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Burkina Faso: Fulani pastor brings hope to stigmatised communities

Photo: RobertoVi

(World Watch Monitor) The disproportionate presence of ethnic Fulani among Islamist militants wreaking havoc in the Sahel and West Africa has led to a stigmatisation of the Fulani generally, says a Protestant pastor from Burkina Faso.

In April security forces went into Djibo, a town in the northern part of Burkina Faso and killed 31 unarmed Fulani men. The men were rounded up after their IDs had been checked.

A former inhabitant of the village told Radio France Internationale the security forces “go to the villages where these people grew up and look for their relatives. The relatives don’t support terrorism, they are living in their villages. But they detain these people who they see as complicit in terrorism”.

“There is not a very good view of the Fulani,” said Adama, himself Fulani and a pastor in central Burkina Faso who asked not to be identified by his real name for security reasons.

“They are regarded as militants taking part in jihadi attacks, causing trouble in the Sahel region. But that is not all that there is to it. Not all Fulani are terrorists and not all terrorists are Fulani. We, the Fulani, are also the image of God and one first needs to see that,” he told World Watch Monitor. In Burkina Faso the Fulani make up 6.3% of the population.

‘More serious challenge than Covid-19’

Adama studied theology in the UK but returned to Burkina Faso in 2008 to serve among his own people. “Things are not the same as they were,” he said. “Burkinabe people are under increased pressure. We have got to watch our backs all the time. What we are dealing with is a far more serious challenge than Covid-19”.

Burkina Faso has become vulnerable to the instability plaguing the greater Sahel region caused by a number of Islamist extremist militia groups. The country not only battles widespread poverty – 40.1% of the population living below the national poverty line, a power vacuum following a coup in 2014 and the spread of radical Islamist teachings have provided fertile soil.

“The terrorism activities have hit us so quickly,” Adama said. “These groups moved in and took control of areas where there was less government presence and the population had little access to education, health care etc. Many areas of Burkina’s northern and eastern regions have now become ‘no-go’ areas.”

As a result of the violence, many churches and schools in these regions have closed and people have fled to other parts of the country.

Pastor Adama has been trying to help those who decided to stay as well as other vulnerable communities.  A training centre in a village in central Burkina Faso offers skills training and people can take what they have learned back to their villages: “Now many of these villages have shops, restaurants etc – things they did not have before.” His ministry also organises quarterly “community health days” in which doctors are invited to visit communities to avoid people having to travel to the nearest city for healthcare.

“In the midst of stigmatisation and the terrorism agenda which brings violence, we bring peace and transformation into these communities,” he said.

Who are the Fulani?

The Fula people, often described as the Fulani, are regarded as the world’s largest nomadic group: an estimated 40 million people dispersed across 20 nations, mostly in Western Africa. The majority resides in Nigeria, Mali, Guinea, Cameroon, Senegal, and Niger but they also can be found in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic and Egypt.

They speak Fula languages as well as Hausa, English, French and Arabic.

The centuries-old Fulani heritage is pastoral, organized primarily around nomadic herding of cattle, sheep and goats, though segments of the Fulani farm crops or live in urban areas.

The Fulani were early adopters of Islam, participating in holy wars, or jihads, in the 16th Century that established them as a dominant social and economic force in Western Africa.

Conflict

As the frontier of the Sahara Desert has moved southward, Fulani herds have gradually been pushed southward, causing conflicts with farming communities. In regions such as Nigeria’s Middle Belt, however, the conflicts have become more sinister than simple land disputes that boil over into violence. Many of the farmers belong to the ethnic Berom, mostly Christian, indigenous people, and the attacks have taken on an ethnic and religious character.

In Burkina Faso the Fulani are targeted for recruitment by terrorist groups such as Ansar ul Islam — a homegrown group which emerged in 2016 – that has been responsible for many of the attacks in the northern and eastern parts of the country. The armed violence by Ansar ul Islam and other radical groups moving in from Mali, has displaced at least 1 million people.

