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By Dan Wooding (Assist News) The Roman Colosseum will be illuminated by red lights later this month to draw attention to the persecution of Christians around the world, and especially in Syria and Iraq.
On Saturday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution, according to Crux.
Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lit, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past Dec. 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.
The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) — follows a similar initiative last year, which lit-up London’s Parliament building in red, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. In 2016, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit.
Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists on Feb. 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”
“One of the children was killed,” he said, “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”
Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said. [Read Voice of the Persecuted’s (VOP) report: Held Captive For 2 Years By Boko Haram: Rebecca’s Story and the relief sent to them through VOP’s aid mission, Project 133 Nigeria here.]
Aid to the Church in Need released a biennial report on anti-Christian persecution Oct. 12, 2017, detailing how Christianity is “the world’s most oppressed faith community,” and how anti-Christian persecution in the worst regions has reached “a new peak.”
The report reviewed 13 countries, and concluded that in all but one, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms for the period 2015-2017 than during the prior two years.
“The one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse,” the report said.
China, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria were ranked “extreme” in the scale of anti-Christian persecution. Egypt, India, and Iran were rated “high to extreme,” while Turkey was rated “moderate to high.”
The Middle East was a major focus for the report.
“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”
The exodus of Christians from Iraq has been “very severe.” Christians in the country now may number as few as 150,000, a decline from 275,000 in mid-2015. By spring 2017 there were some signs of hope, with the defeat of the Islamic State group and the return of some Christians to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.
The departure of Christians from Syria has also threatened the survival of their communities in the country, including historic Christian centers like Aleppo, ACN said. Syrian Christians there suffer threats of forced conversion and extortion. One Chaldean bishop in the country estimates the Christian population to be at 500,000, down from 1.2 million before the war.
Many Christians in the region fear going to official refugee camps, due to concerns about rape and other violence, according to the report.
ACN also discussed the genocide committed in Syria and Iraq by the Islamic State and other militants. While ISIS and other groups have lost their major strongholds, ACN said that many Christian groups are threatened with extinction and would likely not survive another attack.
A spokesperson for Aid to the Church in Need, said, “We invite everyone to attend, either in person or in spirit, on February 24, 2018 at around 6 p.m. in Largo Gaetana Agnesi, Rome.”
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 77, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 55 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan has written numerous books, and his most recent reporting trip for ANS was to Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.
HELP SAVE THE PERSECUTED
VOP is on the ground helping persecuted Christian refugees from Nigeria and Pakistan. Together with your generous help, we can reach the goal to alleviate horrific suffering. In darkness and desperation, let us serve in love, with open arms and giving hands to provide light and hope. Every day, we thank God that He is working through you to care for His children and to further His Kingdom! As you greatly bless others, may God continue to bless you. Thank you so much for your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
(World Watch Monitor) The Church in India, especially in the southern state of Kerala, is breathing a sign of relief after Yemen confirmed to India’s foreign minister that Catholic missionary Father Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped in Yemen in March 2016, is “alive”.
“We are thrilled to hear that good news,” Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the autonomous Syro-Malabar Church, to which the kidnapped priest belongs, told World Watch Monitor.
Abdulmalik Abduljalil Al-Mekhlafi, Deputy Prime Minister of Yemen, broke the news to Sushma Swaraj, Indian External Affairs (foreign) Minister on 12 July when they met for bilateral talks in the Indian capital.
“We are very hopeful now. The news brings great joy to us,” V A Thomas, first cousin of the kidnapped priest, told World Watch Monitor from their home in Ramapuram, near Palai, in the Christian heartland of Kerala.
“We are very happy with the developments and hope he will be released soon.” -V A Thomas
Father Uzhunnalil, 58, was kidnapped on 4 March in Aden in Yemen, from the Missionaries of Charity home for the elderly. Four nuns were murdered, along with 12 others, during the attack by unidentified gunmen.
While a first false rumour was of the crucifixion of the kidnapped priest on Good Friday 2016, a video of him in captivity surfaced around Christmas 2016, with the visibly unkempt and ailing priest urging the government of India and the Church to ensure his release from captivity.
That led to a series of assurances from the government of India, while the Catholic Church organised several demonstrations, including a day of prayer and candlelit vigils, urging the government to ensure the kidnapped priest’s safe release.
A second video appeal by the priest surfaced on the Internet in May, with the priest stating that serious efforts have not been made by the Church or the government to ensure his release. “They are treating me well to the extent they are able,” Fr Uzhunnalil said slowly in English. “My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalization as early as possible.”
