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“Our Lives Have Turned into Hell”

Report Series: Muslim Persecution of Christians, May 2017 by Raymond Ibrahim (Gatestone Institute)

  • Long touted as a beacon of Muslim tolerance and moderation, Indonesia joined other repressive Muslim nations in May when it sentenced the Christian governor of Jakarta, known as “Ahok,” to a two-year prison term on the charge that he committed “blasphemy” against Islam.
  • The blasphemy accusation is based on a video that Ahok made, in which he told voters that they were being deceived if they believed that Koran 5:51, as his opposition said, requires Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim when there are Muslim candidates available. The Koran passage states: “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you — then indeed, he is one of them.”
  • “Morocco’s 2011 constitution allows for freedom of religion. The authorities claim to practice only a moderate form of Islam that leaves room for religious tolerance. Yet, in reality, Moroccan Christians still suffer from persecution.” Mustafa said: “I was shunned at work. My children were bullied at school.”

One month after Islamic militants bombed two Egyptian churches during Palm Sunday and killed nearly 50 people in April 2017, several SUVs, on May 26, stopped two buses transporting dozens of Christians to the ancient Coptic Monastery of St. Samuel the Confessor in the desert south of Cairo. According to initial reports, approximately ten Islamic militants, heavily armed and dressed in military fatigues, “demanded that the passengers recite the Muslim profession of faith” — which is tantamount to converting to Islam. When they refused, the jihadis opened fire on them, killing 29 Christians, at least ten of whom were young children. Two girls were aged 2 and 4. Also killed was Mohsen Morkous, an American citizen described as “a simple man” whom “everyone loved,” his two sons, and his two grandsons.

According to eyewitness accounts, the terrorists ordered the passengers to exit the bus in groups:

“As each pilgrim came off the bus they were asked to renounce their Christian faith and profess belief in Islam, but all of them—even the children—refused. Each was killed in cold blood with a gunshot to the head or the throat.

“By the time they killed half of the people, the terrorists saw cars coming in the distance and we think that that is what saved the rest,” said one source. “They did not have time to kill them all. They just shot at them randomly and then fled.”

According to another report:

“The dead and dying lay in the desert sand amid Islamic leaflets left by the assailants extoling the virtues of fasting during Ramadan and forgiveness granted to those who abstain from eating during the Islamic ritual. Ramadan … is often seen as the worst time for persecution of Christians who live in the Middle East.”

video of the immediate aftermath “showed at least four or five bodies of adult men lying on the desert sand next to the bus; women and other men screamed and cried as they stood or squatted next to the bodies.” According to a man who spoke to hospitalized relatives, “authorities took somewhere from two to three hours to arrive at the scene.” The man “questioned whether his uncle and others might have lived had the response been quicker.

The attack occurred in the middle of a three-month state of emergency that began 47 days earlier, on Sunday, April 9, when twin attacks on Coptic Christian churches left some 49 Christians slaughtered. The December before that, 29 other Christians were killed during another set of twin attacks on churches. Both before and after the monastery attack, dozens of Christians, mostly in Sinai, but some in Egypt proper, were killed in cold blood, often decapitated or burned alive. According to a May 9 report, “A [Christian] father and his two sons were recently kidnapped by ISIS and their bodies were finally found over the weekend.”

Days before the latest attack on Middle Eastern Christians, Fox News journalist Shannon Bream announced a forthcoming television segment on the growth of Christian persecution around the world. In response, Matthew Dowd of ABC News tweeted , “Maybe you can talk about the bigger problem which is persecution of Muslims in America and around the globe. Bigger issue…. Muslims are threatened every day in America, by right wing Christian extremists.” Christians, however, are currently the world’s most persecuted religion: 90,000 died for their faith in 2016. And 12 of the 14 worst nations in which Christians are persecuted are Islamic. (The two that are not are North Korea and Eritrea.)

The rest of May’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Muslim Slaughter of Christians

Mexico: On May 15, a knife-wielding Muslim attacked and tried to behead a Catholic priest while he officiated at the altar of the nation’s largest cathedral, the Metropolitan Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. The assailant, apparently named John Rene Rockschiil and possibly of French origin, managed to plunge the knife into the neck of Fr. Miguel Angel Machorro, 55, before being restrained by parishioners. Fr. Miguel later died of his wounds.

