PARIS (AP) CBN – An attacker armed with a knife killed three people inside a church Thursday in the Mediterranean city of Nice, prompting the government to raise its security alert status to the highest level and double the number of soldiers deployed in the country.
It was the third attack in two months in France that authorities have attributed to Muslim extremists, including the beheading of a teacher. It comes during a growing furor over caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were republished by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo – renewing vociferous debate in France and the Muslim world over the depictions that Muslims consider offensive but are protected by French free speech laws.
Other confrontations and attacks were reported Thursday in the southern French city of Avignon and in the Saudi city of Jiddah, but it was not immediately clear if they were linked to the attack in Nice.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he would immediately increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 currently to 7,000. French churches have been ferociously attacked by extremists in recent years, and Thursday’s killings come ahead of the Roman Catholic All Saints’ holiday.
“He cried ‘Allah Akbar!’ over and over, even after he was injured,” said Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who said a woman and a man died inside the church, while a second woman fled to a nearby bar but was mortally wounded. “The meaning of his gesture left no doubt.”
The assailant in Nice was wounded by police and hospitalized after the killings at the Notre Dame Basilica, less than a kilometer (half-mile) from the site in 2016 where another attacker plowed a truck into a Bastille Day crowd, killing dozens of people.
Shots punctuated the air and witnesses screamed as police stationed at the grandiose doors to the church appeared to fire at the attacker inside, according to videos obtained by The Associated Press. Hours later, AP reporters at the scene saw emergency vehicles and police tape lining the wide Notre Dame Avenue leading toward the plaza in front of the basilica. For a time after the attack, sounds of explosions could be heard as sappers exploded suspicious objects.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the attack, the third one since a trial opened in September for people linked to the 2015 attacks at Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket by gunmen who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group and al-Qaida. The trial is nearing its end, with a verdict planned for Nov. 13, the fifth anniversary of another series of deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.
Thursday’s attacker was believed to be acting alone and police are not searching for other assailants, said two police officials, who were not authorized to be publicly named.
“With the attack against (teacher) Samual Paty, it was freedom of speech that was targeted. With this attack in Nice, it is freedom of religion,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told lawmakers Thursday.
Earlier, the lower house of parliament suspended a debate on France’s new virus restrictions and held a moment of silence for the victims. Castex rushed from the hall to a crisis center overseeing the aftermath of the Nice attack and later returned to announce the alert level increase. French President Emmanuel Macron, who has defended Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish the caricatures, arrived in Nice later in the day.
Muslims have held protests in several countries and called for a boycott of French goods in response to France’s stance on caricatures of Islam’s most revered prophet, whose birthday was marked in several countries Thursday. Soon before Thursday’s attack, supporters of religious political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam protested in Pakistan against Macron.
In Avignon on Thursday morning, an armed man was shot to death by police after he refused to drop his weapon and a flash-ball shot failed to stop him, one police official said. And a Saudi state-run news agency said a man stabbed a guard at the French consulate in Jiddah, wounding the guard before he was arrested.
Islamic State extremists had issued a video on Wednesday renewing calls for attacks against France.
Many groups and nations, however, issued their condolences Thursday, standing firmly with France.
The French Council of the Muslim Faith condemned the Nice attack and called on French Muslims to refrain from festivities this week marking the birth of Muhammad “as a sign of mourning and in solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.”
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the attack in Nice. “We stand in solidarity with the people of France against terror and violence,” the statement said.
Relations between Turkey and France hit a new low after Turkey’s president on Saturday accused Macron of Islamophobia over the caricatures and questioned his mental health, prompting Paris to recall its ambassador to Turkey for consultations.
The attack in Nice came less than two weeks after another assailant beheaded a French middle school teacher who showed the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad for a class on free speech. Those caricatures were published by Charlie Hebdo and cited by the men who gunned down the newspaper’s editorial meeting in 2015.
In September, a man who had sought asylum in France attacked bystanders outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices with a butcher knife.
French Roman Catholic sites have been ferociously and repeatedly targeted by extremists in recent years, including the killing of the Rev. Jaqcues Hamel, who had his throat slit while celebrating Mass in his Normandy church by Islamic militants and a plot to bomb Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral. Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group, which also is believed to have recruited a man now on trial who plotted unsuccessfully to attack a church on the outskirts of Paris.