Churches Accused by Media Outlet as ‘Major Source’ of COVID-19

Dr. Ed Stetzer, the Billy Graham chair of church, mission, and evangelism at Wheaton College, appeared on Thursday’s afternoon edition of CBN’s Newswatch, to talk about the recent New York Times article claiming Sunday worship services are a “major source” of COVID-19 cases.

 

CHRISTIANS FLEE NORTH-EAST SYRIA AS FIGHTING CONTINUES

DAMASCUS/ANKARA (BosNewsLife)– Tens of thousands of panicked-stricken people, many of them Christians, are seen fleeing north-east Syria amid fears that a brief ceasefire will not end a deadly Turkish invasion. They escape a region where over 100 people, including some Christians, were reported killed in recent fighting between Turkish and Kurdish forces. Others were injured.

“Already one Christian home in a Christian neighborhood in the city of Qamishli has been shelled, with family members injured,” confirmed Christian aid group, Barnabas Fund.

“The mother is in a critical condition in hospital. Two other Christians in Qamishli have been killed and many wounded,” the group added.

Barnabas Fund said, “Christians are alarmed to note that the attacking forces include not only the Turkish army but also Syrian Islamist rebel factions whose extremist ideology makes them strongly anti-Christian.”

At least one Islamic rebel group, the Levant Front, seized Christian homes of those fleeing in the town of Tal Abyad, other Christian aid workers told BosNewsLife. It was not immediately clear how many houses had been taken over.

CHRISTIAN REFUGEES

Barnabas Fund claimed that some of the Christian refugees were already displaced several times during Syria’s civil war. They “finally found stability in this region. Now they must run for their lives again,” the group explained in a statement to BosNewsLife.

As many as 100,000 people have already left their homes, according to the United Nations. The number of internally displaced persons could reach 300,000 in the area, warned Barnabas Fund citing local sources.

Turkey’s attacks, launched last week, target a part of Syria viewed as relatively secure in eight years of civil war. “But overnight it has become a battlefield,” Barnabas Fund complained.

The group noted that the region has strong Christian communities that are “often seen as a peace-keeping buffer between the Arabs and Kurds.”

Barnabas Fund said it is providing humanitarian aid such as food and shelter to Syrian Christians. Additionally, “We have also helped to support our brothers and sisters spiritually. That includes funding projects to strengthen church ministry and build them up in their faith through the years of unrelenting conflict, loss, and trauma,” it stressed. “As Christians, they suffered persecution for their faith in addition to all the normal suffering of the war.”

MORE VIOLENCE

Christians have reasons to fear more violence. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey warned his troops would “crush the heads” of Kurdish fighters if they don’t withdraw from a planned safe zone area in northern Syria.

Turkey agreed on Thursday, October 17, to suspend an offensive for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from the region.

But both sides have accused the other of violating the ceasefire, which was negotiated by the United States. American forces appeared unwilling Monday, October 21, to be drawn into the conflict. Reporters saw hundreds of trucks carrying American troops crossing into Iraq in a long military convoy Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump said last week that he would bring all American troops stationed in Syria “back home.” He rejected concerns that this could lead to the freeing of Islamic militants from prisons and more pressure on minority Christians and other vulnerable groups.

American troops fought the Islamic State terror group alongside the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. Most of these forces will move to western Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said. But he suggested that some would remain temporarily in Syria to protect oil fields from Islamic State, despite President Trump’s call for a full withdrawal.

Indonesia: Three churches closed in permits dispute

Members of one of the closed churches hold a sign that says: “Our Assemblies of God church has been sealed by the government.” (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Three churches were closed in an Indonesian village last week amidst rumors Muslims were planning to protest against the churches’ presence because they did not have the required permits.

But a pastor from one of the affected churches in West Kenali village, Alam Barajo district, in Sumatra’s central Jambi province, told World Watch Monitor: “We had been worshipping here since 2004 and fulfilled all building license requirements. We have even built a good relationship with the local authorities. Yet the permit was not granted.”

“The rapid church growth in the area during the last decade may have caused restlessness among the majority-Muslim neighbourhood,” said the pastor, who leads an Assemblies God church.

“The rapid church growth in the area during the last decade may have caused restlessness among the majority-Muslim neighbourhood.”