Germany: A Muslim man and asylum-seeker stabbed and killed a Christian woman with a kitchen knife in front of her two children near a public market. Those who knew the slain woman, an Afghan who had converted to Christianity eight years earlier, said she was a successful “example of integration”. “A religious motivation is being examined” said officials— apostasy from Islam does earn death — “although we cannot confirm this yet,” police spokesman Stefan Sonntag said.

Philippines: In late May, a jihadi uprising of Philippine Muslim militants, including ISIS-linked Indonesians and Malaysians, erupted in the Islamic City of Marawi. In the initial carnage, Muslim militants stopped a bus, and when they discovered that nine passengers were Christian, they were tied together and shot dead, execution style. “I am pissed by those kinds of people,” said a local. “They kill defenseless people. The militants also torched a school and a church. One official called the violence an “invasion by foreign terrorists, who heeded the call of Isis to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq and Syria.” It took more than three days for the military to quell the uprising; meanwhile, 15 members of the security forces and 31 militants were killed.

Kenya: On May 12, two militant Muslims shouting “Allahu Akbar” — and suspected of being connected to neighboring Somalia’s Al Shabaab terrorist group — shot and killed two non-Muslims, one of whom was a member of a Pentecostal Church. According to the report, “Predominantly Christian workers from Kenya’s interior have been targeted in a series of Al Shabaab attacks that have shaken Christian communities in Kenya’s northeast”. “These Al Shabbab militants,” said a local Christian leader, “have made some of our Christians to be their scapegoats, as they see Kenya as a Christian country that is fighting to rid Al Shabaab from Somalia.”

Muslim Attacks on Churches and Crosses

Sudan: On Sunday morning, May 7, as Christians were preparing to worship in the Sudanese Church of Christ in Khartoum, authorities arrived with bulldozers and demolished the church. The government, according to the report, claims the church was “built on land zoned for residential or other uses, or… on government land, but church leaders said it is part of wider crack-down on Christianity.” A lawyer, Demas James, said that Sudan was in serious violation of constitutional and international conventions of human rights, and that the building being destroyed on a Sunday shows the government’s lack of respect for Christian holy places: “You can see there is no place for worship left now for the believers to worship.” The demolished church is one of 25 church buildings marked for demolition on the claim that the churches were illegally built. The government has yet to shut down or demolish a single mosque on the same claim.

Austria: Someone described as a “dark skinned immigrant” was videotaped by a bystander’s phone camera throwing things and striking at the large cross in front of the St. Marein parish with a long pole, and causing 15,000 euros’ worth of general damage. Police eventually subdued the “apparently insane man” and took him “to a hospital.” There have been countess instances of Muslim refugees attacking churches and other Christian symbols — the cross, and statues and icons as well — in every European nation that has accepted Muslim migrants.

Bangladesh: The evening of May 10, a Muslim mob vandalized and invaded the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Khagrachhari district. According to the church’s pastor, Stephen Tripura:

“They stormed into the church after kicking and smashing in the door. They attempted to rape my sister and niece who live there by tearing off their clothes. After hearing their cries, local Christians rushed over to help and the attackers fled. My sister and niece moved here to get an education but now they are traumatized…. We didn’t file a case for fear of angering local Muslims further and inviting more violence.”

Islamic Attacks on Christian Freedom

Indonesia: Long touted as a beacon of Muslim tolerance and moderation, Indonesia joined other repressive Muslim nations in May when it sentenced the Christian governor of Jakarta, known as “Ahok,” to a two year prison term on the charge that he committed blasphemy against Islam. According to one report, “The blasphemy accusation was key in Ahok’s defeat in a bid to be re-elected as governor of Jakarta,” and “Islamic extremist groups opposed to having a non-Muslim lead the city organized massive demonstrations against Ahok.” The blasphemy accusation is based on a video that Ahok made in which he told voters that they were being deceived if they believed that Koran 5:51, as his opposition said, requires Muslims not to vote for a non-Muslim when there are Muslim candidates available. The Koran passage states:

“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you—then indeed, he is one of them.”