Nice’s 19th-century basilica Notre Dame de l’Assomption is the largest church in the city, but smaller and newer than the cathedral 1 mile (2 kilometers) away. The basilica’s twin neogothic towers, standing 70 yards (65 meters) high, are a landmark feature in the heart of the city.
The following are among the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of May 2020:
The Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: From January 2020 to mid-May 2020, Muslim terrorists massacred at least 620 Christians (470 by Fulani herdsmen and 150 by Boko Haram). According to a May 14 report:
Militant Fulani Herdsmen and Boko Haram … have intensified their anti-Christian violence … with hacking to death in the past four months and half of 2020 of no fewer than 620 defenseless Christians, and wanton burning or destruction of their centers of worship and learning. The atrocities against Christians have gone unchecked and risen to alarming apogee with the country’s security forces and concerned political actors looking the other way or colluding with the Jihadists. Houses burnt or destroyed during the period are in their hundreds; likewise dozens of Christian worship and learning centers.
The report further states that, since 2009, “not less than 32,000 Christians have been butchered to death by the country’s main Jihadists.”
Earlier this year, Christian Solidarity International issued a “Genocide Warning for Christians in Nigeria,” in response to the “rising tide of violence directed against Nigerian Christians and others classified as ‘infidels’ by Islamist militants…” More recently, in a May statement, the Christian Rights Agenda, another human rights group, expressed concern for “the seeming silence of Nigeria’s President, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces has not only failed to protect the Christian communities but has remained silent over these killings. To date, no Fulani herdsmen have been arrested and prosecuted over the killings, a development that has helped to embolden them.” It is worth noting that Buhari himself is a Fulani Muslim.
Separately, the Muslim man who murdered Michael Nnadi, an 18-year-old seminarian at the Good Shepherd Seminary, confessed from his jail cell that he did so because the youth “continued preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ” to his captors. According to the May 3 report, “the first day Nnadi was kidnapped … he did not allow [Mustapha Mohammed, his murderer] to have peace” due to his relentless preaching of the Gospel. Mohammed “did not like the confidence displayed by the young man and decided to send him to an early grave.”
Democratic Republic of Congo: Muslim fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces, which earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), murdered at least 17 people, possibly many more, in the Christian-majority (95%) African nation. “They fired several shots in the air,” a local said. “When the population was fleeing, they captured some people and cut them up with machetes.” In late 2019, the same group murdered a pastor after he refused to stop preaching and convert to Islam.
Attacks on Christian Churches, Cemeteries, and Crosses
Greece: Muslim migrants ransacked and transformed a church into their personal toilet. This public restroom was once the St. Catherine Church in Moria, a small town on the island of Lesvos, which has been flooded with migrants who arrived via Turkey. “The smell inside is unbearable,” said a local. “[T]he metropolitan of Mytilene is aware of the situation in the area, nevertheless, he does not wish to deal with it for his own reasons.” According to the report:
This is only the latest incident … [I]t has become extremely common for Greek Orthodox Churches to be vandalised and attacked by illegal immigrants on Lesvos….
As a deeply religious society, these attacks on churches are shocking to the Greek people and calls to question whether these illegal immigrants seeking a new life in Europe are willing to integrate and conform to the norms and values of their new countries.
These continued attacks have ultimately seen the people of Lesvos, who were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, become increasingly frustrated by the unresolved situation that has restricted and changed their lives as they no longer feel safe on their once near crime-free island.
Other incidents on Lesvos include “African immigrants ridiculing and coughing on police in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of olives trees being destroyed.”
Turkey: On May 8, a man tried to torch a church in Istanbul; the church had been attacked in the previous years, sometimes with hate-filled graffiti. When police detained the arsonist, he said “I burned it because they [Christians] brought the coronavirus [onto Turkey].” Discussing this incident, another report said that “Minorities in Turkey, such as Armenians, Rums and Syriacs [all Christians], as well as their places of worship, are occasionally targeted in hate attacks.”
Two weeks later, on May 22, in broad daylight, a man climbed the fence of a historic Armenian church in Istanbul and proceeded to yank off its metal cross and hurl it to the ground, as captured on surveillance footage. The man, who looks more like a Westernized “hipster” than an ardent Islamist, walks up to and stares at the cross for a while — he even looks at and strikes a pose for the security camera — before attacking the crucifix.