The other two affected churches belong to the Huria Kristen Indonesia (HKI) and Gereja Methodist Indonesia (GMI) branches.

A local source, who wished to remain anonymous, said the churches were closed to prevent unrest ahead of a planned protest by supporters of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

“The village head filed a complaint with the higher authorities and rallied the support of radical group Islamic Defenders Front to hold protests against the churches,” the source said. “The day before the church closures, a letter had been circulated saying that a thousand Muslim residents would rally in front of the three churches on Friday, September 28. The government decided to seal the churches to prevent the commotion.”

The Indonesian Evangelical Fellowship (PGLII) and the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) released a statement, urging the government to uphold religious freedom, protect minorities and not give in to mass pressure.

PGI also sent a legal team to support the churches, reported VOA. “The local government keeps delaying the process to have the permit, or just reject it without any reasons,” PGI General Secretary Gomar Gultom said.

Jambi District Spokesman Abu Bakar told VOA the church closures were just a “temporary action” due to “administrative issues”.

Bakar also denied that there had been pressure from the FPI to close the churches and said that if they submitted the required documents, they would receive permits within a week.

‘Religious politicisation’

Paul Marshall, Wilson Professor of Religious Freedom at Baylor University, warned recently that Indonesia was likely see an increase in the “politicisation of religion” ahead of the 2019 elections.

“Much of this manipulation is done by people who are not especially religious,” he said at the Fourth Annual Southeast Asia Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Bangkok, in August.

He added: “What is most likely to lead to conflict is not robust, believing religion, but rather shallow religion that is used as a political identifier. The problem is usually not strong religion, but weak religion that is a strong source of identity.”

More than 1,000 churches have been closed or prevented from being built in Indonesia since a “religious harmony” law was passed in 2006, ordering minority religious groups to obtain the permission of the local majority group before building houses of worship, according to Human Rights Watch.

In Cilegon, a city in Banten, Java’s westernmost province, 21 churches registered under Cilegon’s Inter Church Cooperation Body (BKSAG) had all either been closed or were facing that threat, its President, Steven Polii, told World Watch Monitor in September last year. An historic agreement between local Islamic leaders and the government dictated that no churches are allowed in Cilegon, in order to preserve its Muslim identity, he said.

VOP Note: Indonesian Christians have contacted Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) asking that our Prayer Team pray for them. Please join us in lifting them up to the Lord.

Egypt: Copts celebrate first mass in new church, seven years since last church’s closure

(World Watch Monitor) Seven years after their previous church was closed by local authorities because of “security reasons”, the Coptic community in the Egyptian village of Kom El-Loufy, 250km south of Cairo, held a first mass in their new church yesterday, 22 July.

The 1,600 Copts from the village in Minya governorate were marking the completion of the first stage of building of their church, the Church of the Virgin Mary and Martyr Abanoub Al Nahisi, with a mass led by Fr. Feltaws Ibrahim, as the Coptic villagers sat on the floor.

The priest of the Saint Abu Sefein Coptic Orthodox Church, in the nearby village of Ezzbet Rafla, had hosted the Copts in his church while they were without a building.

Since the closure of their previous church, the Copts had experienced fierce opposition from their Muslim neighbours. Two years ago angry Muslims set fire to four Coptic homes in the village, suspecting a house would be turned into a church.

It wasn’t until the very end of 2017 when the Copts finally withdrew their complaint against the arson in exchange for permission to build a new church.

With the charges dropped, in January the community started the building process on a piece of land 700 metres outside the village.

Contentious

As World Watch Monitor has reported, Copts in several other villages have faced similar troubles.

In recent years it has been almost impossible for Coptic Christians to obtain a license to build a church, though in theory this changed in August 2016 when the Egyptian parliament passed a new law on the construction of Christian buildings of worship.

However, by March this year there were still more than 3,500 pending applications from churches that needed to be examined by a government commission set up to verify whether they met legal requirements.

The building of new churches remains a contentious issue, with a number of churches that have applied for licenses being attacked by Muslim extremists.

Earlier this month World Watch Monitor reported how a mob recently attacked a church in another Minya village in protest against the church having received approval. Police failed to intervene, while one of the officers apparently promised the protesters that no church would be allowed in the village.

