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(World Watch Monitor) UPDATE (25 May): Nine Christian civilians were reportedly shot dead at a militant-run checkpoint in the besieged city of Marawi in the southern Philippines on Tuesday (23 May).
Filipino news site GMA News Online – one of the biggest news and public affairs networks in the country – reported that local residents identified the nine as Christians, saying they had been pulled from a truck, had their hands bound and then their bodies riddled with bullets and left in a field.
This latest update comes as a Catholic priest and 13 other Christians are still reportedly being held by the Islamists, who have laid siege to the city, setting fire to buildings including a cathedral and Protestant-run college, and erecting the black flags of ISIS.
Reuters reports that the militants have been using the hostages as human shields, and have contacted cardinals, threatening to execute them unless government troops withdraw.
The governor of the Mindanao region, where Marawi is situated, said the rebels are from three extremist groups – Maute, Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to crush them, saying: “Anyone now holding a gun, confronting government with violence, my orders are spare no-one, let us solve the problems of Mindanao once and for all.
“If I think you should die, you will die. If you fight us, you will die. If there’s an open defiance, you will die, and if it means many people dying, so be it. That’s how it is.”
He added: “I made a projection, not a prediction, that one of these days the hardest things to deal with would be the arrival of ISIS. The government must put an end to this. I cannot gamble with ISIS because they are everywhere.”
Original article (24 May):
Chaos in the Philippines as Islamist group storms city, abducts Christians and sets church on fire
A Catholic priest and 13 other Christians were taken hostage, while a cathedral and Protestant-run college were among the buildings set on fire, when an extremist group which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State descended upon the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines yesterday (23 May).
Three fires broke out, as around 100 armed members of the Maute group fired off their weapons, beheaded a police chief and erected the black flags of ISIS.
The abducted priest was identified as Fr. Teresito Suganob, vicar-general of the prelature of Marawi, by a local bishop, Edwin De la Peña, who told the Catholic news agency Fides: “Today is the feast of our Prelature, the feast of ‘Mary, help of Christians’. The faithful were in church to pray on the last day of the novena. The terrorists broke into St Mary’s Cathedral, took the hostages and led them to an unknown location. They entered the bishop’s residence and kidnapped [Fr. Suganob]. Then they set fire to the cathedral and the bishop’s residence. Everything is destroyed. We are dismayed.
“The terrorists have occupied the city. People are terrified and locked in the house. We are waiting for the army’s reaction. The important thing is to regain the city with the least possible bloodshed. Hostages have not been mentioned. We have activated our channels, the Church and Islamic leaders, and we hope to be able to negotiate soon so they are released safe and sound.
“…We also appeal to Pope Francis to pray for us and to ask the terrorists to release the hostages in the name of our common humanity. Violence and hatred lead only to destruction: we ask the faithful all over the world to pray together with us for peace.”
Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Philippines, added that Fr. Suganob was “not a combatant. He was not bearing arms. He was a threat to none. His capture and that of his companions violates every norm of civilised conflict.”
Meanwhile, three of the buildings belonging to Dansalan College, which was established by the Protestant United Church of Christ, were burnt down yesterday. On its website, the college says it espouses the importance of interfaith relationship, as 95% of its students are Muslim, while 80% of its staff are Christian.
Reports say a hospital, the city’s jail, and several other establishments were also taken over by the gunmen.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has reacted by cutting short a visit to Russia and imposing 60 days of martial law across the Mindanao region, where Marawi is situated. The 27 provinces and 33 cities in Mindanao make up roughly a third of the whole country.
Martial law gives more power to the military, including its ability to detain people for long periods without charge.
It is only the second time martial law has been imposed in the Philippines since the fall of former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
Human rights groups and religious leaders criticised the president’s decision, calling it “uncalled for” and warning that it would “inevitably result in intensified military operations, including aerial strikes, which can kill and affect hundreds of civilians”.
Sixty days is the maximum period allowed for martial law under the Philippines’ Constitution, but President Duterte said in a video released by the government that “if it would take a year to [overcome the insurgents], then we’ll do it”.
After his return home today (24 May), Mr. Duterte said at a press briefing: “If I think that the ISIS has already taken foothold also in Luzon, and terrorism is not really far behind, I might declare martial law throughout the country to protect the people.”
Although the Philippines is a majority-Christian country, the region of Mindanao has a strong Muslim presence and is home to the Maute group, which stems from a violent Islamist movement called the Moro National Liberation Front, which sought independence for decades, hoping to create an independent Islamic state.
“On the ground, the people are asking for prayers,” a local source told World Watch Monitor. “The residents are threatened. They say homes are being trespassed, and that women not in hijabs are being taken away. The black flags are perched on top of a police car and a hospital. Social media screams with pleas for help, screenshots of texts of relatives on lockdown. One post says people must recite the shahada [Islamic profession of faith] when asked, else be killed.
“The fighting is said to spring from a hunt for Isnilon Hapilon, local Abu Sayaff leader tagged as the head of ISIS in the Philippines. Hapilon has not been caught.
“The military says things are in control now, and denies that ISIS was involved, saying the local Maute group was wreaking havoc only to get foreign attention.”