Pakistan: After Friday prayers on May 8, an armed Muslim mob shouting “anti-Christian slogans” attacked and tried to set fire to the Trinity Pentecostal Church in Hakeem Pura. Built 22 years ago, the church was desecrated, and a large cross and part of a wall broken. The Muslim man behind the attack had sold land to the growing church a year earlier, and now wanted it back. A Christian eyewitness said that the mob, “after attacking the walls and the cross, challenging anyone who dare oppose them, fled… Not only was the cross broken, but our hearts were crushed too.”
The Christian community there reportedly protested against the violation and tried to stop the vandalism. However, they were allegedly threatened with guns… [A]ll graves that were destroyed had crosses fixed on the top… [S]ome of the houses occupied by the Christians were demolished and people were forced to flee from their homes. Amid widespread discrimination against the Christian community in Pakistan, the properties owned by the minorities are often subjected to injustice including land grabbing and being the target of criminals. Moreover, the economic disparities and religious bias in Pakistan’s judiciary have increased the struggles Christians face to recover the lost land.
Serbia: On Sunday, May 31, two Muslim migrants entered the St. Alexander Nevsky Church in Belgrade during service and robbed several of the mostly elderly congregants. “There were two of them. They broke into the church during the liturgy, which was in progress, and they stole two purses along with three mobile phones,” a church leader said, adding:
Upon entering the temple, they split up on two sides, and after the people saw what was happening, they managed to catch one of them and take away his mobile phones and the money he stole. The other managed to escape. He took two purses, in one there were 3,500 dinars, while in the other there were 18,000, which was the entire pension of one woman. We handed that young man over to the police, while the other managed to escape. This is an insult. Isn’t anything sacred to people, such as the liturgy? Terrible.
Egypt: On May 30, 2020 — two days before President Trump recognized Global Coptic Day — Egyptian authorities demolished the only Coptic church in village of Koum al-Farag, even though it had stood for 15 years and served 3,000 Christians. According to the report:
The destruction of the church was a punishment for the ‘crime’ of building rooms for Sunday school…. When the work began, some extremist Muslims began to attack Christians.
A separate report on this incident relates:
According to an ancient Islamic tradition, or common law, churches are prevented from being formally recognised or displaying any Christian symbols if a mosque is built next to them.
The authorities decided to solve this issue by demolishing the church, which took a tractor “six long hours,” a Copt recalled:
The decision was not welcomed by the Christians in the village, so they protested by appearing at the site in possession of the documents. However, the police and some radicals began to insult and assault Christians, including women and children. The church leader received so many punches in the face and chest that he passed out.
Security camera footage led to his apprehension. Fortunately, no one was injured in this attack. Predictably, however, the prosecutors appear to be [pursuing] an acquittal on the claim that the perpetrator of the religious hate crime is also mentally ill. Based on precedent, it is extremely unlikely that this perpetrator will face any consequences for his attempt to torch a church.
Mozambique: Islamic terrorists attacked a monastery. The four monks residing in it managed to hide and emerge unscathed. However, the hospital they were building for a nearby village was destroyed by the armed Muslims. According to the May 18 report:
Little is known about the insurgents, and until recently there were doubts they were actually islamists, but they have claimed to be fighting for the imposition of Sharia law in the North of Mozambique…. The attack on the monastery, which included the destruction of a hospital that the monks were building in the village, is the second most serious attack against a Christian target since the troubles began. Last month a Catholic mission was also attacked, although, as here, nobody was killed. Other communities have not been so lucky, as the insurgents have left a trail of death and destruction behind them in the towns and villages they attack.
Nigeria: On May 7, a helicopter bombed and destroyed a church. The building was empty at the time; no casualties were reported. According to a local leader,
The helicopter used to hover around the area, dropping some things. We don’t know what they have been dropping but yesterday in the afternoon, the helicopter came and dropped a bomb … [The] Assembly of God church was destroyed including a nearby building…. Hours after the incident, a group of people numbering about 100 pass through the village carrying guns. Some were trekking while others rode on motorcycles. One of them was carrying a flag which is not a Nigerian flag; one other person was making some incantations in Arabic… People have fled the village… The question is who was in the helicopter dropping bomb?… We are very concerned … If it was a mistake by security agencies, they should come out and explain so as to allay the fears of the community.