Pakistan: Christians told they can’t have a church in Muslim-majority village

The church in Nayya Sarabah (Chak 336) village was built in 2012 (World Watch Monitor)

Christians in a village in Pakistan’s Punjab province have been told to remove every visible sign of Christianity from their church, six months after being forced to sign a form pledging they would no longer hold services, reports World Watch Monitor.

The 40 Christian families in Nayya Sarabah (Chak 336) village, part of Toba Tek Singh district near Faisalabad, haven’t held a service since before Christmas.

Muslim resident Hajji Muhammad Siddique told World Watch Monitor that, as “Muslims are in the majority in the village, we can’t allow a church here”.

“Now we are working with the civil administration to give a piece of land to Christians outside the village,” said Siddique, 73, who runs a dispensary. “When it is done, we will make the Christians write an agreement that they will sell this current church building or at least dismantle the church structure and crosses.”

“Most of the Christians of the village work as brick-kiln labourers,” he added. “It is only Rafaqat Masih, who, being a retired army personnel, is trying to be a leader and has helped build a church in the village.”

The church is run by Pastor Samuel Masih, but it is Rafaqat Masih, a union councillor for minorities, who has been at the forefront of efforts to resolve the matter.

“Muslims are in the majority in the village, so we can’t allow a church here.”

Most of the Christians are poor labourers. The church belongs to Full Gospel Assemblies, an evangelical group working in Pakistan, and was built on land belonging to 70-year-old Christian named Rafiq Masih.

“Rafiq is childless, so he bequeathed this property for the construction of a church building,” Rafaqat Masih told World Watch Monitor. “The construction began in 2012 and we had been holding worship services since then. But in December 2016 the local Muslims objected over it and filed an application against us in the local police station. At that time, a compromise was reached and we again started holding services. But, again, in December 2017, they submitted an application in the police station, after which we were called in and were told to sign an agreement.”

The police station in the nearby town of Rajana brought together Muslims and Christians of the village on 14 December 2017, and had them sign an agreement according to which the Christians would “hold religious ceremonies in their houses. There will be no programme in the church. If anyone will violate this agreement, then legal action will be taken. [Christians] will not gather in any house for a religious programme. If there will be any violation of this, legal action will be taken”.

That same month, the Muslims submitted an application to close down the church, and the local police and civil administration told the Christians that, as their church was not included on the official list of churches that must be provided with security on Sundays, they could no longer hold services.

(Due to the rise of terrorism, all gatherings in Pakistan are provided police security. Churches are provided security on Sunday or any other given day that Christians request police protection. However, in this case, the police told them that the church is not part of the authorised list of churches, so they cannot be provided security. Now, because security cannot be provided, they cannot come together. So in the name of security, they stopped the Christians from gathering in the church, and also from worshipping in any house.)

The Christians in the village have therefore not held a service this year, but have made frequent visits to the civil administration to either permit them to hold services in their church or to provide them with an alternative venue.

‘We are being forced to demolish the church’

Christian and Muslim villagers were called together for another meeting on Saturday, 2 June, held in the presence of Deputy Superintendent of Police Muhammad Tahir.

After the meeting, Rafaqat Masih told World Watch Monitor: “We are being forced to demolish the existing church structure and, in lieu of this, they would let us build a church on a piece of government land outside the village which is already dedicated for a school.

“They haven’t even given any documentary proof that this piece of land would be transferred to Christians. Then another issue is that we worked for several years to construct this church building. Now who is going to pay for building from scratch?”

Masih, who runs a small shop in the village, told World Watch Monitor that he had submitted an application to the Toba Tek Singh Deputy Commissioner for including the name of the church in the list of the churches which are provided security.

“The civil administration tells us that they cannot provide us security, so it is in our benefit that they have stopped us from holding a church service,” he said.