Effigy used in recent protests against Jakarta’s Christian Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama falsely accused of blasphey.

A five-judge panel concluded that Ahok was “convincingly proven guilty of blasphemy.”

Pakistan: A Christian pastor who has been “tortured every day in prison” since July, 2012 when he was first incarcerated, was sentenced to life in prison in May. Zafar Bhatti, 51, was found guilty of sending “blasphemous”[1] text messages from his mobile phone, but human rights activists contend that the charge “was fabricated to remove him from his role as a Pastor.” His wife, Nawab Bibi, says:

“Many Muslim people hated how quickly his church was growing; they have taken this action to undermine his work… I wish our persecutors would see that Christians are not evil creatures. We are human beings created by God the same God that created them although they do not know this yet… There have been numerous attempts to kill my husband — he is bullied everyday and he is not safe from inmates and prison staff alike.”

In 2014, he “narrowly escaped assassination after a rogue prison officer,” Muhammad Yousaf, went on a shooting spree “to kill all inmates accused of blasphemy against Islam.” Bhatti is one of countless Christian minorities to suffer under Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has helped make that country the fourth-worst nation in the world, after North Korea, Somalia, and Afghanistan, in which to be Christian. Asia Bibi, a Christian wife and mother has been on death row since 2010 on the accusation that she insulted Muhammad.

As Bhatti was being sentenced to life in Pakistan, all charges against Noreen Leghari — a 20-year-old Muslim medical student who was arrested in connection to a planned suicide attack on a church packed for Easter celebrations — were dropped and she was set free. During a televised public statement, Major General Asif Ghafoor, voicing public concern and compassion for her, and indicated that it would be a shame to destroy her career. As Wilson Chowdhry, a human rights activist, remarked, however:

“How many of these same Pakistani citizens would be so forgiving had Miss Legahri planned to bomb a Muslim School?…. If it were Muslims that were targeted by Legahri I am certain many of the campaigners would find her crime too offensive for granting a pardon – Christian lives are ostensibly less valuable in Pakistan…. It is hard to believe the deep-rooted hatred that Miss Leghari had towards Christians that led to her becoming a suicide recruit, has simply vanished…. I asked several Pakistani Christians whether they would trust a doctor who had previously attempted to bomb a Church on Easter Day, to administer care for them. It was no surprise to me that the unanimous response was a resounding no.”

Morocco: Converts to Christianity in the 99.6% Muslim majority nation are coming out of the closets, complaining of their treatment and “demand[ing] the right to give our children Christian names, to pray in churches, to be buried in Christian cemeteries and to marry according to our religion,” said Mustapha, a convert since 1994, who, along with other converts, wrote a request to the official National Council of Human Rights to end the persecution of Christians in Morocco. According to the report, “even though the state religion is Islam, Morocco’s 2011 Constitution allows for freedom of religion. The authorities claim to practice only a moderate form of Islam that leaves room for religious tolerance. Yet, in reality, Moroccan Christians still suffer from persecution.” Accordingly, “[f]or two decades, Mustapha kept his faith in Christ secret.” When he finally came out in public about his conversion less than two years ago, all his friends and family “turned their backs on me,” he said: “I was shunned at work. My children were bullied at school.”

Muslim Contempt and Hate for Christians

Iraq: One of the Shia-majority nation’s leading Shia clerics, Sheikh Alaa Al-Mousawi — who heads the government body which maintains all of Iraq’s Shia holy sites, including mosques and schools — described Christians in a video as “infidels and polytheists” and stressed the need for “jihad” against them.

Pakistan: Mian Mir Hospital, which is run by the City District Government of Lahore, was exposed as forcing Christian paramedics and staffers “to either recite verses from the Holy Quran at morning assembly or be marked absent for the day,” says a report. This news came to light when the Medical-Superintendent, Dr. Muhammad Sarfraz, “slapped a Christian paramedical staffer for not attending the assembly.” The act led to staff protests against Dr. Muhammad and other supervisors. “Experts said extremism was creeping into public hospitals and was a massive concern for law enforcement agencies,” continues the report.