Algeria: Four Muslim guards responsible for protecting a church vandalized and overturned its statue of the Virgin Mary. According to the report,
[T]he chapel of Santa Cruz built in stones extracted from the mountain of Murdjadjo where it is perched, was the object of an attempted theft… Four looters allegedly destroyed the statue of the Virgin Mary by attempting to steal it. They have even destroyed other holy monuments in their path….
It was later found, however, that the chapel’s four hired guards were themselves the “looters” responsible for the desecration. The report continues:
In addition, the Christian community in Algeria denounces… the intimidation which the faithful are subject to. Many Christians have denounced the series of closings of churches in the national territory. Several evangelical associations and organizations have called for an end to “the increasing pressure and intimidation from the Algerian government.”
Iran: On Sunday, May 17, a Christian cemetery was set ablaze, just two days after the tomb of the biblical Esther and Mordecai was also set on fire on the 72nd anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. Damage at the tomb — a holy site shared by Jews and Christians — was reportedly minimal. Few other details concerning the burned Christian cemetery aside from video footage showing smoke billowing over its walls are available. A Hindu temple was also reportedly set on fire in May.
While Europe has experienced a growing number of acts of vandalism and profanation of Christian sites, the greatest number of such acts have occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments “are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,” according to reports drawing from government statistics.
Although the identity of the vandals responsible for this latest outrage is unknown, it appears that Western European nations that have large Muslim migrant populations are seeing a disproportionate rise in attacks on churches and Christian symbols. According to a 2017 study on France — which has the largest Muslim population in Europe — “Islamist extremist attacks on Christians” rose by 38%, going from 273 attacks in 2015 to 376 in 2016; the majority occurred during Christmas season and “many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship.” Similarly, around Christmas 2016, in a German region where more than a million Muslims reside, some 50 public Christian statues (including those of Jesus) were beheaded and crucifixes broken.
Abduction, Rape, and Forced Conversion of Christian Women
Nigeria: Between March 23 and April 30, six young Christian girls and one older married woman were kidnapped. “We are saddened to report to you the battles we have been fighting even amidst the lockdown,” the Hausa Christians Foundation reported on May 4, adding that it “has been working on the following tragic incidences of abduction and forceful Islamization, despite the fact that the lockdown has limited our efforts.” The statement continues:
The usual practice is that these girls will be forced into marriage and perpetually be abused sexually, physical and emotionally. We are doing our best to rescue these precious lives but our efforts have been truncated by the current government imposed lockdown that has put everything on hold…. The simple reason for the injustice and the persecution we have been subjected to… is because of our faith in Christ Jesus.
Two of the young girls have since been rescued.
Pakistan: Another young Christian girl was kidnapped. According to a May 2 report,
On Sunday, April 26, a 14-year-old Christian girl … was abducted by a group of armed Muslim men… [T]he Christian girl’s family has filed a police report and is begging police to recover their relative…. Myra Shehbaz was abducted by a group of Muslim men led by Muhammad Naqash. Eye witnesses claim that Myra was attacked while she was traveling to her workplace as a domestic worker on Sunday afternoon…. Myra’s abductors forced her into a car and Myra tried to resist…. [The] abductors were armed and fired several shots into the air…. [The girl’s mother] fears her daughter will be raped, forcefully converted is [sic] Islam, or even killed…. [A]n estimated 1,000 women and girls from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian community are assaulted, abducted, forcefully married to their captor, and forcibly converted to Islam every year.
Egypt: In a May 22 report, Coptic Solidarity, a human rights organization focused on the plight of Egypt’s Christians, made the following remarks:
The indigenous Coptic Christians of Egypt continue to experience increasing persecution, by the government and society…. To illustrate, at least five Coptic women, including some minors, have reportedly been kidnapped or disappeared in just the last few weeks, and Egyptian state security has made no concerted effort to recover them…. Ranya Abd al-Masih, a Coptic wife and mother of three from a town just north of the capital, Cairo… remains hidden despite protests, including from the region’s church, which laments “the total lack of reaction by the authorities.”