“In that video appeal, Father Tom had even requested us [his family] to put pressure [on the government] to ensure his release,” said his cousin, V A Thomas, who was also headmaster to Father Uzhunnalil when he was a student at the local Catholic school in the 1970s.
The extended Uzhunnalil family clan, Thomas pointed out, had been “consistently pleading with everyone to ensure Fr Tom’s release” and have called on several top government leaders.
After the second video emerged, Thomas said that he led a four-member Uzhunnalil delegation to meet P Sathasivam, the Kerala Governor, along with Oommen Chandy, former chief minister of Kerala, on 31 May.
Three days earlier, the federal government had dispatched Richard Hay, a Christian Member of the Indian Parliament (who’d been nominated by the ruling BJP government), to the family in Palai, to assure them that the government was making serious efforts “to bring the back the priest home safely”.
“We are very happy with the developments and hope he will be released soon,” Thomas said.
However, he added that “due to the big public interest in the safety of Fr Tom, there are reports that the demands of the kidnappers have gone up”.
The External Affairs Ministry in its press statement said that the foreign minister has “stressed the government’s concern for the safety and well-being of Father Tom Uzhunnalil … and reiterated the request for continued assistance from the Yemeni authorities in securing his safe and early release”.
According to reports, terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State are said to have bases in parts of Yemen, resulting in instability in the country.
(Agenzia Fides) – Another Catholic priest, Fr. Jude Onyebadi, pastor of the church of St. Peter and Paul in Issele-Azagba, in the Delta region in the south of the Country has been kidnapped in Nigeria. According to information sent to Agenzia Fides, he was seized on December 16 by three armed men suspected to be Fulani herdsmen, in his pineapple plantation.
The kidnappers initially asked for 50 million Naira (152,000 euros), then went down to 20 million (61,000 euros) Naira for the release of the priest.
The Director of Social Communications of the Diocese of Issele-Uku, Charles Uganwa, confirmed the kidnapping and called on the kidnappers to release the hostages unconditionally, remembering that the Catholic Church does not pay ransoms.
In 2016, several Catholic priests were kidnapped in Nigeria, especially in the southern regions. Fr. Sylvester Onmoke, President of the Nigerian Catholic Diocesan Priests Association, NCDPA has described “the recent spate of kidnappings of priests and religious as an assault on the Church”
(Agenzia Fides) – Diocesan priest José Luis Sánchez Ruiz, who had been kidnapped on Friday, November 11, was released yesterday with “obvious signs of torture”, according to a statement from the Diocese of San Andres Tuxtla (Veracruz, Mexico) signed by His Exc. Mgr. Fidencio Lopez Plaza.
In the statement, sent to Fides, the Bishop thanked the authorities for their interest and informs that the community awaits the conclusions of the prosecutor to clarify the facts. Mgr. Lopez Plaza also thanks for the “heartfelt sympathy and prayers of all the faithful, as well as the Mexican Episcopal Conference, and in particular the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Veracruz”.
According to the local press, Father Sánchez Ruiz, the parish priest of Los 12 Apóstoles Catemaco, in the days before the kidnapping had received threats, surely for his harsh criticism against corruption and crime in the town of Catemaco. Citizens had more than once expressed the lack of security and the arrogance of organized crime. Fides on several occasions reported that the Mexican states of Veracruz, Guerrero and Michoacán are the most violent regions even for priests. (CE) (Agenzia Fides 14/11/2016)
(Raymond Ibrahim) On Easter Sunday, March 27, a suicide bombing took place near the children rides of a public park in Pakistan, where Christians were known to be congregated and celebrating the resurrection of their Lord. At least 74 people—mostly women and children—were killed and nearly 400 injured. “There was human flesh on the walls of our house,” recalled a witness. “We claim responsibility for the attack on Christians as they were celebrating Easter,” said a Taliban affiliated group. In a media statement, it said it had “deliberately targeted the Christian community,” adding that “we had been waiting for this occasion.”
Click here, here, here, here, and here, for numerous examples of similarly lethal attacks on Christians celebrating Christmas or Easter by other Islamic groups and individuals around the world who also “had been waiting for this occasion.” Even “the terror cell that struck in Brussels [in March, killing 34] was planning to massacre worshipers at Easter church services across Europe, including Britain, intelligence chiefs believe, said a report.
