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The American Church Body of 2015 barely resembles the Church of 1915. To truly be the hands and feet of Christ, this must change and the change must begin NOW. Faith rooted in Christ matters. No longer can we put it off. O Lord, fill us with your Spirit, help us put off ‘self’ and the things of this world. To be used for Your purposes, let revival begin with us.
By Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
One of the last diplomats to leave Smyrna after the Turks set the great Anatolian port city ablaze in September 1922 was the United States’ Consul General, George Horton. Reflecting on the carnage and depravity of the Turkish forces tasked by Mustafa Kemal to destroy Smyrna’s Greeks and every physical semblance of their three-millennial presence in the magnificent city on the western littoral of Asia Minor, Horton wrote that “one of the keenest impressions which I brought away from Smyrna was a feeling of shame that I belonged to the human race.” The shame that Horton expressed stemmed from his shock and disgust, both as a witness to the Turks’ genocidal frenzy and as a diplomat aware that several Western governments, including his own, had contributed to the horrors that took place in Smyrna.
The destruction of Smyrna marked the dramatic, fiery climax–although it would not be the telos–of the Turkish nationalists’ genocidal project to annihilate the historic Christian populations of Asia Minor. The mass murder and mass expulsion of the Ottoman Empire’s and Turkey’s Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks from 1915 to 1923 marked the twentieth century’s first large-scale and systematic state-directed genocide, establishing a model that would inspire and be replicated by other criminal regimes throughout the following century. Moreover, the Turks’ policy of genocide encouraged imitation elsewhere, precisely because that holocaust against Christians was astonishingly successful and without penalties for the perpetrators. Indeed, the Turks not only achieved their objectives–the slaughter of three million Christians and the expulsion of another two million from their ancestral homes did, in fact, produce an essentially homogeneous Muslim Turkey–but they did so without any consequences, evading all accountability and any justice.
One of the chief reasons that Turkey escaped responsibility for its crimes against humanity was the complicity, albeit indirect, of several of the Western powers in those crimes. During the First World War, the Allies condemned the Turkish nationalist leadership that controlled the Ottoman Empire for its acts of genocide. However, once the war ended, various Western Allied powers (most notably France, Italy, and the United States), in pursuit of commercial concessions from the Turks, entered into diplomatic understandings with the Turkish nationalists, pushed aside and buried the issue of genocide, and even provided military aid and support to Kemal’s regime, thereby enabling the founder of the Turkish Republic to complete by 1923 the bloody “nation-building” project begun by his colleagues in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
Despite the duplicitous postwar actions of several Western governments, popular sentiment in those same societies ristian genocide american foreign policy turkey and genocide,was deeply sympathetic to the plight of Christians in the Ottoman Middle East. A remarkable variety of international relief and aid efforts emerged throughout the West, especially in the United States, in response to the humanitarian crisis produced by Turkey’s policy of annihilating its large Christian population. The extermination and expulsions of Christians–Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks alike–in Turkey were widely reported in the United States, producing strident calls by several prominent diplomats, politicians, influential religious leaders, scholars, and the press to respond decisively to the crisis as a moral imperative and a Christian duty. Two years before the US even entered the war, Americans had answered this call to action by organizing the highly publicized, nationwide charity that would become known eventually as Near East Relief, which channeled millions of dollars in aid to Christian survivors of the genocide.
In sharp contrast to the American public’s outrage over the Muslim Turks’ extermination of Christians a century ago, the most recent genocide of Christians in the Middle East by fanatical Muslims, under the moniker of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has witnessed a very different response in American society–apathy.
In the year 2014, ISIS launched a reign of terror against Arab and Armenian Christian populations reminiscent of Turkey’s genocide a century earlier. As Islamic State forces advanced across the northern arc of the historic Fertile Crescent (the territory stretching across northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq), ancient Eastern Christian communities were decimated. An undetermined number of Christians, many several thousands, were killed or enslaved by the Islamic State’s forces in 2014. In order to escape this fate, almost 250,000 Christians fled the areas occupied by the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s cleansing of the Christian populations under its control recalls and reiterates the project of nationalist Turkey, one in which nationalist Islamic forces functioned to create a homogeneous Muslim society in the territory under their control.
Tragically enough, the erasure of Christians in Iraq and Syria in 2014 is only the most recent episode in the wave of violence and persecutions against Christians that has been underway since the fateful United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 catalyzed the state failures and Islamist extremist mobilizations that are producing anarchy in the Near East. During the last decade of bloodshed and chaos in Iraq, and more recently in Syria, perhaps as many as 100,000 Christians have been killed and more than 1.5 million have been made refugees. As a result, Christianity now faces the possibility of extinction in the lands of its origin.
