.
by Raymond Ibrahim
“Teachers who teach western education? We will kill them! We will kill them in front of their students, and tell the students to henceforth study the Quran.” — Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, which has slaughtered Christian teachers and students, but has not been designated a terrorist group.
On July 4th, the day after the Egyptian military liberated its nation from Muslim Brotherhood rule, Christian Copts were immediately scapegoated and targeted. All Islamist leaders—from Brotherhood supreme leader Muhammad Badi, to Egyptian-born al-Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri, to top Sunni cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi—made a point to single out Egypt’s Copts as especially instrumental in the ousting of former Islamist president Morsi, a claim that ushered in a month of slaughter against the nation’s Christian minority.
Among other events in July, unprecedented numbers of Christian churches were attacked, plundered, desecrated, and torched. According to one Egyptian human rights lawyer, “82 churches, many of which were from the 5th century, were attacked by pro-Morsi supporters in just two days.” Al-Qaeda’s flag was raised above some churches; anti-Christian graffiti littered the sides of other churches and Coptic homes. Due to extreme anti-Christian sentiment, many churches ceased holding worship services until recently. Dozens of Coptic homes and businesses were also attacked, looted and torched.
In the Sinai, a young Coptic priest was shot dead in front of his church, while the body of Magdy Lam’i Habib, a Copt, was found beheaded and mutilated. Four other Christians were slaughtered by Muslims in the province of Luxor. Entire towns and villages have been emptied of Copts, including the eviction of more than 100 Christian families from El Arish in the terror-infested Sinai.
Coptic Pope Tawadros II left the papal residence at St. Mark Cathedral —which had been savagely attacked when Morsi was still president— for a time due to death threats, and temporarily discontinued holding services.
The rest of July’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, (but is not limited to,) the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, and not according to severity:
Attacks on Christian Worship: Churches and Monasteries
Guinea: During a mob-led frenzy, Christians and their churches were savagely attacked in the Muslim-majority nation; some 95 Christians were slain and 130 wounded. In Nzérékoré, five churches, as well as the homes of pastors, were attacked by Muslim mobs. One priest recounted the violence: “The two Catholic and Protestant churches have all been ransacked and burned… Almost all the houses and shops belonging to Christians or people affiliated with Christians, have not escaped the fury of the attackers.” Similarly, the Catholic area, including the quarters of the nuns, was looted before being torched. In Moribadou, the violence lasted three days and saw at least 10 churches destroyed.
Indonesia: According to the Annual Report published by IndonesianChristian.org, a Protestant organization monitoring the nation’s Christian community, the pressures against Christian communities in Aceh “have become intolerable. Within a year, with non-existent legal pretexts, 17 house churches have been closed: these also include Catholic chapels. The Islamization of the province continues, just as promised by the governor Abdullah.” The forced closure of places of worship and threats against Protestant congregations, says the text, “increase unabated… The behavior of local authorities is a potential threat to the tolerant atmosphere we see deteriorating over time.” Behind this upsurge is the current governor of Aceh, Zaini Abdullah, who earlier spent years in exile in Sweden for his separatist activities. During his election campaign, the Islamic politician frequently said that “he would not hesitate to apply the Koranic laws in the province.” Months after his victory, those words have become reality.
Nigeria: Members or supporters of the Islamist organization Boko Haram set off four bombs planted near three Protestant churches in Kano city, killing at least 45 people. Local Christians were meeting for Bible study at Christ Salvation Pentecostal Church when one explosion hit, and 39 bodies were recovered in the area; another bomb went off as Christians were meeting at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church; and an explosion apparently targeting Peniel Baptist Church failed to affect the building.
Palestinian Authority Territories: Nuns of the Greek-Orthodox monastery in Bethany sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him and other PA leaders to respond to the escalation of attacks on the Christian house, including theft and looting of the monastery property, broken glass and the throwing of stones. “Someone wants to send us away,” wrote Sister Ibraxia to Abbas, “but we will not flee.” Added to complications, and as increasingly happens to other monasteries, such as a 5th century monastery in Turkey, a Muslim family has, according to local sources, “arbitrarily” claimed the monastery’s land.
Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytizing
Pakistan: Asia Bibi, a Christian mother on death row since June 2009 for allegedly blaspheming Islam’s prophet Muhammad, may have to wait another two years before the appeal against her blasphemy conviction is heard. In November 2010, she was sentenced to death. The chairman of the Human Liberation Commission in Pakistan has been lobbying the country’s chief justice for Asia’s appeal to be heard as soon as possible but has received no response. Also, a Christian couple was arrested for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages to a Muslim cleric in Gojra, where a week earlier a young Christian man was sentenced to life in prison on the same charge. Shafqat Masih, 43, and his wife Shagufta, 40, who have four children between the ages of 5 and 11, were taken into custody on a complaint by Muslim cleric Rana Muhammad Ejaz, who alleged that he had received blasphemous text messages from Masih. Gojra City police registered the case under Section 295-C of Pakistan’s widely condemned “blasphemy laws” against defaming Islam’s prophet, Muhammad. Conviction is punishable by death or life in prison (in Pakistan, actually 25 years).
Iran: Mostafa Bordbar, a Muslim convert to Christianity who, along with several other Christians, was arrested in December 2012 while celebrating Christmas, was tried in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. He is one of several Christian prisoners currently being held for their faith in ward 350 of Evin prison. According to Mohabat News, the court registered the charges against him as “illegal gathering and participating in a house church.” If found guilty, he can be sentenced to anywhere from two to ten years in prison. In 2007, he was arrested for converting to Christianity and participating in a house church. His interrogator at the time charged him with “apostasy,” a charge still on his record.