On 22 February, the Toba Tek Singh Deputy Commissioner wrote a letter to the district police chief, a copy of which World Watch Monitor has seen, saying: “Priest (sic) Samual (sic) and others of Chak No. 336/GB (Nia Saraba) Tehsil and District Toba Tek Singh has informed the [respectable] Deputy Commissioner that they have established a church in said village and the police has not permitted them to offer their prayers… I have been directed by the [respectable] Deputy Commissioner to convey you that the tension between both the parties/communities may cause an untoward situation. In view of the sensitivity of the issue, you are requested to please look into the matter at personal level and resolve the issue, to avoid any law and order situation, which may result in disturbing the peace and tranquillity of society.”

Deputy Superintendent Muhammad Tahir told World Watch Monitor that the Christians being forced to pledge to end services was not legal. “We are trying to amicably resolve this matter,” he said.

Rasheed Jalal, a member of the district council belonging to the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said the Christians were “not being treated equally”.

He said he had met with several senior government figures, including the Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs, National Assembly members and Muslim clerics, but that “nothing worked”.

“Christians are peace-loving people,” said Full Gospel Assemblies Principal Dr. Liaquat M. Qaiser. “We don’t desire any conflict. If the local Muslims do not want Christians worshipping among them, then they should provide them an alternative place. They are poor people and do not have resources to buy another place and build a church once again.”

According to the Pakistan’s constitution, a person’s security is the responsibility of the state. The constitution also provides special protections for religious minorities in religious, social and economic matters. However, contrary to these constitutional protections, churches are often forced to provide for their own security, which is primarily the responsibility of the state.

Six pastors arrested following shutdown of 700 churches

Sainte-Famille Church in Kigali (Photo: Flickr/Adam Jones/CC)

(World Watch Monitor) Six pastors have been arrested and accused of “masterminding” a ploy to disobey the Rwandan government’s order to shut down over 700 churches in one province.

The pastors were alleged to have held “illegal meetings with bad intentions”, the BBC reported.

The churches in the central province of Kigali were ordered to halt operations until they meet building regulations, safety and hygiene standards, and pollution laws, according to South Africa-based News24.

Rwanda National Police spokesperson Theos Badage told journalists on Monday, 5 March, that the six “ring leaders” were aiming to mobilise other clergy against the authorities. It is not clear when the arrested clergymen will appear in court.

Other church representatives have criticised the government’s order. Bishop Innocent Nzeyimana, president of the Churches Forum in Kigali’s Nyarugenge district, said: “Those that failed to implement a few requirements should be reopened and allowed to work while fixing the problems raised.”

Rwandan president Paul Kagame said last week that he was surprised at how many churches there were in Kigali.

“Seven hundred churches in Kigali? Are these boreholes that give people water? I don’t think we have as many boreholes. Do we even have as many factories? But 700 churches, which you even had to close? This has been a mess!” he was quoted as saying by Kenya-based Nairobi News.

Churches in other provinces are also expected to be affected by the crackdown in the coming months, according to News24.

Rwanda is deeply Christian – 44 per cent Catholic and 38 per cent Protestant – but the government strictly regulates all public events, including church services. In 2014, several Pentecostal church leaders were arrested for forming an unauthorised branch of the Church.

The country is now preparing a new law on faith-based organisations, which will require preachers to undertake theological courses. The law is expected to allow the authorities to control preachers more closely.

Report Series: Death and Destruction for Christmas: Muslim Persecution of Christians, December 2016

Police at the site of the Berlin Christmas market attack, which left 13 dead.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute

As in previous years, the month of Christmas saw an uptick in Islamic attacks on Christians—much of it in the context of targeting Christmas related worship and celebrations.

The one to claim the most lives occurred in Egypt.  There, on Sunday, December 11, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself and killed at least 27 worshippers, mostly women and children, and wounded nearly 70.  A witness described the aftermath: “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene.  I saw a headless woman being carried away.  Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people’s flesh off the floor.  There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes.”  In death toll and severity, this attack (pictures and videos of the aftermath here) surpassed the New Year’s Day bombing of an Alexandrian church that killed 23 people in 2011.  A couple of weeks before Dec. 11’s bombing, a man hurled an improvised bomb at St. George Church in Samalout.  Had the bomb detonated—it was dismantled in time—casualties would likely have been higher, as the church was packed with thousands of worshippers congregating for a special holiday service.  In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate—including “you will die Christians”—were painted on the floor of yet another church, that of the Virgin Mary in Damietta.