In Scotland, a Muslim man stabbed another Muslim man to death for wishing Christians a Happy Easter. Asad Shah had posted messages on Facebook that said “Good Friday and very happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation” and “Let’s follow the real footstep of beloved holy Jesus Christ and get the real success in both worlds.” Police said a 32-year-old Muslim man was arrested in connection with Shah’s death and confirmed that the attack was “religiously prejudiced.” Islamic law forbids Muslims from participating in or congratulating non-Muslims for their religious holidays as doing so implicitly validates other religions.
A Muslim nanny in Russia beheaded a 4-year-old girl, Anastasia, whom she had been taking care of for the last three years. Gulchehra Boboqulova, the Chechen origin nanny, went to a Moscow metro station and, for 20 minutes, waved the child’s severed while screaming “Allahu Akbar” [“Allah is greater”]. After her arrest, she said the murder “was what Allah ordered.” In the months before the slaughter, Bobokulova was said to have become “more religious,” including by wearing the hijab and telling her son to pray five times a day and live in accord with Sharia. Still, authorities recently concluded that she will not face a murder trial as she is clearly “insane.”
“ISIS carries out Good Friday crucifixion of Indian Catholic priest in Yemen after he was kidnapped three weeks ago in attack on old people’s home where four nuns were shot,” reported the Daily Mail. Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, a 56-year-old Indian Catholic priest, was seized by Islamic gunmen who attacked an old people’s home in Aden (see Yemen entry below). The “Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, told a congregation gathered in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the Austrian capital that the priest had been crucified.” Most recently, a report appeared indicating that Fr. Thomas was likely still alive and “that talks between the Indian government and Yemeni rebels to ensure his release were continuing.”
The rest of March’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Unknown Middle Eastern Nation: Islamic radicals killed four workers of a Christian organization that translates and publishes Bibles during an attack on the organization’s office in a Middle Eastern nation. Wycliffe Associates issued a statement saying that the attackers shot and destroyed all the equipment in the Bible translation office, without noting the nation’s identity. Two workers were apparently killed by gunshots, while two others laid atop of the lead translator and died while “deflecting bludgeoning blows from the radicals’ spent weapons,” and managed to save his life. Several other people were also injured in the raid. The organization explained that the remaining team has vowed to re-double their effort to translate, publish and print the Gospel for the eight language communities that they had been working on.
Bangladesh: Two attackers with sharp weapons killed 68-year-old Hossain Ali, who converted to Christianity from Islam in 1999. ISIS claimed responsibility for the murder of the apostate from Islam in a tweet: “A security detachment from the soldiers of the Caliphate was able, by the grace of Allah the Almighty, to kill the apostate (Ali), who changed his religion and became a preacher for the polytheist Christianity,” said the statement, adding that the murder was “a lesson to others.” In recent months ISIS has said it was behind a series of attacks on religious converts and minorities in Bangladesh.
Yemen: Four Islamic gunmen attacked an old people’s home in the port of Aden, killing at least 15 people, including four Missionaries of Charity nuns of Mother Teresa. Two of the slain nuns were from Rwanda, one from India, and one from Kenya. Another nun who survived by hiding inside a fridge in a store room. The gunmen, who initially told the guard they were at the old people’s home to visit their mother, stormed into the home with rifles and opened fire. The total dead included two Yemeni women working at the facility, eight elderly residents, and a guard. The motive of the gunmen was not known. They fled after the attack.
Ivory Coast: Shouting “Allah Akbar!” – “Allah is greater!”—a squad of boatmen leapt onto a beach in the resort town of Grand Bassam and proceeded to round up and kill Christian tourists. By the time security forces killed the terrorists, 14 tourists and two special forces personnel were dead, “all of them presumably Christians,” notes the report. At some point, witnesses say the gunmen captured a pair of children, one of them just five-years old. A gunman with a long beard threatened them. Both boys went to their knees in prayer, begging for their lives. The first boy knew an Islamic prayer by heart, so he was spared, but the five-year-old, being Christian, had no hope, and was shot dead. Images of the aftermath showed bodies strewn across the beach, several of them believed to be French tourists. Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attack via social media. According to the report, “Ivory Coast is becoming a target for Islamic extremists who want to spread Islam around the globe. Previously confined to the desert regions of the Sahara, Muslims have recently started a campaign of aggressive, militant expansion into West and Central Africa.”