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(Voice of the Persecuted) In communication with a dear Christian brother in Nigeria, he cried out to the global Body of Christ for intercession and prayer. Overwhelmed feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and sorrow resonated throughout the conversation. Still processing the unimaginable horrors that have been witnessed, proved difficult to convey at the moment. Looking directly into the face of evil in the scenes of death and slaughter, has broken many warriors and has taken a vast toll on victims and those coming to comfort them. They are inconsolable, repeating over and over “it’s worse, it’s worse, it’s worse everyday.”
Trying to verify recent reports in the media from Nigeria, we wanted reactions to the recent UNSC declaration condemning Boko Haram. We felt this declaration fell way short of the action needed in terms of aid and protection for the thousands of Christians suffering at the hands of Boko Haram. Their response,
“We are used to this type of statement coming out from the UN. But it is Christians that are suffering the most. When we engage them on the issue of mainly Christians being targeted, they debate the attacks are not only against Christians. What evidences is the UN looking for apart from the several videos released by BOKO HARAM? Repeatly, their leader says, “this war is against infidels”, meaning Christians. And again he stated, “any nominal Muslim that did not render support for them will be attacked”, yet the Western world will not open their eyes to the truth. Everyday we have been killed like animals. Abandoned, left on our own with no one to help us.”
It seems as we have said numerous times, the UN holds a blind eye to the plight of Christians in Nigeria, throughout Africa to the Middle East and Asia. And yes, they are also killing Muslims, but not so indiscriminately as being reported. They are targeting Muslims who do not want to witness this type of violence or conform to Sharia Law.
We have confirmed the reports of the torching and killing in Niger. In the name of protests relating to the Charlie Hebdo secular newspaper who lampoons all religions, not Islam alone. This violence occurred against Christians by Muslims taking revenge for the cartoon portraying Mohammed. It was described by those on the ground as one of the worst yet. BBC reported that a Boko Haram flag was seen at the protest, and that a Christian School and Orphanage were also torched along with many churches. Niger’s President attended the Unity Rally in Paris, which fueled anger with the 99% Muslim majority population. One question should be raised, If they were angry with a cartoon by a secular newspaper, why target Christians? Our Nigerian brother also expressed great concern for those in Niger, being sure we were aware of the attack.
Beyond advocating and bringing awareness to Christian persecution, we are offering aid to those suffering in extreme conditions. We at Voice of the Persecuted have made Nigeria one of our top priorities. Countless hours of prayer and discussion has gone into our decision to move them, along with Pakistani Christians to the forefront of this mission. When it comes to awareness and aide, Christians in these two nations are practically invisible to the world. But these dear brothers and sisters are very visible and not forgotten by this mission.
Our Nigerian brothers and sisters are desperate and hurting beyond measure or comprehension. So many have been widowed and orphaned. The numbers astronomical and heart rending for these dear ones. God has laid it on our hearts to care for those widowed and the orphaned through persecution. We are designing this mission, (Project 13:3 NIGERIA) to be organized with consideration to coherently assist in their immediate and ongoing needs. To truly make a difference, we cannot desert them and must stay updated on their physical and emotional well-being. To encourage and help them find ways to rebuild their lives and sustain themselves. But we can’t do it alone.
We do not work in some luxurious office in a beautiful building with high rental fees. Humbled and honored to do so, we have volunteered all our time to expand this mission and give hope to those suffering in the Body for Christ. We have purposely kept our administrative expenses low, always looking for ways to keep those costs to the bare minimum. We have pledged to maintain this stance, so your support can go directly towards aid projects, not astronomical salaries and internal expenses. The needs are great and if God is laying it on your heart to help, we will make sure your donation counts in the lives of those suffering. We will update as we send comfort, though confidentiality plays a significant role in our reports, hesitating even to post pictures for fear of retaliation against the victims. It’s that volatile and we must also protect our advocates working in these nations. Our Nigerian advocate tells us that the urgent and immediate need, which transcends monetary aide is the need for prayer. They are pleading for our prayers.
We spend hours in communication with persecuted Christians encouraging and praying with them, which we consider to be the most important part of this mission. Prayer is our most powerful weapon against this evil. Won’t you pray with us, won’t you join with us sharing love for our brothers and sisters. Thank you so much for your continued voices, your prayers and support. Again, we can’t do this alone. With your generous support we can supply their basic needs, one family at a time.
Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate their suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you have greatly blessed others, may God continue to bless you.
This article may be shared with credit to Voice of the Persecuted
(Voice of the Persecuted) The top persecutors grows by the day, but here is our list for 2014. As you may know, it’s hard to obtain solid numbers on refugees let alone those facing extreme abuses and the many who have been killed. Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, North Korea, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia are among those that rank at the top our list. It’s hard to put a numerical value on countries for human and religious rights abuses, as it can change daily. We are actively watching these top ranked nations for abuses against Christians and other minorities, including women and children.
2014 is described by the media, and experts as the worst year in history for the persecution of Christians. They liken it to genocide and ethnic cleansing with reports of crucifixions, beheadings, stonings, along with rape, torture, kidnapping and slaughter.