In Germany, Anis Amri, a Muslim man from Tunisia and asylum seeker, seized a large truck, killed its driver and pushed his corpse onto the passenger seat, and then drove the truck into the Christmas market of Berlin. Twelve revelers died and 65 were injured, some severely.  Four days later, the suspect was killed in a shootout with police near Milan.  The attack was similar to the Nice, France, terror strike, where another Muslim man drove a truck into crowds, killing dozens.  ISIS claimed responsibility, though initial reports claimed the man had no ties to Islamic terror groups.

In Turkey, a gunman dressed as Santa Claus entered a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year celebrations and shot 39 people dead, wounding several dozens.  The Islamic State later claimed the terrorist attack and portrayed it as an assault on Christian infidels and their Muslims sympathizers.  An ISIS spokesman said a “heroic soldier of the caliphate … attacked the most famous nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast”; he characterized the government of Turkey as being “the servant of the cross.”   Separately, and ironically, Turkey’s National Ministry of Education issued an email to about 35 German-funded teachers in Istanbul.  It said:  “No more Christmas celebration and/or lessons on Christmas including carol singing is permitted, effective immediately.”   As the report adds, “That Turkey is the homeland of the real ‘Santa Claus’ is an irony largely lost on most media: St Nicholas, who secretly left gifts for poor children, was in fact Bishop Nicholas who lived in c.300 AD” in formerly Christian Turkey, or Anatolia, before the Islamic conquests.

In the Philippines, as Christians were celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in a Catholic church in Mindanao, a grenade exploded by the entrance.  Sixteen people were wounded.  According to the report, “No group has claimed responsibility for the Mindanao attack, but Muslim rebels and Islamist extremists are known to be active in the province, where there have been blasts in the past.”

On Christmas Day in Cameroon, an Islamic suicide bomber targeting Christians killed a young student and a woman, and injured five others, in an attack on a market full of Christmas shoppers in Mora.  Authorities said the bomber, who also died in the attack, was from the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, centered in neighboring Nigeria, and that the casualties could have been much higher had a vigilance committee not spotted the jihadi, who was pretending to be a beggar, and prevented him from penetrating the crowded market.

During Christmas weekend in Baghdad, Iraq, two Christian shops were attacked with gunfire.  Three were confirmed dead, though local activists say as many as nine were killed.  The shops were presumably attacked for carrying alcohol.  “What a bloody gift they gave us for Christmas,” Joseph Warda, a human rights activist, said.

A Muslim migrant in Italy who, according to police, “wanted to destroy Christian symbols,” managed to set a church nativity scene aflame and destroy a separate statue of Mary.  He was caught in the act by the church’s priest, who notified authorities. They rushed to the scene and fought to restrain the man, who was reportedly suffering from a “visible psycho-physical crisis.”

A fortnight before Christmas in a region in Germany that contains more than a million Muslims, approximately 50 public Christian statues (of Jesus, Mary, etc.) were beheaded and crucifixes broken.  Many local Germans were left “shocked and scared,” said the report.  Police, who called it a “religiously motivated attack,” said they “want this fear to disappear as soon as possible.”

The Islamic State published the names and addresses of thousands of churches in the United States and called on its adherents to attack them during the holiday season, according to a message posted late-night Wednesday in the group’s “Secrets of Jihadis” social media group.  One Arabic-language message called “for bloody celebrations in the Christian New Year” and announced the group’s plans to mobilize lone wolf attackers to “turn the Christian New Year into a bloody horror movie.”  Manuals for the use and preparations of weapons and explosives for aspiring assailants were also available on the same social media platform.

Police in Australia arrested seven men—described as “self-radicalized” and “inspired by the Islamic State”—for planning a series of bomb attacks in the heart of Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city, on Christmas Day.  Among their targets was St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Four hundred police were involved in the raid, and more were deployed on Christmas Day as a precautionary measure.