Nigeria: According to a March report, since 2000, some 12,000 Christians have been slaughtered for their faith and 13,000 churches destroyed, and not just by Boko Haram, the Muslim terrorist organization: “Northern Muslim political and religious elite are also major actors of targeted violence towards the Christian minority.” From mid-February to mid-March alone, 500 Christian farmers were butchered by Muslim herdsmen.
Pakistan: A Muslim man shot dead the son of a Christian family and threatened to rape his sisters, after their mother rejected his advances in the town of Qayum in Faisalabad City. The Muslim suspect, 57-year-old Tahir Jutt, who had a “known long-term infatuation” with 42-year-old Shazia Tahir, tried to intervene in a family argument Shazia was involved in. She rebuffed his offer to help; he left angry by the rejection. Later that day he returned to Shazia’s family home and started shooting at family members, killing 17-year-old Noel Tahir, and wounding several other family members, including the Christian husband and wife. Although initially detained by police, Jutt was eventually set free, only to continue threatening and terrorizing the Christian family. According to a rights activist, “This family are in desperate need for help, the perpetrator of violence has shown no remorse for the violence he meted out on this poor family and has increased their tension by stating he will repeat the violence if they dare to challenge him through the courts. Local police are being extremely slow and sluggish with this case, allowing Mr. Jutt to exhort great pressure on the family who have already had to suffer the surprising ignominy of the murderer of their son being set free on bail.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
United States: Three Christian statues at St. Maragaret’s, a Catholic church in Massachusetts, were vandalized. Two statues, which sit at the top of a hill on the property, had their hands severed and multiple sets of rosary beads removed and scattered on the ground. The third statue, located near the rectory and depicting the Virgin Mary, had its head severed and both hands removed. Although the identity of the vandals is unknown, Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, correctly observes that “in light of the curious fact that the head and hands were severed, the perpetrators could have been Muslims acting upon this Qur’an verse: “When your Lord inspired to the angels, ‘I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.’” (Qur’an 8:12). Also, Muslims have committed similar vandalism in many churches worldwide.”
Turkey: Late one night, four Muslim men went to the Agape Church in the Black Sea region and began banging and kicking at the front door. The church caretaker and a few congregation members were inside but refused to open the door. After they noticed they were being videotaped by a security camera, the assailants destroyed it and left the premises. (Image of the men kicking the door appears here.) According to the church’s pastor, Pıçaklar, “They attacked us knowing that they would get caught – they even looked at the security camera and smiled. Later they went to the police and turned themselves in, and today they were set free. So what should I do [in response] to these guys who drink until they get drunk, and when they get caught [attacking the church building], instead of fear and sadness, yell, ‘Allahuu Akbar!’? [Allah is greater]”—thus positioning their attack in Islamic terms. Pastor Pıçaklar said the incident was not just a “kick the door and go. These guys wanted the door open and to go inside and hit someone or attack in some other way.”
Greece: The Church of All Saints in Kallithea, Athens region, was set on fire. Although the kitchen was completely destroyed, the fire was quickly contained thanks to the fire department’s quick response. According to witnesses, “Arabic speakers” were behind the arson attack.
Uganda: After several threats and attacks—including the rape of her 13-year-old daughter—a mother who left Islam for Christianity and her five children fled their village. Amina Napiya, a 42-year-old widow, converted to Christianity in 2014, after her husband, Mohammed Dongo, died. She and her family remained secret believers until the beginning of this year, when relatives discovered they were followers of Christ. Attacks started soon thereafter: two motorcycles that had belonged to her late husband were stolen in January apparently by Muslim relatives who left an unsigned note saying, “We have taken the motorcycles, and soon we are coming for your life if you continue embarrassing the religion of the family. You have become an embarrassment to the family as well as the Muslim family.” A month later Napiya’s daughter was raped while fetching firewood nearby their home. The rapist told the girl, “This is the second warning to your mother for disgracing the faith of the Muslims.” Finally, she received an anonymous text, saying, “We have warned you several times, and our warnings are falling on deaf ears. We are on the way coming for you and your children.” The Christian woman and her children fled and were last reported as living in dire straits.
Separately in Uganda, a Muslim youth who converted to Christianity was attacked and ostracized by his family. After Mohammed Nsera graduated from high school last year, his Muslim family built a small house for him on their homestead. One week after he converted to Christianity, they burned it down. According to the convert, “I could not deny Christ when my father asked me whether I had joined Christianity. With a lot of joy I answered him affirmatively, with a yes. My uncle, who had a walking stick, hit me on my back, and my father tried to get hold of my shirt, but I managed to escape with a tattered shirt and a bleeding back.” While recovering at the home of a Christian 13 miles away, he learned that his family had burned down his house. “I received reports that my parents, uncle and some other Muslims were looking for me. I have lost my entire valuables, especially my academic certificates.” He has since taken refuge in an undisclosed village more than 60 miles from his home.