Hate for and Abuse of Christians
Austria: A local newspaper reported:
A graffiti that rightly causes a lot of agitation. The lettering “Christians must die” can be seen at the Traisen-Markt train station. Above it, in the same style, the words “Allach Akkbar” [sic]. The removal of the graffiti has already begun and will cost about 500 Euros.
Uganda: A Muslim father burned his daughter for converting to Christianity. While traveling with her father, a sheikh (respected elder) of the Muslim community, Rehema Kyomuhendo, 24, heard the gospel and secretly converted. On the night of May 4, while she and her father were staying at her aunt’s home, she called a Christian associate: “As she was sharing Christ with me, I was so overjoyed,” Rehema later explained, “and my father heard my joy and woke up, came from his bedroom furiously and started beating me up with blows, slaps and kicks.” He also shouted that he was “going to kill her.” He broke a gas container, lit the pieces with the unspilt fuel, and began to burn his daughter. Her cries awakened her aunt, who protected her from the sheikh. Last reported, Rehema was expected to need more than a month of hospitalization due to “serious burns on her leg, stomach, rib area, near her neck and on part of her back.” No one has “reported the assault to police for fear that her father might try kill her.”
Pakistan: In another example of abuse of Christians in connection to COVID-19, “an Islamic cleric claims his organization is using COVID-19 food aid to convert non-Muslims to Islam,” according to a May 8 report. Speaking on Pakistani television, the cleric boasted of how when a destitute Christian man came for aid, the “staff of the organization offered him conversion against food which he accepted.” The man was subsequently renamed Muhammad Ramadan, signifying his conversion had occurred during the Muslim holy month. The cleric had added that Muhammad was then fasting (which is ironic considering hunger is what prompted him to convert in the first place).
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed in 2011 to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that occur or are reported 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 second-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.
Ibrahim’s writings, translations, and observations have appeared in a variety of publications. He is theauthor of the recent book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
What a tragedy. Praying for the firemen on the scene.
Below links from The Guardian Live news feed on the Cathedral
- French billionaire pledges €100m to rebuilding efforts
- The “worst has been avoided”, says Macron
- Fire started accidentally – preliminary investigation
- Two towers saved, but fireman seriously injured – reports
- Main structure “saved and preserved
- Macron arrives at the scene
- Next hour and a half is “crucial” says Paris fire department
See more updates here
VOP NOTE: France has had several weeks of escalating vandalism and arson attacks on churches. Compared to the 1st quarter of 2018, France has seen a 53% rise in anti-Christian acts during the 1st quarter of 2019. Please keep France in your prayers.
(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.
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,
“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!
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.
(L’OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CHRISTIANOPHOBIE) the growing concern of the Catholic and Protestant authorities about the persecution that Christians migrants suffer from Muslim migrants in Germany. Cardinal Rainer Woelki said at an ecumenical meeting in Düsseldorf Saturday 13 February, “The fear increases that politicians and the authorities do not take seriously enough such threats [against Christians in refugee centers]. The persecution of Christians is not a thing of past ages.” He demanded that Germany defend greater religious freedom. For his part, Pastor Gottfried Martens said the “harassment” against the Christian migrants in refugee centers in Germany has increased. He affirmed that Christians were forced to watch beheading videos, were banned from the common kitchen because they were”unclean”, beaten and Christian necklaces torn from their necks. The pastor suggested Christians and Muslims needed to be be housed in separate shelters. “When I talk to politicians, they tell me that the churches do not consider that necessary accommodations are separated and I look ridiculous (…) Our efforts to be tolerant, which is in itself praiseworthy, are not so far allow us to let Christians become a kind of guinea pigs. ” (Source: Catholic Herald , February 19)
Among the thousands of Middle Eastern migrants, Christians who have fled to Europe have discovered that a familiar burden has followed them, religious harassment = PERSECUTION.
World Watch Monitor reports that Christian migrants have been subjected to discrimination, harassment and violence from Muslim migrants with extremist views. One Iranian convert to Christianity was murdered.
The phenomenon has been observed in various locations across Europe, including in the camp of Grande-Synthe in northern France, where Iranian converts have been targeted by migrants from Iraq.
The situation has raised great concerns among local churches, which are now supporting migrants by supplying them with food, clothing, and, in some cases, even shelter.