A representative of the UNHRC describes the numbers as not seen since WWII, with 8 million refugees from the Middle East alone. 8 million people fleeing to refugee camps—that doesn’t include those who have been murdered. At least 200,000 of them are children. This doesn’t include areas in Africa. In Nigeria, 2 million have been displaced and thousands killed. Again these numbers include innocent children.
It’s hard to even begin to understand such staggering amounts. And harder to imagine that this type of slaughter and evil acts can happen in modern times. A so-called technological, ‘civilized’ world that’s being compared to WWII when Hitler and his Nazi party ravaged the world. History repeating itself, because history is no longer taught. Ask high school and college kids and you’ll be surprised how many have no idea who Hitler is, or have never heard of the holocausts perpetrated by the Ottoman’s, Nazi’s and others.
The Armenian people have made their home in the Caucasus region of Eurasia for some 3,000 years. For some time, the kingdom of Armenia was an independent entity–at the beginning of the 4th century AD, for instance, it became the first nation in the world to make Christianity its official religion–but for the most part, control of the region shifted from one empire to another. During the 15th century, Armenia was absorbed into the mighty Ottoman Empire. Persecution began under the despotic Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II. Between 1894 and 1896, Armenian villages and cities and massacred their citizens. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were murdered.
The “Young Turks” overthrew Sultan Abdul Hamid and established a more modern constitutional government. At first, the Armenians were hopeful. But non-Turks–and especially Christian non-Turks–were seen as a grave threat to the new state.
When WWII intensified, the Young Turks created a “Special Organization,” which in turn organized “killing squads” or “butcher battalions” to carry out, as one officer put it, “the liquidation of the Christian elements.” These killing squads were often made up of murderers and other ex-convicts. They drowned people in rivers, threw them off cliffs, crucified them and burned them alive.
Records show that during this “Turkification”campaign government squads also kidnapped children, converted them to Islam and gave them to Turkish families. In some places, they raped women and forced them to join Turkish “harems” or serve as slaves. Muslim families moved into the homes of deported Armenians and seized their property. source
When the Turkish government set in motion a plan to expel and massacre Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire, there were approximately 2 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the time of the massacre. By the early 1920s, when the massacres and deportations finally ended, some 1.5 million of Turkey’s Armenians were dead, with many more forcibly removed from the country. Today, most historians call this event a genocide–a premeditated and systematic campaign to exterminate an entire people.
When reading the details of these historic events, they closely resemble modern times. And God’s unchanging Word rings true for us, still.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 (KJV)
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
If the UNHRC using WWII as a comparison, expect the numbers to be much higher than the reports given. Some facts about WWII:
- An estimated death toll in World War II ranged from approximately 60 to 85 million, making it the deadliest war in world history in absolute terms of total dead, but not in terms of deaths relative to the world population.
- The higher figure of 85 million includes deaths from war-related disease and famine.
- Estimates of 38 to 55 million civilians killed, including 19 to 25 million from war-related disease and famine.
- Total military dead: from 22 to 25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war.
One expert on Fox News said the world would have to unite like it did against the Nazi’s in WWII, or it wouldn’t be able to stop this murderous rampage.
The World Watch List 2014 ranks the top 50 countries that are most dangerous for Christians and the top 10 as (in numerical order according to Open Doors):
- NORTH KOREA
We intend to focus and bring to the forefront, the aftermath of this holocaustic frenzy. To tell the stories stories of suffering and survival and to describe incredible and enduring faith throughout unspeakable trials. (Here) Yes, we will continue to research and report, but the need is great. The Harvest is ripe, but few are the workers. Radical Islam is spreading like an advanced cancer. It’s time to focus our prayers & our attention on our brethren and the innocent people who are suffering. At least one in the UNHCR is willing to speak out about the refugees and their suffering, and how the world should focus on not only their survival, but their future.
Attacks from Boko Haram is now a regional problem, spreading and advancing their caliphate takeover. Recently, they attacked an army base which gave them a huge advantage. The numbers are doubling even tripling.
More than 3,000 refugees fleeing the Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram have been welcomed in Chad. This was announced by the Prime Minister of Chad, Kalzeubé Pahimi Deubet, according to whom even 500 Chadians have returned to the country because of the violence of the extremist Nigerians.
According to information gathered by Agenzia Fides, the crisis in the north-east of Nigeria is increasingly spreading to neighboring States, even for the threats made in a video, attributed to the leader of Boko Haram, Aboubakar Shekau, to the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya. In the video, a man who looks like the leader of the Islamist sect, has threatened to increase violence in Cameroon if the country does not abolish the Constitution and embraces Islam. In recent months, the military of Cameroon have rejected several offensives launched on the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. The conquest of the base of the so-called Multinational Task Force (formed by soldiers of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon) in Baga on the Nigerian banks of Lake Chad, now offers Boko Haram a strategic location from which to launch attacks not only against Maiduguri (the capital of the Nigerian State of Borno) but also against Niger, Chad and Cameroon. (L.M.) ((Agenzia Fides 08/01/2015)
The cemeteries in Nigeria are overflowing with Christians, and even dignitaries are visiting them to pay respects and mourn the deaths of our brothers and sisters. Turning their final resting places into a memorial. These souls are precious to our Lord.