Pakistan: A 30-year-old Christian mother of three who was kidnapped and forced into an Islamic marriage but then escaped months later was returned to her abductor by her own family in hopes that it will spare other family members from persecution and arrest. Fouzia Sadiq, whose entire family works as bonded laborers in Pattoki, was abducted last July by her Muslim landlord, Muhammed Nazir. He told her family to forget about her as she “was now his property.” With her family’s aid, the women eventually escaped back to them. Her abductor-husband sent the police after her. They threatened her entire family, including by suggesting that they might seize and give her younger sister to Muhammad as a “consolation.” According to an involved human rights activist: “This family has gone through a torturous decision making process. They have not wanted to deliver their daughter back but the threats on their family were so extreme, including potential blasphemy law allegations and kidnap charges against Paris the brother of Fouzia, that they felt there was no other way out.” Fouzia is one of about 700 Christian girls who are kidnapped and forced into Islamic marriages every year in Pakistan.
Belgium: The council of Belgian imams rejected an initiative to pray for the souls of the victims of the Brussels terror attacks on the grounds that it is forbidden to pray for the souls of non-Muslims—“infidels.” For instance, Koran 9:113 states: “It is not for the Prophet and those who have believed to ask forgiveness for the polytheists, even if they were relatives, after it has become clear to them that they are companions of Hellfire.” Instead, the Muslim scholars recommended the use of tawriya—using words that mean one thing to listeners and another thing from the speaker. One Muslim cleric said “We cannot pray over the souls of non-Muslims, but if we do this, we don’t have to call it a prayer. We can call it something else: ‘solidarity with the families of the victims.’ We can stand by them and support them.” Another said: “since this was a general event, in which Muslims as well as non-Muslims [were hurt], we address all of the victims, and wish them peace, mercy, and health,” though in their hearts they mean Muslims only.
Italy: According to Archbishop Matteo Maria Zuppi, recently appointed to head the archdiocese, “I really think it’s time for a mosque in Bologna. Some people think otherwise but they are wrong…. I also wish Islamic celebrations to be welcomed in schools… We shouldn’t be carried away by hateful generalizations, like the comparison between Muslims and terrorists.” However, according to the report, “Zuppi’s reflections are far distant from those of his predecessors. Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, once warned the faithful to be wary of the West’s current integration project of Middle-Eastern, largely Muslim migrants. The late Cdl. Giacomo Biffi, archbishop of Bologna before Caffarra, was a respected theologian known for being “extremely politically incorrect,” and some note that his prophecies about Europe either returning to Christianity or surrendering to Islam were prescient for Italy today….” Zuppi also seems to overlook the historic fact that, whenever a region was conquered by Islam, one of the first signs of consolidation was/is the erection of a mosque atop the sacred sites of the vanquished: the pagan Ka’ba temple in Arabia was converted into Islam’s holiest site, the mosque of Mecca; the al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, was built atop Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem; the Umayyad mosque was built atop the Church of St. John the Baptist; and the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque upon the conquest of Constantinople.
Sudan: Pastor Ayoub Tilian, moderator of the Sudanese Church of Christ in the Khartoum area, was arrested at his office and taken to an unknown location. He was later released but ordered to report to security officials of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Services—which is staffed by hardline Islamists reportedly upset that he may have spoken about the Sudanese government’s persecution of Christians—daily for interrogations. Discussing this incident, an area source said, “Things are very difficult here in Sudan as time after time we hear that a church leader is arrested.”
Iran: A pastor and three other Christians, all of whom appear to be converts from Islam, were sentenced, and banned from holding or attending any church services for two years. They were arrested earlier during a picnic in Daniel-e Shoosh, in southern Iran. The plainclothes secret police came to them with guns drawn, threatening and beating some in the group. The report does not mention what the alleged crime is. Most likely, if this case is like other allegations against non-Muslims, they were sentenced under the pretense that they are a “security threat to the nation.”