In Pakistan, 43 people, mostly Christian, died, and another 120 were hospitalized, after they drank tainted alcohol at a Christmas celebration in the Muslim majority nation.  Joseph Arshad, Christian bishop of Faisalabad, while visiting the sick in the hospital, said, “This tragic event turned the joyous festivity of Christmas into mourning with many lives still hang[ing] in the balance due to critical conditions” of many patients.  A judiciary inquiry needs to be conducted to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

In Uganda, 19 masked Muslims screaming “Allahu Akbar” and “Away from here, this village is not for Christians but for Allah,” stormed a church compound during Christmas Day service, and savagely beat 15 Christians.  Five were seriously wounded with broken bones.   “Previously at an all-night Christmas Eve service, a Muslim had put his faith in Jesus Christ and had been immediately healed of illness,” said the report:  “Yasiini Mugoya said he returned home and shared the gospel of Christ with his fellow Muslims early on Christmas morning. ‘They started beating me and forced me to lead them to the church compound where the Christians had prayed for me and I had received salvation and healing.  When we arrived at the church, the Muslims started attacking the church members.’”

In Indonesia, Muslims yelling “Allahu Akbar” stormed a building where hundreds of Christians were lighting candles and singing “Silent Night” as part of a Christmas service, and forced the celebrations to be stopped.  Shortly before the group stormed the building, the pastor had just prayed and said “Christmas is not a day for hatred but Christmas is a day for reconciliation and peace.”  Separately, the nation’s military and paramilitary personnel—a total of 150,000 people—were on high alert during Christmas as militant Muslims stepped up their anti-Christmas rhetoric and threats.   Security forces managed to kill three Islamic terrorists discovered with bombs which they had planned to use; another dozen or so Islamic terrorists were arrested for also planning Christmas time attacks.

Anti-terrorist forces in Bangladesh foiled a planned suicide attack on a Catholic church during Christmas.   The conspirators, who belong to the “New Group of Mujahidin,” planned to bomb Holy Spirit church in Dhaka, the capital, but were tracked and arrested on Christmas Eve.

Authorities from Christian-majority Kenya said intelligence revealed that Al-Shabaab, an Islamic terror group in neighboring Somalia, was planning a series of terrorist attacks during the Christmas season, including on houses of worship.  The nation was placed on high alert and citizens were told to be vigilant and report any suspicious activities.

One Christmas Day, a video was released of a Catholic priest who was kidnapped on March 4, 2016 in Yemen, when Islamic terrorists raided a nursing home and killed 16 people, including several nuns and aid workers. In the video, Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, who appeared weak and out of breath, said “Nothing has been done by Pope Francis or the Bishop of Abu Dhabi to get me released, in spite of contact being made by my captors.”  He also implored the Catholic pope: “Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life.”

Several flyers and posters were found plastered on churches all throughout South Sudan during the Christmas season.   They contained anti-Christian rhetoric and “included calls for Muslims to neither visit nor congratulate their Christian neighbours on the festive season,” said the report.

More stories of Christian experiences under ISIS continued to emerge in December. “I just want to go home,” said 80-year-old Victoria Behman Akouma, now in a refugee camp.   When ISIS took over her town in August 2014, “They asked me to convert to Islam, but I told them I will die a Christian and that they can kill me if they want to.”

Based on the findings of a prominent statistician and researcher in Italy who was interviewed on Vatican Radio, “Christians continue to be the most persecuted believers in the world with over 90,000 followers of Christ being killed in the last year”; this comes out to one death every 6 minutes on average, the majority of which occur in Africa.

The rest of the accounts of Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in the month of December, though with little direct relation to Christmas, include:

Austria:  A 22-year-old Muslim asylum seeker from Afghanistan stabbed a Christian woman with a knife for reading from the Bible in the asylum center.  According to the report, the man “had taken offence to the fact that the woman had been invited by Christian residents of the property to discuss the Bible. When he found out what she was doing, he stormed into the kitchen where the woman was standing and tried to plunge the knife into her upper body.” The 50-year-old woman’s thick winter coat deflected the knife, but “she did injure her ear when she fell backwards from the force of the man’s violent blows.”

Crete:  Unknown vandals set fire to the Church of Archangel, in the Lagolio village of Crete.  The only clue to their identity is that they wrote “Allahu Akbar” in Arabic on the walls, “infuriating locals,” said the report.  Although local residents managed to put out the fire before it spread, icons and other sacred items were burned.