Persecution takes many forms, such as the slaughter in Nigeria, and the Middle East against Christians and other minorities. Yesterday, the slaughter of a dozen people in Paris is also is persecution. And even in the US, although not on a scale like Africa and the Middle East, discrimination against Christians is growing. There are 2 cases making news this week of children (here) & (here) being punished in school for simply reading a Bible, there is a case of a Fire Chief who was fired recently for his Christian views and faith, also a teacher who is a Gideon was fired for simply giving a Bible to a student, and countless others. This is the way it begins, as warned by those in nations facing extreme persecution.
The world holds it’s breath while we await the next slaughter and attack. Why? Why are so many held hostage by one group committing war crimes and genocide.
When you have persecution of this magnitude and on this scale, it is hard to use demographics, political leadership……or news reports who are biased, we spend countless hours verifying, and researching everything we share. We have reported for months on the ‘Super Highway’ of Terror flowing from the Middle East to Nigeria. This super highway has grown into a full fledged Audubon with a corridor that can not be controlled or closed off. The Stench of Death is ever increasing.
The last few days Nigeria has seen the worst massacre yet, with reports saying that 2,000 have been killed and an entire village destroyed. This village had a population of 10,000 people. Churches were burned and bodies thick in the streets and the bush. Most of those killed were the elderly, women and children and others who could not run fast enough.
Abuja (Agenzia Fides) – Even several churches have been burned in the last series of attacks committed by Boko Haram in the city of Baga and in the surrounding villages, in the Nigerian Borno state, which according to some media reports have claimed up to 2000 victims.
“I received a message of the Christians Association of Nigeria, the association of Christian churches in Nigeria, which states that in that area Boko Haram has burned several churches and caused numerous victims” says Fr. Patrick Tor Alumuku, Director of Social Communications of the Archdiocese of Abuja, the federal capital of Nigeria to Agenzia Fides.
The Boko Haram group attacked Baga town on Wednesday, where in recent days it had conquered the multinational military Task Force base in charge of ensuring the safety of the area. In the attacks committed in the past two days, according to official Nigerian media, a hundred people have died. “Though it is noted that in general the national media tend to reduce the number of victims not to further inflame the minds” says Fr. Patrick.
“One must bare in mind that the presidential election campaign for February has opened this week. The situation is particularly delicate”, says the priest.
The population in the area is fleeing from the advance of Boko Haram. “When those of Boko Haram arrive in a major city they make no distinction between Christians and Muslims, and the population flees, without distinction of religion. Boko Haram separates Muslims from Christians only in the smaller villages”, recalls Fr. Patrick. “Next to the combatants from Nigeria, Boko Haram has been strengthened by jihadist members from Libya and Mali. Their goal is to create a caliphate in northern Nigeria”, concluded the priest. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 09/01/2015)
Most major news agencies are beginning to cover this latest massacre with even Amnesty International calling it the worst massacre in the country.
We feel it is not a coincidence that this massacre happened at virtually the same time as the massacres in Paris. And the protection of our brothers and sisters at risk of extreme persecution are at the forefront of our prayers. O Lord, hear our cries.
Together with your generous support, we can reach the goal to alleviate their suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope.
Everyday, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and further His Kingdom! As you have greatly blessed others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support.
(Morning Star News) – A court in Bhutan on Wednesday sentenced Pastor Tandin Wangyal to three years, 11 months in prison for receiving funds for ministry activities from a Christian organization.
The verdict from the court in Dorokha, Samtse District asserts the pastor received US$11,864 in funding from a foreign Christian organization to conduct trainings and spread Christianity in the Buddhist country, sources said.
A source on Thursday (Sept. 11) told Morning Star News that Wangyal had been granted a one-year bail after paying a fine of US$763. Today, however, the source said authorities had refused to release the pastor due to a technicality on the release papers. The release on bail will amount to year subtracted from his sentence.
Another pastor, M.B. Thapa (known as Lobzang), was sentenced to two years and four months for taking Wangyal to a village for a gathering for which he allegedly had not obtained prior permission, but he was entitled to pay a fine of US$1,678 “in lieu” of prison that enabled him to remain free.
Wangyal was convicted under Article 71 of the Civil Society Organization Act of Bhutan, which outlaws raising funds for activities “in contravention of the laws of the country” and without prior permission. The pastors were arrested in Khapdani village, Dorokha area in Samtse District, on March 5.
The pastor had 10 days to appeal, but in comments to Morning Star News hours before he was detained Wednesday night (Sept. 9), Wangyal said he had already filed an appeal in Samtse District Court and was hoping for bail.
“My case now dates back to the past records and findings on my laptop,” Wangyal. “I do not agree to the charges.”
Wangyal and his wife have three sons, ages 8, 5 and 2.
“I am worried about my wife and my three little sons,” he said. “Please pray for me and my family.”
The two pastors were apprehended after they had reached Khapdani village in Dorokha to attend a foundation-laying ceremony. The police confiscated Wangyal’s laptop hard disk, mobile phone and a movie projector.
Before winning release on bail on April 22, the two pastors were detained for 49 days without formal charges. The evening of March 4, they had spoken at the ground-breaking ceremony for a new house at the invitation of another Christian in Khapdani. They were planning to hold a three-day seminar in the village the next day that included screening of a film, but as they were trying to transport a child who was ill to a hospital, police arrested them.