It all started at the turn of the year, recalls Philippe Dugard, the Pastor of Église Evangélique du Littoral, or EEDL, a church in the neighbouring town of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, which has spearheaded the relief effort in Grande-Synthe.
“Between November and December, there was a group of Iranians who confessed their belonging to Christ, who started to attend our church. Some were Orthodox, while others said they were Christians but were not truly converted. But we got to know them, and we felt they had a real spiritual thirst,” he said.
“And then one evening [14 December], we were informed that two of them were stabbed and the whereabouts of a third one was unknown.
“We then said that as Christians we cannot leave them alone in that situation, and the victims themselves told us that they no longer wanted to stay in the camp, as they felt threatened.”
The incident marked the beginning of EEDL’s support for migrant victims of persecution.
For the next few days, the victims were put up in hotels, before they were moved to a church in Dunkirk, the closest city to the camp.
Just one of the victims from the initial group remains, a 29-year-old who wished to remain anonymous.
“Generally the Kurdish mafia in the camp are against Christians,” he said. “When we gave our money to them for them to help us to go to England, they didn’t help us and they just stole our money and did not give it back. Then they attacked us and called us kafir [infidels] and dirty. They came and cut me with a knife and they beat my friends.”
He said there are still some Christians in the camp, but that many are too scared to speak about their faith.
“Yes, there are still some Christians there in the camp,” he said, “But they don’t prefer to stay there beside these strong Muslims. They are so racist, they just want to clear the camp to be without Christians.”
He added that a mosque has been created in the camp, and that the Call to Prayer resounds around the camp every day, but unlike the nearby Calais camp, there is no church.
An explosive cocktail
Located in the northwest of France, beside the English Channel, the camp of Grande-Synthe hosts around 2,500 to 3,000 migrants – mostly Kurds from Iraq and Syria, but also some Iranians.
Tensions and other forms of violence are common in the camp, said a social worker, who wished to remain anonymous for fear that the report could impact upon his work with the Christians.
Ethnic differences have created tension in the camp between the Iraqis and Iranians, of whom there are only around 50. The thousands of Iraqi Kurds are mostly Muslim, while some of the Iranian minority are Christians.
Some of them attend local churches secretly, because they are scared of the Muslim migrants and smugglers, who hold sway within the camp. Night raids, theft and violence are among the common threats.
On the night of 14 December, a knife attack left several Christians injured. One of them, a 19-year-old named Mohammad, was murdered. The local police were informed and an investigation is underway. Police did not respond to World Watch Monitor requests for information about the investigation.
A staff member at the Mayor’s office in Grande-Synthe said there is no security problem in the camp, which she said is open to external visitors. However, police now patrol the entrance.
On 26 January, a shooting between rival gangs of smugglers erupted, prompting a huge police deployment around the camp. Security checks are now carried out at the entrance of the camp, and visitors must acquire prior authorisation from the Mayor’s office.
There are some who fear members of the so-called Islamic State may be among the migrants, intent on radicalising other migrants and imposing Sharia inside the camp.
A settled tension
Two months after the attacks against the Iranian migrants, the tension has settled, according to Dugard.
The majority of the victims of the December attacks have moved on. Some managed to reach England, their preferred destination, while others, tired of waiting for a hypothetical crossing or because of a lack of financial resources, returned to Iran. Others have left for other European destinations, with the hope of reaching England another way.
“Sometimes they just won’t show up at dinner time, even though we have already laid the table,” said Dugard. “They are always in search of new routes because the passages via Calais and Dunkirk seem completely blocked.
“But in the meantime, other refugees, including moderate Muslims who heard about the support provided to the Iranians, have now arrived.”
A group of about 10 migrants, only one of whom professes a Christian faith, are currently staying in a church in Dunkirk. A non-religious Iranian in his 30s, who identified himself as Max, complained of the poor conditions and lax security of the camp. A fellow Iranian, a Muslim man in his 20s who identified himself as Farhad, agreed.
“The living conditions in the camp are deplorable,” he said. “It is no place for humans. It is very cold and people fall sick easily.”
Local churches are struggling to cope with the demands being placed upon them, as they seek to support migrants of all faiths and none.
What started as an emergency has become a long-term commitment, Dugard said.