Separately, when a Christian girl in the Pakistani public school system sought “to study Ethics rather than Islamic Studies because of her Christian beliefs,” says a report, her Muslim teacher informed her that “if she refused to take a class in Islamic studies, she must leave…. The teacher also ordered her Muslim students to avoid eating with the Christian girl because of her faith.” According to the teenage Christian girl, Muqadas Sukhraj, her problems started in early April:

“… class teacher, Zahida Parveen unnecessarily began creating problems for me and expressing her displeasure with me because I chose Ethics. First, the teacher argued over the textbook of the Ethics class. Then she sent me out of the class as punishment. Later, she told me that if I could not study Islamic education, then why do I study in a Muslim school in the first place? She even told me, that, when she comes into the class, I must leave.”

Much of this is in keeping with ongoing revelations, including a 2016 report by Pakistan’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, which found that the government continues to issue textbooks that promote religious hatred for non-Muslims.

Also separately, after a fist fight broke out when a Muslim teenager snatched a Christian teenager’s phone, a mob of armed Muslims responded by attacking Christians in Phul Nagar, District Kasur in Punjab Province. According to the report:

“The armed men pitilessly bashed every person who came in their sight on the streets. What is more they stormed into the houses of Christians and sta[r]ted beating the Christians. They also resorted to aerial firing, therefore, causing terrors and harassment in the entire neighborhood. The attackers did not spare Christian women, and beat them also.”

Christians informed local police, who did not arrest any of the assailants, although they are known to police by name and face.

Uganda: Area Muslims continue to hound Pastor Christopher James Kalaja for having filed a court case against sword-waving, “Allahu Akbar”-screaming Muslims who earlier destroyed his farm, home, and church. “We just want to inform you that the battle is now on, and you risk losing the whole family,” read one text message he received after formally filing a police case. According to his wife, who lives in hiding, he “makes a brief appearance at our current residence because the Muslims are trailing him. They can do anything to kill him, so as [to] stop the court case to proceed since he is the key witness.” The couple’s seven children are also “very fearful” and constantly asking “Why are we here? What have we done that we are undergoing such a great suffering?” “These are questions that I cannot answer,” said the mother. “I only tell the children to pray.”

Nigeria: Janet Habila, a 16-year-old Christian youth leader and daughter of “a devoted church leader with the United Mountain of Grace in Shundna village,” was forced to convert to Islam and marry a Muslim man against her will. According to the report, the Christian girl “was enrolled in the tailoring institute in 2016 by her parents … but rather than learning the trade, the parents were shocked to receive a notification of her marriage through a Sharia court.” According to sources, a Muslim man named Nasiru “craftily organized some Muslim men and women in the area to stand as the parents of Janet in court to enable the marriage to take place.”

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians(published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

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“It’s a War on Christians”: Muslim Persecution of Christians, April 2017

 

As in former years, Easter was under attack in various Muslim nations, most spectacularly in Egypt. On April 9, two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday Mass, which initiates Easter holy week, were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers. Twenty-seven people—mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, northern Egypt. “Where is the government?” an angry Christian there asked AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.” Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. Since the original building, founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century, was burned to the ground during the seventh century Muslim invasions of Egypt, the church has been the historic seat of Coptic Christianity. Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—emerged unharmed. About 50 Christians were killed in the two bombings, 126 wounded and many mutilated. (Graphic images/video of aftermath here.)

A few days earlier, on April 1, 3,000 fatwas [opinions by Islamic authorities] inciting the destruction of churches in Egypt had been circulated throughout Egypt. A number of Egyptian Christians interviewed after the twin bombings said that government-funded mosques regularly incite hatred and violence for Christians over their loudspeakers. In other mosques, according to Michael, a middle-aged Christian, “there are prayers to harm Christians. They incite to violence, youths are being filled with hatred against us and acting on it. It concerns us all. It leads to terrorism and to Christians being targeted.” Separately a Christian woman said, “The problem starts at school where children are treated differently. In school some refused to speak to me because I was a Christian.”