The Civil Society Organization Act puts restrictions on collections, stipulating that “No person shall collect or ask for any contribution or charity to aid or help any activity, which is in contravention with the laws of the Country, and a collection in a public place must not be conducted unless the promoters of the collection hold a public collections certificate from the Authority and the collection is conducted in accordance with this Act.”
At the United Nations Human Rights Council’s recent Universal Periodic Review of the Buddhist nation in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States and other nations urged the tiny kingdom to protect religious freedom by allowing people to freely practice their faith and by granting all religious groups equal opportunity to obtain legal status.
Among other international rights groups submitting reports, U.S.-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) called on Bhutan to address various religious freedom concerns. ADF noted that Bhutan has enacted several laws restricting fundamental rights of its citizens, freedom of association and freedom of religion and belief of individuals.
Wangyal had refuted Home and Cultural Affairs Minister Damcho Dorji’s statement to Business Bhutan newspaper that religion was not a factor in the arrests, saying, “All this time they have denied that it was a faith-based arrest, but everything since day one has revolved around faith.”
Thapa (Lobzang) said he was grieving for his friend and colleague.
“I was sentenced to less than three years, which was bailable,” he told Morning Star News. “I paid the money against the prison term and will return home tomorrow.”
Christians are generally allowed to meet in homes or private halls to worship but face obstacles and persecution in trying to do so. Bhutan has numerous Buddhist monasteries and a few Hindu temples, but no church building.
The miniscule Christian community remained underground until 2008. Bhutan transitioned to a constitutional democratic monarchy in 2008 after a century of absolute monarchy.
As happens at Christmas every year throughout the Muslim world, Christians and their churches were especially targeted—from jihadi terror strikes killing worshippers, to measures by Muslim authorities restricting Christmas celebrations. Some incidents follow:
Iraq: “Militants” reported the Associated Press, “targeted Christians in three separate Christmas Day bombings in Baghdad, killing at least 37 people, officials said Wednesday. In one attack, a car bomb went off near a church in the capital’s southern Dora neighborhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38, a police officer said. Earlier, two bombs ripped through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21.”
Iran: Five Muslim converts to Christianity were arrested from a house-church during a Christmas celebration. Plain clothes Iranian security authorities raided a house where, according to Mohabat News, “a group of Christians had gathered to celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, December 24.” Before arresting the five apostates, authorities “insulted and searched those in attendance, and seized all Christian books, CDs, and laptops they found. They also took the Satellite TV receiver.” The original report received by Mohabat stated: “These Christians had gathered to worship and celebrate [the] birth of Jesus.”
Indonesia: Muslims in the Aceh province protested against Christmas and New Year celebrationsand called on authorities to ban them. Days earlier, an influential Islamic cleric organization, the Ulema Consultative Assembly, issued a fatwa, or edict, “prohibiting Muslims from offering Christmas wishes or celebrating on New Year’s Eve,” said the Associated Press. Aceh is the “only province in predominantly Muslim Indonesia that is allowed to implement a version of Islamic Shariah law.”
Kenya: “Youths,” reported Reuters, “threw petrol bombs at two Kenyan churches on Christmas day … in the latest bout of violence against Christians on the country’s predominantly Muslim coast.” The attacks occurred “in the early hours of December 25 after churchgoers held services to usher in Christmas.” The churches were located in Muslim-majority regions. One church was “completely destroyed.”
Somalia: The more “moderate” government—as it is often portrayed in comparison to Al Shabaab (“The Youth”) opposition—banned Christmas celebrations. Hours before Christmas Day, the Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs released a directive banning any Christian festivities from being held in the east African nation. In the words of one ministry official: “We alert fellow Muslims in Somalia that some festivities to mark Christian Days will take place around the world in this week. It is prohibited to celebrate those days in this country.” All security and law enforcement agencies were instructed to quash any Christian celebrations.
Pakistan: During Christmas Eve services, “Heavy contingents of police were deployed around the churches to thwart any untoward incident.” In some regions, “prayer service at major churches focused on remembering the Pakistani Christians who lost their lives in terror attacks.” For example, three months earlier, Islamic suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church compound in Peshawar following Sunday mass and blew themselves up in the midst of some 550 congregants, killing some 130 worshippers, including many Sunday school children, women, and choir members, and injuring nearly 200 people.
Even in Western nations like Denmark, Christmas Eve witnessed Islamic demonstrations and cries of “Allahu Akbar” (or “Allah is greater”).
Also in December, Syria’s Greek-Catholic Church declared that it had three “true martyrs”—men from the small town of Ma’loula, an ancient Christian site where the inhabitants still spoke the language of Christ. According to Asia News, “When the town fell [in Sep
tember, to al-Qaeda linked rebels], a climate of fear was imposed… When three men refused to repudiate their religion, they were summarily executed in public, and six more were taken hostage. This was followed by a failed attempt by Syrian government forces to retake the town.” In the words of Patriarch Gregorios III to Pope Francis in a meeting: “Holy Father, they are true martyrs. Ordered to give up their faith, they proudly refused. Three others however gave in and were forced to declare themselves Muslim, but later returned to the faith of their ancestors.” According to the families who fled from Ma’loula, “some of their Muslim neighbors took part in the attack that devastated this historic village where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Muslims are approximately one third of the population of the village…”
The rest of December’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, not necessarily according to severity.