Democratic Republic of Congo: In a region where Islamic terrorists associated with the Allied Democratic Forces are highly active and where many people of the Christian-majority nation have been killed, a young nun was found shot dead in her office.  According to the pontifical institute’s World and Mission magazine, Sister Marie Claire joins a growing list of clergy in Africa “who have given their lives for the Gospel.”

Uganda:  Muslim relatives beat a 30-year-old former Islamic teacher unconscious after he publicly confessed he converted to Christianity.  Then, on December 8, Muslims attacked his 60-year-old mother who, after visiting and listening to her ostracized son’s conversion journey, also embraced Christianity; they gashed her head open and broke her hand.   Separately, Muslims destroyed the home of a single mother because she converted from Islam to Christianity.  On December 23, she received a letter in Arabic reading, “Be warned that if you do not return to Islam, then your days are numbered. We do not want to be associated with infidels. You have become a disgrace to Allah and the Muslim community at Kitoikawononi.”  On the following day, Christmas Eve, Muslims came and razed the woman’s home to the ground, leaving her and her three children homeless.

Indonesia: A man entered an elementary school in East Nusa Tenggara, walked to the back of a classroom and began stabbing children. Seven children were injured. The man, who was reportedly Muslim, recently migrated to the village which is reportedly 90% Christian. Angered villagers stormed the police station, overpowered the police, and killed the man who stabbed their children.  Separately, a group from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) stormed and threatened a car dealership which had asked its employees to wear Christmas themed outfits.

Pakistan:  A Muslim man beat and kicked a 58-year-old Christian woman unconscious after she refused to clean his home because she was already overbooked with two other homes.  “She offered to come back another day with a team of a further two cleaners, however the landlord wanted his home cleaned immediately,” said the report.  When Bashiran [the woman] refused, stating that she was too old to take on another job, especially of this size on her own, Afzal [the man] became angry.  He glared at Bashiran and accused her of disrespect as Christians should not be refusing to take orders from Muslims. Bashiran was pushed to the floor, and Mr Afzal began kicking and punching her until she became unconscious.” When her son went to the police, they refused to register the crime; when the family pushed the case, Muslims threatened to kill the Christians unless they dropped it.   Separately, a Christian boy was videotaped being publicly beaten for drinking water from a fountain located inside a mosque.   The video shows the boy yelling and screaming after being whipped with wooden sticks and beaten with shoes. 

Egypt:  A “reconciliation meeting” was held by top officials in Naghameesh, where a building Christians were using to hold church services was torched by angry Muslims.  Although the “brotherhood of all Egyptians”—Christians and Muslims—was the main theme, when it came to the question of giving their fellow Christian brothers the same right to worship, the majority of Muslim leaders and family members at the reconciliation meeting continued to refuse them a place to pray in. Authorities acquiesced and did nothing to support the Christians.  “We don’t understand what is so dangerous about the Copts praying and exercising their legal rights in this matter,” one local Christian said.  Separately, but around the same time, the Egyptian government boasted that it is opening 10 new mosques every week; that there are 3,200 closed mosques that need renovating, and that the government is currently working on 1,300 of them; that it will take about 60 million Egyptian pounds to renovate them, but that the government has allotted ten times that much, although a total of three billion is needed; and that the Egyptian government is dedicated to spending that much—for “whoever abuses public funds [which should be used for Islamic worship], enters a war with Allah, ”  to quote Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar Gom‘a, Minister of Awqaf, or endowments.  But when the nation’s more than 10 million Christian minority seeks to build or renovate a church—and pay all expenses from their own pockets—Muslims riot and authorities acquiesce.

Iran: “Between May and August 2016 [Iranian] security forces arrested at least 79 Christians,” said a December report, even though “the true number of Christians apprehended by the authorities could be notably higher,” because “many” arrests are never recorded.   “At the time of writing some of these 79 Christians remain in detention and have still not been formally charged.”

About this Series

The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic.  Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:

1)          To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.

2)          To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.

Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam;  theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.

Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

Raymond Imbrahim

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