In Nigeria, Muslim Fulani herdsmen randomly opened fire on a Christian village. According to Bishop Bagobiri, “The attack came when the people were in the church for the Easter Vigil celebration.” The Muslim gunmen killed “at least 12 persons on the spot, with many injured,” including women and children. Instead of celebrating Easter Sunday, the bishop and a local priest presided over the burial of “at least ten Catholics.” The bishop publicly accused the local governor, a Muslim, of complicity with the perpetrators and bias against their victims.

In Pakistan, a “major terrorist attack” targeting Christians during Easter celebrations was foiled, according to the nation’s military. An Islamic militant was killed and four soldiers injured during the raid. Among the Muslim terrorists arrested was a female second-year medical student who said she was preparing to “martyr” herself as part of a suicide attack on a church during Easter Sunday. Last year in Lahore, an Easter Day Islamic attack left more than 70 people dead.

In Indonesia, 300 Christians from two churches that remain sealed by authorities in West Java, celebrated their fifth Easter by protesting outside the presidential palace in hopes that the president lifts a banning order preventing them from holding services in their own houses of worship. Both churches are legally registered but “are being persecuted by local authorities who refuse to allow them to worship in (more…)

Christian Hungary on Collision Course with European Union’s Islamic ‘Blackmail’

(CBN) BUDAPEST – In a time when most of Europe is in the grips of atheism, there is a nation where Christianity seems to not only be holding its own but some say is thriving.

Imagine a government that is unabashedly Christian, that thinks Christian values are worth defending; that wants to protect and even nourish the family.

Welcome to Hungary.

A Christian Nation

Hungary’s constitution is explicitly Christian, and says that marriage is between one man and one woman and that life begins at conception. It even includes the phrase, “God bless the Hungarians.”

Hungary’s Faith Church, with 300 branches, is one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Europe, with 70,000 attendees.

Help for Persecuted Christians

And the Hungarian government has taken on the role of protecting Christianity. It’s even set up an office to help persecuted Christians worldwide.

When CBN News revealed the story of Sweden’s threat to deport Iranian actress Aideen Strandsson back to certain prison and torture in Islamic Iran, only one nation stepped up and offered her asylum: Hungary.

The Hungarian government says, “Taking in persecuted Christians is our moral and constitutional duty.”

Returning to Its Christian Roots

Hungarian policy analyst István Pócza says Hungary has only returned to its roots as a historic bastion of Christianity, dating back over a thousand years.

“Hungary wants to protect the European values; European Christian Jewish values,” he told CBN News.

Christianity in Hungary has survived almost 200 years of Muslim Ottoman rule and Soviet Communist domination.

Secretary of State Zoltán Kovács told us, “You have to stick to your traditions and legacies. Europe’s legacy is a Christian legacy, not necessarily in a religious form but most definitely in a cultural form.”

Resisting Islamization

And it’s this belief that has Hungary locked in a battle with the European Union over migrants.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán has accused the European Union of trying to Islamize Europe, and Hungary has infuriated Brussels by building a fence to keep illegal migrants out.

Orbán has essentially told the European Union to ‘take a hike’ when it comes to open borders. Hungary has seen the terrorism and chaos caused by migration in Western Europe and has said, “not here.”

The European Union has even gone to court to force Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to take in migrants. Mr. Oban has accused Brussels of “blackmail.”

“Securing the borders to stop illegal migration is indeed a solution, and this is actually the only way to reinstate law and order at the borders of the European union, and not the other way around,” Kovács told CBN News.

Islam Matters

Kovács says it matters that most of the migrants trying to enter Hungary are Muslim. And he says Western European nations are paying a heavy price by pretending that Islam doesn’t matter.

“We’ve been living with and close to Islam for centuries in the past and we know about it. So, that’s why it does matter who has come in and in what manner people are coming,” Kovács told CBN News.

Orbán Is No Putin, Or Is He?

Orbán is often portrayed in the western media as a version of Vladimir Putin; an undemocratic strongman. In fact, at an EU summit in 2015, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly greeted Orbán with the words, “Hello, dictator.”

Hungary is most certainly not a dictatorship. But Orbán’s critics accuse him of corruption and using the instruments of government against his political opponents, including the recent billboard campaign against billionaire George Soros.