“We are wondering: what is the best option for us? Do we have the spiritual, human and financial resources to continue this work, which is full-time social work?” he said.
“Yet the migrants are really suffering. They crossed a multitude of borders and faced various obstacles to get here, in the hope of a better life. But they realise that it is often hopeless to cross to England and have ended up living in precarious conditions often more difficult than in their countries.”
Those conditions could be improved if migrants exploring Christianity could do so safely, said Michel Varton, director of Open Doors France, part of a worldwide charity that supports Christians who live under threat because of their faith.
“Many Christians amongst the refugees are fleeing persecution and discrimination. They are already traumatised by their terrible experience in the Middle East,” Varton said. “Imagine their despair to realise that, once here in France, they are suffering the same discrimination and hate from fellow immigrants.
“The local churches have shown dedication to help the Christian refugees and those who are genuinely interested in the Christian faith. The authorities must allow them to have simple buildings where they can meet and worship God in security and make sure that values of freedom of belief reign in the camps. It’s totally unacceptable that someone could lose their life for their faith once in France.”
In addition to the lack of resources, there is a logistical problem, as different churches act without much coordination.
Moreover, various groups and associations from all over Europe are also providing assistance to migrants, which has only added to the pressure, said Dugard.
“If some groups are useful, others believe that they can save the world,” he said. “They often come with very aggressive speeches, for two to three days, and then leave. In the end, their actions are doing more harm than good, because after they leave it becomes difficult for us to do serious work.”
Talks are currently underway among churches, as they seek to create a regional platform, which would come underneath the umbrella of the Conseil National des Evangéliques de France, the national Evangelical Church network.
The Grande-Synthe camp stretches over 20 hectares (nearly 50 acres) of marshland. It is difficult to walk through the slippery mud without proper boots.
With thousands of people, including women and children, living in such unsanitary conditions, respiratory problems and infectious diseases are common, says Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), which provides emergency care alongside Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).
According to MSF, a new camp, equipped with heated tents and located three kilometres from the current camp, will accommodate migrants in the coming days.
However, the migrant crisis remains a very complex issue, says Matthew Bosiger, the pastor of the Salvation Army Church in Dunkirk.
“They are a bit like in a prison,” he said. “It is good to try to improve their situation, but they have no plan to stay in France. The migrants have only one thought in mind: to cross the channel to England, at any cost.”
Many say they have relatives or friends already settled there and the living conditions seem very attractive – partly because many know a little English, but also because of the prospect of better economic opportunities. Smugglers take advantage of migrants’ desperation to reach the UK by charging them everything that they have, with no guarantee they will succeed.
Voice of the Persecuted shared last August how Christian refugees moved from asylum accommodation after threats by Islamists in Sweden. The Christians feared for their safety after it was demanded that they stop wearing Christian symbols, like crosses around their necks. And that they were not welcome in common areas, such as kitchens when the aggressive Muslim group was there.
After receiving no help when the atmosphere became intimidating, the Christian refugees dared not stay and decided it would be safer to find other accommodations.
In a newly shared CBN report, they describe as shocking, an ordinary French citizen who has been watching the Islamization of Paris decided that the world needed to see what was happening to his city. The report also offers a warning to the West by French politician, Jean-François Copé.
In April 2014, we shared a video report highlighting ‘No Go Zones’ in France. The report Muslim immigrants refusing to assimilate into French society, taking over areas and terrorizing French natives in communities some families have lived in for generations.
Violent crime can happen anywhere and to anyone and for many reasons, but in parts of France, it has become especially dangerous to be white.
After sharing our report, Christians In Pakistan: Facts That Go Unnoticed By Western Media: Unnoticed Or Ignored which discusses how Sharia is a dominant force in persecuting Christians and other religious minorities. It also explains how many Muslims do not assimilate when relocating to a non-Islamic nation, with a plan to impose their laws and lifestyle, SHARIA.
Once again we learn of media silence and Islamization. Today, in a report by CBN, we read that France is dealing with this very issue. The report claims there are parts of France where natives are no longer welcome. Muslim immigrants now consider these areas, their territory. And natives (called whites) enter at their own risk. The French are calling them, ‘No Go Zones’ and ‘Urban Sensitive Zones’. Even the police don’t enter these places, or don’t enforce the law. France’s multi-cultural experiment going up in flames.