Islamic Attacks on Christian Places of Worship
Egypt: After a Coptic Christian priest from the village of Tarshoub, Upper Egypt, left to service a new location and a new priest was sent to Tarshoub, Muslim Brotherhood supporters rioted and attacked the village Christians, including by throwing stones at their homes, burning property, and calling for the closure of the village church, which has been in existence for 40 years. The church was subsequently closed and the priest prevented from entering the village. The Christian Post reported that Christian villagers were “getting close to the New Year celebrations and Christmas, and yet they are not able to open the church…. security authorities have not arrested the aggressors, while Copts were forced to close the church for fear of more attacks, especially in light of continued incitement by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Indonesia: Five more churches were closed by authorities, leaving thousands of Christians without a place of worship. First, claiming that the existence of a Protestant church in North Sumatra was illegal, hundreds of Muslims belonging to the Islamic Defenders Front attacked and disrupted its Sunday services, creating so much havoc that police had to escort Christians home. Then, two new churches—one in West Java, the other in South Sulawesi—were sealed off. The Sulawesi church was subsequently demolished by authorities. A few days later, two more churches near Jakarta were forced to stop holding services. According to International Christian Concern, “The reason behind this month’s rash of church closures, especially after seven months of relative quiet, is not exactly clear. It may be that the coming Christmas holiday has ignited always simmering anti-Christian sentiment among radical groups. In 2000, 16 were killed by bomb attacks on churches over the Christmas holiday.”
Russia: In December it was revealed that seven Christian churches were torched in 2013 in a Muslim-majority republic in Russia, according to Asia News: “Churches burned, attacks foiled and increased pressure on Christians to convert to Islam. In Tatarstan—autonomous republic of the Russian Federation, with a Muslim majority—the extremism alarm is increasing.” Although the culprits setting fire to churches are “unidentified extremists,” Father Dmitri Sizov, pastor of Pestrechinsky, said that “the whole community knows that it is the work of the Wahhabis [Islamic literalists]” who “roam, inviting the faithful to convert to Islam.” But “the priests remain silent because they are afraid of being accused of incitement to religious hatred,” added Fr. Dmitri.
Syria: Islamic rebel forces fired multiple mortar shells on a church in the southern province of Daraa, killing 12 people and injuring many others, including church volunteers who were there distributing charity aid to the locals. Separately, five young children were killed when rebels fired two rockets at a Christian school. According to the Patriarch of the Church of Antioch, more than 450,000 Christian Syrians have been displaced from the conflict, and more than a thousand have been killed.
Islamic Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostasy, Proselytism, and Dhimmitude
Cameroon: David Dina Mataware, a Christian missionary, was slaughtered by neighboring Nigeria’s Islamic group Boko Haram. On the same day and in the same area that the missionary’s murder took place, a French priest, Father Georges Vandenbeusch, was also kidnapped. The slain missionary, whose throat was slit, had worked in a Nigeria-based mission agency in Cameroon for some fourteen years, bringing the Gospel to remote tribes.
Egypt: “The nation’s most well-known convert from Islam” to Christianity was arrested, including for allegedly inciting “sectarian strife,” and “is likely being tortured,” reported Morning News. Bishoy Armia Boulous, 31—popularly known by his former Muslim name, Muhammad Hegazy—was arrested while in a café. Authorities claim that he was working with a Coptic satellite station to create a “false image” of violence against Christians in Minya, Upper Egypt, where attack on Copts are most common. However, human rights activists close to Bishoy say “his arrest had nothing to do with any reporting work but constituted retaliation for becoming a Christian” and possibly for evangelizing to Muslims.
Iran: While raiding their home, the Islamic republic’s feared secret police assaulted the wife and children of jailed evangelical Pastor Behnam Irani. According to a source assisting the family with advocacy, “They confiscated her laptop computer and Christian materials… While the secret police were in her home they were yelling at her and doing their best to scare her. This really frightened the children, Rebekah and Adriel” and was apparently meant to create enough “fear to silence them.” The raid came after the imprisoned evangelical leader—and former Muslim—was told by a court to remain behind bars because he “did not change.”
Syria: The anti-Christian strictures of Sharia, or Islamic law, continued to be applied onto Christians by Islamic rebels. According to Agenzia Fides, “Kanaye [a Christian region] has been invaded by Islamist militants that terrorize the population, threaten a massacre and have imposed the Islamic law… This has become a pattern that repeats itself and that in recent weeks has focused on a number of Christian villages: armed guerrillas penetrate into the village, terrorize civilians, commit kidnappings, kill, sow destruction.” Father George Louis of the village of Qara, which has been devastated and burned, explained: Maalula [the aforementioned Ma’loula], Sednaya, Sadad, Qara and Deir Atieh, Nebek: armed jihadists target a village, they invade it, kill people, burn and devastate it.”