Tamás Lattmann of the Institute of International Relations told us, “What we see in Hungary today is the shameless use of public money, of tax money to formulate pro-government messages.”

Bulcsú Hunyadi of the Political Capital Policy Research and Consulting Institute said, “Since 2008 the Hungarian government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been continuously weakening the system of checks and balances and weakening democratic institutions.”

But Orbán, a man who even his critics concede is a skilled politician, doesn’t seem to have a serious political rival, and he will probably remain in power, meaning Hungary’s standoff with the European Union over migrants is likely to escalate.

Is also means that Hungary will continue to have a government that thinks Christianity is worth protecting.

743 Christians Attacked by Muslims in German Refugee Camps

refugeescold_si
As Voice of the Persecuted has reported in the past, Christians fleeing violence are persecuted in Europe’s refugee centers.
(CBN) A new report from a coalition of Christians groups in Germany has found that 743 Christians and 10 Yezidis were victims of religiously motivated attacks in refugee camps so far this year.
The report comes from Open Doors Germany, AVC (Action on Behalf of Persecuted Christians and the Needy), IGFM (International Society for Human Rights), Aid to the Church in Need, and ZOCD (Central Council of Oriental Christians in Germany).
“The situation of Christian refugees in German refugee shelters is still unbearable. As a minority they are discriminated against, beaten up by and receive death threats from Muslim refugees and partly by the Muslim staff (security, interpreters, volunteers) on grounds of their religion,” the report says.
The Christian groups believe attacks on Christians are even more widespread than the number of reported incidents.
They call the survey, “the tip of the iceberg in regard to the number of religiously motivated attacks on Christian refugees and other religious minorities.”
“It must be assumed that there is a high number of unreported cases,” they conclude. “Effective measures for the protection of religious minorities (in refugee camps have) yet to be implemented.”
Voice of the Persecuted Note: Please pray for the safety of our brothers and sisters as they continue to be pressured while seeking safety, not only in Europe but elsewhere.

“Christians Are Untouchables! They Are Meant for Cleaning Our Houses.”

Muslim Migrant Boat Captain Who Threw Praying Christians Overboard, On Trial For Murder

Fleeing refugees risk dangerous seas Photo: Mstyslav Chernov commons.wikimedia.org

Fleeing refugees risk dangerous seas. Photo: Mstyslav Chernov/ commons.wikimedia.org

Cameroonian immigrant has been put on trial in Spain for the murder of six fellow occupants of a flimsy migrant boat because of their Christian religious beliefs.

Survivors of the hellish 2014 crossing from Morocco to the southern shore of Spain described how the accused, the Muslim captain of the inflatable craft identified as Alain N. B., blamed Christian passengers for the onset of a storm and forced six men off the boat to a certain death.

According to some of the 29 survivors from the more than 50 sub-Saharan migrants who boarded the boat near Nador, northern Morocco, the accused “blamed the rough seas which were rocking the boat on the prayers led by a Catholic pastor on board”.

Read survivor accounts of what transpired in the Full Report

 

 

 

 

 

FRANCE: Beloved French Priest Brutally Slaughtered By Jihadists During Church Service

Rev. Jacques Hamel

Rev. Jacques Hamel murdered by jihadists in France

(Voice of the Persecuted) France—Father Jacques Hamel, (age 85), was a French Catholic priest in the parish of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray in the Normandy region in northern France. Local media reported that he still officiated regularly as an auxiliary priest at the church in St Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, and in neighbouring Elbeuf where he would step in when the parish priest was not available.

While leading the service in the absence of the parish priest on Tuesday morning, two Islamic jihadists entered the church and took Father Hamel, two nuns and two worshipers hostage. But they targeted the elderly priest and slit his throat.

Sister Danielle, one of the hostages, was in the church celebrating mass when the men stormed the building. She described the brutality of the attackers.

“‘They told me, “you Christians, you kill us”. They forced him to his knees. He wanted to defend himself. And that’s when the tragedy happened. They recorded themselves. They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It’s a horror.’