The American government’s response to this humanitarian catastrophe has been characterized by overt indifference. The Bush administration dealt with the embarrassing fact that its Iraqi misadventure had unleashed the destruction of the country’s ancient and large Christian population by ignoring and suppressing that fact. Simultaneously, the Bush government, either deliberately or through sheer folly, implemented occupation policies that undermined the security and prospects for survival of Christian communities in Iraq.
The Obama administration has continued and compounded the fecklessness of its predecessor administration. Most recently, in an effort to erase the humiliation produced by his reckless comment made in late July, that the White House had no policy to deal with the Islamic State, President Obama rushed to launch a policy initiative in early August. In a televised national address, President Obama announced that he had ordered military action against the Islamic State, rationalizing the move to limited air war in Iraq and Syria by invoking the US’ moral obligation to protect Iraq’s Yezidi religious minority from genocide at the hands of the Islamic State. The privations of the Yezidis certainly justified a response and aid, but the genocide and plight of the much larger Christian communities of Iraq, brutalized for more than a decade by the region’s mélange of Islamist extremist groups and actively and passively persecuted by the Baghdad government, were largely ignored in President Obama’s speech.
The US government’s indifference to the genocide of Christians in the Middle East is shocking, but, unfortunately, not surprising. The demonstrated disregard for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East by the administrations of Presidents Bush and Obama is entirely consistent with a double standard established by the moralizing hypocrisy of Woodrow Wilson in the midst of the first genocide of the twentieth century. In fact, American administrations have been willing not only to turn a blind eye to genocide against Christians in the Middle East; they have gone beyond that, by consistently supporting, at least since the 1980s, Turkey’s genocide denial efforts.
Yet, where is the public outrage? Although the US government has remained consistent in its indifference and duplicity on this subject, the attitude of the American public has undergone significant change. A century ago, the Turks’ genocide against Armenians and other Christians provoked public outrage and led to large-scale humanitarian relief efforts in the United States of America. A century ago, America’s civil society leaders, public intellectuals, and media mavens actively promoted awareness of the Turks’ crimes against humanity, and led popular initiatives to rescue Christians from death and suffering. The invocation in the public sphere of Christian duty and moral imperatives was sufficient to produce societal concern and action. In contrast, today, as the Islamic State completes the destruction of the historic Christian centers that Kemal’s forces did not reach, the American public’s response is one of apathy. The apathy is reflected in the measurable lack of public awareness campaigns and in the absence of activism when it comes to coverage about and support for the Christian victims of Islamist violence.
The cultural and intellectual currents, as well as official policies, that have aimed to expunge religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, from the American public sphere have been corrosive for any commitment to respect for faith and, especially, for assigning value to the survival of Christianity in human civilization. Signs of America’s emerging a-religious culture has also been instrumental in explaining public misperceptions about the Middle East as home only to Muslims and Jews, thereby rendering reporting on Christians in the Middle East largely incomprehensible or meaningless. In a word, the cumulative social and cultural changes attendant to the specific drivers and modes of secularization in America go a long way to explaining the reasons for American public apathy towards the annihilation of the Mideast’s Christians. Indeed, the knowledge, principles, and the very language–“Christian duty,” for example–that produced widespread outrage and drove humanitarian relief in response to genocide against Christians a century earlier have no place in today’s public dialogue, and for some, are viewed as vestiges of an exclusivist American identity that must be terminated.
The domestic politics of faith and US foreign policy concerns regarding religion have contributed to a worrying cynicism in how Washington policymakers engage on the issue of the Middle East’s disappearing Christians. This past August, President Obama introduced the Yezidis–a group unknown to Americans, indistinguishable victims, free from any association with Christianity–to justify limited military action against the Islamic State. Given current American political sensitivities towards Islam and social changes generating ambivalence and hostility towards Christianity, the President (much as with his predecessor) made no clarion call for action to protect today’s Middle East Christians–a group whose experiences in the Ottoman Empire were marked by the same options–pay a poll tax, convert, flee, or be killed–that face the Yazidis and the Christians suffering in the ISIS footprint.
This year, 2015, will be a year of centennial remembrance and commemoration of the Christian–the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek–genocide. It will also be a year of genocide denial, already planned and launched by the Turkish state, as well as by Turkey’s apologists in the US government, American media, and academia. In recognition of this tragic centennial, as well as the unfolding genocide in the Middle East in our time, this blog will return to these issues in several postings throughout 2015.
Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou is Professor of History at Salem State University, where he teaches on the Balkans, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire.
A jihadi group occupying the Syrian town of Raqqa recently gave Christian minorities living there three choices: 1) convert to Islam, 2) remain Christian but pay tribute and accept third-class subject status, or 3) die by the sword.