Sudan: Apparently responding to the vitality of the Christian church, Ammar Saleh, the head of the Islamic Centre for Preaching and Comparative Studies, chastised the government for not taking decisive action against Christians operating “boldly,” thereby leading to the apostasy of many Muslim converts to Christianity. According to the International Christian Concern (ICC), Saleh “argued that anyone who believes there’s growth in Sudan’s Islamic faithful is ‘living on Mars,’ drawing attention to increasing proselytizing and an exodus of Muslims to Christianity… He also stated that the government’s efforts to curb the rise of Christianity were timid compared to efforts of missionaries to lead people to Christ.” Meanwhile, according to the ICC, “Churches are being forced to close down, foreign workers are being kicked out of the country and Christians are constantly pressurized by the government and society in all kinds of ways, so much so that the recent increase in Christian persecution in Sudan moved the country from being ranked 16th on the 2012 Open Doors World watch List to 12th in 2013.”
Dhimmitude: A Climate of Hate and Contempt
Iraq: Kidnapped on May 27, the body of Salem Dawood Coca, a Christian, was found inside the truck he was driving when he was abducted. According to the Assyrian International News Agency [AINA], “The truck was booby trapped with explosives, and it is believed that he was forced to carry out a suicide bombing, but refused to do so. The kidnappers had contacted Mr. Coca’s family but had not demanded a ransom and described him as a ‘Christian infidel.'” Mr. Coca leaves behind a wife and several children.
Kurdistan: A Muslim ambulance driver refused to transport the deceased body of a Christian woman from the hospital to the church; in traditional Muslim theology, being near the deceased body of an infidel is dangerous, as the torture reserved for them could spread. As Asia News puts it, “The body of the Assyrian woman, who died last Sunday at Zarkari hospital in Erbil, had to be brought to the town of Ankawa, but the Muslim ambulance driver refused to drive to the church because it is ‘haram‘ [forbidden)] in Islam.”
Nigeria: Increasing numbers of Christian girls in Muslim-majority areas, where the Islamist group Boko Haram holds sway, are being abducted, kept in the homes of Muslim leaders and forced to renounce their faith. According to Professor Daniel Babayi, secretary of the Northern Christian Association of Nigeria, the issue is getting severely worse: “Christian girls below the age of 18 are forcefully abducted and made to denounce their faith… They have been kept in the houses of emirs or imams. When we report to the police, they tell you there is nothing they can do. The police have become very helpless. In some instances, they are part of the conspiracy.” Last year, Boko Haram had declared that it would begin doing precisely this—kidnap Christian women—as a way “to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam.”
Pakistan: Farhad Masih, a 16-year-old Christian boy, was arrested and beaten on the accusation that he was involved with a Muslim girl, a relationship forbidden in Islam. A Muslim mob also tried to burn and loot his family’s house. Local Muslim leaders have made several despotic stipulations, including that the boy must either convert to Islam or die. The same type of hostility occurred earlier in April 2013, when three Christian youth were arrested, tortured, and killed by Pakistani police for allegedly having “love affairs” with Muslim girls.
Syria: According to AINA, the “Assyrian village of Tel Hormizd was attacked on Saturday, July 27 at about midnight. Fifty Arab Muslims on motorcycles entered the village and began a shooting rampage. According to residents, the Muslims fired indiscriminately, wounding two Assyrians, one of whom is still in hospital.” Also, al-Qaeda linked rebel fighters abducted Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, a prominent Italian Jesuit priest—who ironically had reportedly championed the uprising against Bashar al-Assad—most likely for ransom or beheading.
In July, several atrocities were committed during the jihad [war in the cause of Islam] on Nigeria’s Christians, including:
· At least 28 were killed in a series of explosions throughout a Christian neighborhood in the Muslim-majority northern city of Kano. The attacks happened in the evening while people were out “to enjoy the area’s nightlife.” The same neighborhood had been targeted in the past by Boko Haram, which is responsible for killing more than 2,000 people. Although several nations have designated the group a terrorist organization, the current U.S. government refuses to do so, even as several American policymakers push for the designation.
· At least 30 Christian men, women and children were slain in three villages in the southern Plateau state on June 27 by Islamic extremists suspected to be from outside of Nigeria; they raided the villages and massacred all in sight. Initially a Muslim spokesman for the military’s Special Task Force said the Christian residents of Magama, Bolgong and Karkashi were attacked by Muslim Fulani herdsmen “in apparent retaliation for cattle theft.” Later, however, the military said that many of the culprits were not even Nigerian. “The number of Christians killed may be as high as 70, as corpses of Christians killed while fleeing these attacked villages still litter the bushes,” said a witness. “The Muslim attackers chased their Christian victims on motorcycles and were killing them as they tried to escape. So many dead bodies have been recovered from the bush, and we believe that more may still be found…. So far, we have recorded over 100 houses that have been burnt down by the rampaging Muslim Fulani attackers in these villages.”
· According to Christian Today, Boko Haram “has repeatedly attacked Christian communities and churches, most recently killing 40 at a boarding school in Yobe state on 6 July. A dormitory was set aflame while the children were sleeping; those trying to escape were gunned down. A month earlier, 16 other students were shot dead in attacks on a secondary school in Yobe and another school in Borno. True to its name, “Boko Haram,” or “Western Education is a Sin,” the group has recently asserted, “Teachers who teach western education? We will kill them! We will kill them in front of their students, and tell the students to henceforth study the Quran.”
· Islamic gunmen, as has become increasingly common, raided the Christian village of Dinu, in the southern Plateau state, before church services on an early Sunday morning, and slaughtered six Christians. A month earlier, Muslim Fulani herdsmen had shot another Christian to death in a nearby village and destroyed the churches of four villages.
About this Series
Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions, “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, Muslim 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 Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death those who “offend” Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East, and throughout the West wherever there are Muslims—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.
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.