While they were attacking the priest, Sister Danielle managed to escape and call for help. Reports claim one of the hostages, an elderly parishioner, suffered severe knife wounds. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility and two of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack.

BBC reported,

When police arrived they tried to negotiate with the attackers, whom prosecutor Francois Molins said had lined up three hostages in front of the door as human shields to prevent police storming the church.

The three – two nuns and one parishioner – exited the church, followed by the attackers, one of whom was carrying a gun, who charged police shouting “Allahu akbar”, Mr Molins added. The pair were shot dead by police.

One of the attackers had fake explosives in a backpack. It would take hours for police to ensure the area was safe.

Father Moanda-Phuati,  the parish priest of the Église St.-Étienne, where Father Hamel served, quickly returned from his trip. He spoke about the martyred priest and told French news agency—Le Figaro,

3699C0C400000578-3708394-A_priest_two_nuns_and_two_churchgoers_were_among_those_held_afte-a-2_1469565202399“He was a courageous priest for his age. Priests have the right to retire at 75 but he preferred to work in the service of the people because he still felt strong. He was very popular, a good man, simple and without extravagance. We benefited greatly from his experience and wisdom at the parish of Saint-Etienne. He served people for most of his life.”

Fr. Hamel was loved by the congregation. In the June 2016 edition of the parish news letter, Fr, Hamel shared,

The summer holiday time:

Spring was rather cool. If our moral was somewhat lowered, patience, was going to happen eventually. And the holidays.
The holidays are a time to take a distance with our usual activities. But this is not a simple bracket. It is a time of relaxation, but also of healing, dating, sharing, conviviality.
A Healing time: Some will take a few days for a retreat or a pilgrimage. Other reread the Gospel, alone or with others, as a word that sustains today. Others can recharge the great book of creation admiring them so different and so beautiful landscape that we rise and we talk about God.
May we hear in those moments God’s invitation to take care of this world, do, where we live, a warmer, more human, more fraternal.
a time to meet with relatives, friends: a time to take the time to experience something together.A time to be considerate of others, whoever they are.
A time of sharing: Sharing our friendship, our joy. Sharing our support to children, showing that they matter to us.
A time of prayer as: Attentive to what happens in our world at this time. Pray for those who are most in need, for peace, for a better living together.
It will still be the year of mercy. Are we attentive heart of beautiful things to each and those who may feel a bit more alone.
Let the holidays allow us to refuel friendship joy and relaxation. Then we can, better equipped, hit the road together.
Happy holidays to all!
Father Jacques

Vatican Radio reported Pope Francis is horrified and shocked by an attack in a church in Rouen, in northern France, where a priest was slain and another hostage was seriously wounded.

A statement released by Fr Federico Lombardi, Director of the Holy See Press Office said: “we are particularly shocked because this horrible violence took place in a Church, in which God’s love is announced, with the barbarous killing of a priest and the involvement of the faithful”.

Fr Lombardi also said the Pope shares the pain and the horror caused by this absurd violence and expresses firm condemnation of every form of hatred and prays for the victims.

French president François Hollande addressed the nation following the church attack. He visited the scene on Tuesday, said the country is now ‘at war’ with ISIS after the terror group claimed responsibility. He warned that the militant threat in the country has never been so severe. He also said France will use all human and physical resources in the war against Islamist militancy.

Swiss missionary kidnapped in Mali ‘still alive’

Beatrice Stockly, left, in Timbuktu 2000. She was first kidnapped in 2012 World Watch Monitor

Beatrice Stockly, left, in Timbuktu 2000. She was first kidnapped in 2012
World Watch Monitor

(World Watch monitor) Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has released a video, purporting to show that a Swiss nun kidnapped in Mali in January is alive and in good health.

The three-minute video, posted on social media yesterday (16 June), shows a veiled Beatrice Stockly speaking in French, saying that she has been detained for 130 days but is in good health and has been treated well, although it has been very hot. She concludes by thanking her family and the Swiss government for all their efforts to secure her release.

Previous report (15 February): Al-Qaeda in Africa has claimed the kidnapping of the Swiss missionary Beatrice Stockly, who was abducted in Mali in January.