Turkmenistan: Police and Secret Service agents in Dashoguz, a northern city, raided a group of believers of the Church of the Light of the East, a Protestant community. Forces raided two houses of prayer, seizing religious materials, including Bibles. An official of the Department of Religious Affairs, who is also an imam at the local mosque, went on to inform the pastor that his faith “is wrong” and warned him to convert to Islam, adding “Christianity is a mistake … it’s not a religion, but a myth.” Moreover, Christians practicing hymns for Sunday service were told by officers that “the songs of praise to God are banned here.” Adds Asia News: “Meanwhile, an increasing number of people are being incarcerated for crimes of opinion and defense of religious freedom.”
Carnage of Christians
Central African Republic: In just two days of violence, at least 1,000 people were killed in Bangui, CAR’s capital, following the chaos that has engulfed the nation after Seleka, a coalition of Muslim militia, whose members include many foreigners, ousted the Christian president—the nation is Christian-majority with a significant Muslim-minority—and installed a Muslim ruler. Because some Christians tried to resist with violence, killing some 60 Muslim males in combat, the Islamic group “retaliated on a larger scale against Christians in the wake of the attack, killing nearly 1,000 men over a two-day period and systematically looting civilian homes. A small number of women and children were also killed,” reported Amnesty. Tens of thousands of Christians fled from machete-wielding Muslims, many now living in desperate conditions around churches and bishoprics. “They are slaughtering us like chickens,” said one Christian. “We have had enough of Seleka killing, raping and stealing,” said another, adding that he was not sure whether he could ever go back and live among Muslims. “We are angry,” he said. “The Muslims should go back where they came from.”
Nigeria: Islamic Fulani herdsmen killed at least 205 Christian farmers in the latter half of 2013, while ten thousand more Christians were displaced and many of their churches destroyed or closed. As for motive, Christian leaders, “had no doubt the Muslim assailants aimed to demoralize and destroy Christians,” said Morning Star News. Several of the attackers appear to be mercenaries from outside the area, explaining how the Fulani farmers became so heavily armed. “Life has become unbearable for our church members who have survived these attacks, and they are making worship services impossible,” said a Roman Catholic bishop. Another area Christian leader said that “Many of our Christian brethren have been killed. The Muslim gunmen that are attacking our Christian communities are numerous; they are so many that we can’t count them. They are spread across all the communities and unleashing terror on our people without any security resistance.”
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by 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 cowed 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—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.
Mar 27, 2014
In a pointed letter to the president, Wolf wrote that if the Obama Administration can signal its intention to appoint a special envoy to the Arctic region it should be able to appoint a special envoy for religious minorities. The House has twice passed Wolf’s legislation to create an envoy for religious minorities but the measure has stalled in the Senate, partly because of opposition from the Obama Administration.
“Your administration could act today, consistent with the sentiments you expressed following your meeting with the Pope, in announcing the creation of a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia and then you could immediately begin consulting with the affected communities, including the growing diaspora communities here in the U.S., about a high profile person best suited to take on this monumental task,” Wolf wrote. “I urge you to put your words into action, lest inaction be perceived as indifference.”
Below is the complete text of Wolf’s letter:
The Honorable Barack H. Obama
The White House
Washington DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I read with great interest your public remarks today regarding your meeting with His Holiness, Pope Francis, specifically your comment that you spent a “lot of time talking about what’s happening in Syria, what’s happening in Lebanon, and the potential persecution of Christians,” and “reaffirmed that it is central to U.S. foreign policy that we protect the interests of religious minorities around the world.”
While I agree protecting religious minorities around the world SHOULD be central to U.S. foreign policy, this has sadly not rung true in recent years. And I think most would agree that there is not simply potential persecution of Christians, and I would add other vulnerable religious minorities, rather there is a very real threat posed to these ancient faith communities throughout the region as evidenced by the discrimination, violence and even death that is a daily reality.
More than three years ago I introduced relatively modest bipartisan legislation that has twice overwhelmingly passed in the House only to languish in the Senate. The bill would create a special envoy within the U.S. State Department, charged with advocating for vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia, precisely the very issue you spoke to today. It has been widely embraced by an array of faith-based organizations, including but not limited to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA.
Consider the following: Coptic Christians, once numbering roughly 8 -10 million, are leaving in droves in the face of increased repression, persecution and violence in Egypt. Similarly, Iraq’s Christian population has plummeted. Churches have been targeted, believers kidnapped for ransom and families threatened with violence if they stay. Canon Andrew White, famously dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad” as he oversees the only Anglican Church in Iraq, was quoted as saying that Christians, “are frightened even to walk to church because they might come under attack. All the churches are targets… We used to have 1.5 million Christians, now we have probably only 200,000 left… There are more Iraqi Christians in Chicago than there are here.”
And of course this month marks the anniversary of the uprising which eventually spiraled into the war and violence which has terrorized Syria for three years now. Muslims and Christians alike have experienced horrific violence. But time and again in my meetings with Syrian Christians they remark that they fear the fate that befell their brethren in Iraq, where, as already noted, hundreds of thousands have fled after being targeted by rival Islamist groups. Notably, the Christians of the Syrian village of Raqqa now must endure the additional injustice of dhimmitude whereby those who remain face death, forced conversion or an exacting set of demands which includes bans on renovating and rebuilding churches, a prohibition on the public exercise of their faith and much more.