U.S. and UK: Despite all the widespread attention and international condemnation the mostly Christian Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram received—recall First Lady Michelle Obama holding a sign saying “bring back our girls”—the US and British governments knew exactly where many of the girls were but failed to launch a rescue mission. According to Dr. Andrew Pocock, the former British high commissioner to Nigeria: “A couple of months after the kidnapping, fly-bys and an American eye in the sky spotted a group of up to 80 girls in a particular spot in the Sambisa forest, around a very large tree, called locally the Tree of Life, along with evidence of vehicular movement and a large encampment.” He said the girls were there for at least four weeks but authorities were “powerless” to intervene.
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.
Originally published by the Gatestone Institute
Patriarchs of Antioch remember the two Bishops kidnapped: “We do not have the support of the ‘giants’. Our only hope is in the Lord”
(Agenzia Fides) – Three years since the disappearance of 2 Metropolitan Bishops of Aleppo – Syrian Orthodox Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Greek Orthodox Boulos Yazigi – the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Mar Ignatius Aphrem II, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Yohanna X, remember the story of the two confreres kidnapped near Aleppo on April 22, 2013 in a long and intense message addressed to their “beloved spiritual children”, to the Syrians and to all men.
The case of the two Bishops – says the message kidnapped, sent to Agenzia Fides – is “a miniature of the great human suffering coming from terrorism: massacres, abductions, deracination, takfir, and explosions”. But if the intention of the kidnapping was to spread terror among the baptized, the two Patriarchs warn that the operation failed: “We Christians”, reads the document “are the descendants of those who, two thousand years ago, put on the name of Christ in this particular land. (…). We are no giants, and we do not have the support of the “giants””, but “we preserve our identity as Antiochian Easterners, through whatever difficulties or tribulations”. “In this troubled path – underline the two Patriarchs – we have spared no effort, but our main and only hope is in God”.
The words of the Primates of the two Churches of the East sweep away all the maneuvers of those who seek to exploit the suffering of Christians in the Middle East: “We shall continue to live in this East, ringing our bells, building our churches, and lifting up our Crosses. And the arm that will be extended to these Crosses or bells will be twisted by our Muslim brethren from all our national spectra”, says the long patriarchal text, where it repeats that the followers of Islam “are suffering like us from the bitterness of blind terrorism and takfir”, defined as “a condemned intruder” to our past and present Christian-Muslim relationships. The sufferings of the Eastern Christian are read in the light of salvation promised by Christ: “Despite the horror of the situation and its severity” – write the Patriarchs Mar Aphrem and Boulos – “we throw all this on the way of Golgotha of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cover all the darkness of this age with the light of the Virgin’s eyes, venerated by both Christians and Muslims, whom we implore to bring back to us all kidnapped people, our brother bishops of Aleppo, along with the abducted priests”.
In the document, the two Patriarchs highlight the way in which the lives of Christians in the Middle East are also reported in the global media debate. “We” the message reads “were not a minority, and will never be”. For those “who are keen about the “minorities,” and those who are opening wide the doors to receive the various spectra of Syrians, the two Patriarchs repeat that it is more fitting for them to seek a resolution, saving people from the burden of the perilous sea travel and ship wreckage.
“We appreciate every humanitarian effort of governments or organizations. However, insist the two Patriarchs, we cannot be protected through facilitating the migration of refugees. We are not petitioning for protection. Rather, we are seeking peace”. A peace that “is not founded on the notions of minorities and majorities, but is based on coexistence, citizenship and moderate religious discourse. Peace does not come by enforcing economic blockades and foreign economic sanctions that only hurt the homeless children and the poor people, those people who became cheap commodities for the arms’ market, used according to countries’ interests”.
Returning to the case of the Bishops kidnapped, in the final part of the document, the two Patriarchs thank the international community for the many public expressions of solidarity received, but invite all, starting with “decision-maker countries”, to replace “statements of condemnation and promises” with concrete initiatives that document in facts good intentions.
The two Patriarchs invite all their brothers in faith to also look at their own suffering in the light of the Risen Christ, the one who can “comfort the heart of our children, and establish peace in the land of peace. This land of the East”, said the statement “is bleeding now, but no doubt will rise again. We are the children of the Resurrection, and the Light”. (GV) (Agenzia Fides 22/04/2016)
A report has surfaced that Dr Andrew Pocock, the former British high commissioner to Nigeria, has now revealed that a large group of the missing girls were spotted by British and American surveillance officials shortly after their disappearance, but experts felt nothing could be done.
He told The Sunday Times that Western governments felt ‘powerless’ to help as any rescue attempt would have been too high risk – with Boko Haram terrorists using the girls as human shields. Read report here