In an eight-minute video, in which Stockly appears dressed in a black hijab, a masked speaker with a British accent claims responsibility on behalf of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

“Beatrice Stockly is a Swiss nun who declared war against Islam in her attempt to Christianise Muslims,” the speaker said.

The conditions of her release include setting free AQIM fighters jailed in Mali, and one of their leaders detained at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Switzerland has demanded her unconditional release.

AQIM, which is based in the Sahara Desert between Mali, Niger and Algeria, was involved in the January attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighbouring Burkina Faso, which left 29 dead, including a US missionary and six Canadians visiting the country on behalf of a church. Last week AQIM released Jocelyn Elliott, an Australian Christian woman kidnapped with her husband in northern Burkina Faso on the same day as the attack in the capital. The Islamist group said in an audio recording that it released Mrs Elliott so as “not to make women involved in the war”.

Stockly was taken from her home in Timbuktu by armed gunmen on 7 January. It was the second time she had been kidnapped by Islamists. The most important condition of her release, the speaker in the video said, was that she did not return to any Muslim land preaching Christianity. The Swiss government had warned her not to return to Mali after her release in 2012.

Original report (11 January):

A Swiss missionary abducted for 10 days in 2012 has been kidnapped again in Mali’s northern city of Timbuktu, sources tell World Watch Monitor.

Beatrice Stockly was taken from her residence before dawn on 8 Jan. by armed men, who arrived in four pickup trucks, according to the sources, whose names are being kept confidential for their safety.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Militant Islamist groups are active in the region, where two attacks within the past seven weeks, one of them at a Christian radio station just before Christmas, have left 25 people dead.

A local church leader, who claimed to have previously worked with Stockly, told World Watch Monitor the missionary settled in Timbuktu in 2000, working for a Swiss church, before starting work alone, unaffiliated with any church.

He said Stockly is in her forties and leads an austere life, selling flowers and handing out Christian material. She was described as sociable, particularly among women and children.

Her home is in Abaradjou, a popular district of Timbuktu frequented by armed jihadist groups. She was taken from that same residence in April 2012, when northern Mali was occupied by armed Islamist groups. She was released 10 days later, following mediation led by neighbouring Burkina Faso.

During the 2012 occupation, Christians, a minority in Mali, have paid a heavy price. For most of the year, armed Islamist groups ruled the region, banning the practice of other religions and desecrating and looting churches and other places of worship.

Thousands, including many Christians, fled and found refuge in the south, or in neighbouring countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso. Others fled to Bamako, the capital, and other safer towns in the south.

Unlike other Christians, Stockly remained in the city. At her mother and brother’s urging, she returned to Switzerland after her 2012 kidnap, but soon returned, saying, ‘‘It’s Timbuktu or nothing’’.

Growing insecurity

The Mali government and the predominantly Tuareg rebel groups signed a peace agreement in June 2015, with limited impact. Jihadist groups have regained ground and intensified attacks, targeting Mali security forces and UN peacekeepers. Their scope has spread to southern regions previously spared by their incursions.

On 17 Dec., three men were killed when an unidentified gunman opened fire outside Radio Tahanint (Radio Mercy in the local dialect), which is closely linked with a Baptist Church in Timbuktu. Hamar Oumar Dicko and Samuel Dicko worked for the station; Abdal Malick Ag Alher was a visiting friend.

Dr. Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara, President of the Baptist Church in Mali, told World Watch Monitor at the time that Christians were “shocked to see what happened”.

“We are trying to find out what happened, but for now we don’t have any explanation,” he said.

“It’s a Christian radio station that was broadcasting messages of peace lately. One of the young men who was shot last night, he had just finished broadcasting and his last words were about peace.”

“Insecurity is everywhere in Mali,” Yattara said. “The situation is very frail, but we didn’t see a particular threat to the community.”

About one month earlier, terrorists killed 22 people at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako. The government imposed a state of emergency that expired on 22 Dec., then extended it to 31 March.

It is thought that the abduction of Stockly is the first of a foreigner since the kidnapping and killing of two French journalists, Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, in the northeastern town of Kidal in November 2013.

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