Christians are not alone. In Iran, the so-called “Baha’i Seven” languish unjustly in prison. In Pakistan, violence against the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is often met with impunity and basic rights, including the ability to vote, are denied. And, Anti-Semitism throughout the region is rampant.
The scope of religious persecution around the world, but especially in the Middle East is gravely concerning, and ought to alarm any person of conscience. I do not pretend to think that a special envoy, as envisioned by the legislation I authored, would single-handedly solve the problem, for it is vast. But I can say with certainty that it would provide much-needed hope and comfort to communities desperate to know that the United States stands with them.
At various points, your State Department has opposed Senate passage of this bill. While I would welcome legislative action on the measure, it is by no means necessary for the creation of a special envoy. In fact, just last month, Secretary of State Kerry announced his intention to name a special representative or envoy to the Arctic region. Your administration could act today, consistent with the sentiments you expressed following your meeting with the Pope, in announcing the creation of a special envoy for religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia and then you could immediately begin consulting with the affected communities, including the growing diaspora communities here in the U.S., about a high profile person best suited to take on this monumental task.
I urge you to put your words into action, lest inaction be perceived as indifference.
Frank R. Wolf
Member of Congress
Why are Christians, as a new Pew report documents, the most persecuted religious group in the world? And why is their persecution occurring primarily throughout the Islamic world? (In the category on “Countries with Very High Government Restrictions on Religion,” Pew lists 24 countries—20 of which are Islamic and precisely where the overwhelming majority of “the world’s” Christians are actually being persecuted.)
The reason for this ubiquitous phenomenon of Muslim persecution of Christians is threefold:
Christianity is the largest religion in the world. There are Christians practically everywhere around the globe, including in much of the Muslim world. Moreover, because much of the land that Islam seized was originally Christian—including the Middle East and North Africa, the region that is today known as the “Arab world”—Muslims everywhere are still confronted with vestiges of Christianity, for example, in Syria, where many ancient churches and monasteries are currently being destroyed by al-Qaeda linked, U.S. supported “freedom fighters.” Similarly, in Egypt, where Alexandria was a major center of ancient Christianity before the 7th century Islamic invasions, there still remain at least 10 million Coptic Christians (though some put the number at much higher). Due to sheer numbers alone, then, indigenous Christians are much more visible and exposed to attack by Muslims than other religious groups throughout the Arab world. Yet as CNS News puts it, “President Obama expressed hope that the ‘Arab Spring’ would give rise to greater religious freedom in North Africa and the Middle East, which has had the world’s highest level of hostility towards religion in every year since 2007, when Pew first began measuring it. However, the study finds that these regions actually experienced the largest increase in religious hostilities in 2012.”
Christianity is a proselytizing faith that seeks to win over converts. No other major religion—including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism—except Islam itself has this missionary aspect (these faiths tend to be coterminous with their respective ethnicities: Buddhists, Asians; Judaism, Jews; Hinduism, Hindus). Thus because Christianity is the only religion that is actively confronting Muslims with the truths of its own message, not only is it the primary religion to be accused of proselytizing but, by publicly uttering teachings that contradict Muhammad’s, Christians are accused of blaspheming as well. Similarly, this proselytizing element is behind the fact that most Muslims who apostatize to other religions overwhelmingly convert to Christianity. Finally, if indigenous Christians are many in the Middle East, because that is the cradle of Christianity, in other regions with large Muslim populations, such as sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, Christian missionaries have won over millions of converts to the faith—many of whom are now targeted and persecuted according to Islam’s anti-apostasy law, which often calls for the death penalty.
Christianity is the quintessential religion of martyrdom. From its inception—beginning with Jesus followed by his disciples and the early Church—many Christians have accepted martyrdom rather than recant their faith, in ancient times at the hands of Romans, in Medieval and modern times at the hands of pious Muslims and others. Few other religions encourage their adherents to embrace death rather than recant, as captured by Christ’s own words: “But whoever denies me before men, I will deny him before my Father in heaven” (Matt 10:33; see also Luke 14:33).” Conversely, Islam teaches Muslims to openly renounce their faith (taqiyya)—not just when their lives are threatened, but even as a stratagem of war—as long as they remain Muslim in their hearts. Other religions and sects also approve of dissimulation to preserve their adherents’ lives. Back in the 1800s, for instance, Samuel M. Zwemer, a Christian missionary, observed that in Iran “Bahaism enjoys taqiyya (concealment of faith) as a duty, but Christianity demands public profession; and hence in Persia it is far easier to become a Bahai than to become a Christian.”
To summarize, because of their sheer numbers around the globe, including the Muslim world, Christians are the most likely targets of Islamic intolerance; because sharing the Gospel, or “witnessing,” is a dominant element of Christianity, Christians are most likely to fall afoul of Islam’s blasphemy and proselytism laws, as even the barest pro-Christian talk is by necessity a challenge to the legitimacy of Islam; because most Muslims who apostatize to other religions convert to Christianity, it is as Christians that they suffer persecution; and because boldness in face of certain death—martyrdom, dying for the faith—is as old as Christianity itself, Christians are especially prone to defy Islam’s anti-freedom laws, whether by openly proclaiming Christianity or by refusing to recant it, and so they die for it.