According to the BBC, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria issued a directive
citing the Islamic concept of “dhimma”, [which] requires Christians in the city to pay tax of around half an ounce (14g) of pure gold in exchange for their safety. It says Christians must not make renovations to churches, display crosses or other religious symbols outside churches, ring church bells or pray in public. Christians must not carry arms, and must follow other rules imposed by ISIS (also known as ISIL) on their daily lives. The statement said the group had met Christian representatives and offered them three choices—they could convert to Islam, accept ISIS’ conditions, or reject their control and risk being killed. “If they reject, they are subject to being legitimate targets, and nothing will remain between them and ISIS other than the sword,” the statement said.
Because several Western media outlets uncharacteristically reported on this latest atrocity against Syrian Christians, many Westerners are shocked—amazed to hear of such draconian conditions.
In reality, however, these three choices are fully grounded in Islamic teachings, as shall be demonstrated below.
So why is the West, here in the “information age,” utterly if not abhorrently ignorant of the teachings of Islam? Because those responsible for making such knowledge available—specifically academia, media, and government—are more interested in whitewashing Islam and bemoaning Islamophobia (see pgs. 219-249 of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians for specifics).
Most symbolic of all this is that right around the same time news that jihadis were subjugating and extorting jizya-money from Syrian Christians appeared, the Saudi-funded Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding at Georgetown University, Washington D.C., held a seminar discussing how Islam is misunderstood and being demonized by so-called “Islamophobes.”
I have direct experience of this. Many years ago, as a graduate student at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, my interest in medieval Islamic history, Sharia, and jihad received askance looks from professors—not least because most classes offered were about the evils of colonialism and Orientalism, or Islamic “feminism.”
It was the same when I worked at the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, a governmental institution; there, our conferences regularly focused on the purported achievements of Islamic civilization.
As for the endemic Muslim persecution of Christians—past or present—apparently only an “Islamophobe” would raise that topic up.
Speaking of government, also around the same time jihadis were giving Christians the three classic choices of Islam—conversion, subjugation, or death—a delegation of Syrian Christian clergy came to the Senate Arms Services Committee meeting room to offer testimony concerning the sufferings of Syria’s Christians. Then,
Sen. John McCain marched into the committee room yelling, according to a high-level source that attended the meeting, and quickly stormed out. “He was incredibly rude,” the source told Judicial Watch “because he didn’t think the Syrian church leaders should even be allowed in the room.” Following the shameful tantrum McCain reentered the room and sat briefly but refused to make eye contact with the participants, instead ignoring them by looking down at what appeared to be random papers. The outburst was so embarrassing that Senator Graham, also an advocate of U.S. military intervention in Syria, apologized for McCain’s disturbing outburst. “Graham actually apologized to the group for McCain’s behavior,” according to the source, who sat through the entire meeting. “It was truly unbelievable.”
Less dramatically but equally revealing, CIA chief John Brennan recently declared that the ideology of those offering Christians three choices is “a perverse and very corrupt interpretation of the Koran,” one that has “hijacked” Islam and “really distorted the teachings of Muhammad.”
And if the attempts to suppress the reality of Christian suffering under Islam by academia, media, and government were not enough, months and years back, when the plight of Syria’s Christians was becoming known, even random (but supposedly nonbiased and independent) think tanks and writers also tried to suppress it.
Is it any wonder, then, that Christians in Syria being offered three choices—Islam, subjugation, or death—is mindboggling to the average person in the West, appearing as a wild aberration?
The Conditions of Omar
Yet knowledge of the particulars of Islam’s three-fold choice has been available for centuries; early Western peoples were much acquainted with it, including the now much maligned “Orientalists.”
Whereas Koran 9:29 provides divine sanction to fight the “People of the Book” (namely, Christians and Jews) “until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued,” the lesser known Conditions of Omar (also known as the Pact of Omar) lays out in detail how they are to feel themselves subdued.
Named after the second caliph, Omar bin al-Khattab (r. 634 to 644), the Conditions was purportedly agreed upon between the caliph and a community of Christians conquered by invading Muslims, ironically in the region of Syria. It has since been referenced in most major works on the treatment of dhimmis—non-Muslims living under Islamic authority.
There are different versions of the text of the Conditions, varying only slightly. Excerpts from one of the most authoritative versions follow (see Crucified Again for my complete translation). As in most versions, the conquered Christians appear to be speaking and agree:
Not to build a church in our city—nor a monastery, convent, or monk’s cell in the surrounding areas—and not to repair those that fall in ruins or are in Muslim quarters;
Not to clang our cymbals except lightly and from the innermost recesses of our churches;
Not to display a cross on them [churches], nor raise our voices during prayer or readings in our churches anywhere near Muslims;
Not to produce a cross or [Christian] book in the markets of the Muslims;
Not to congregate in the open for Easter or Palm Sunday, nor lift our voices [in lamentation] for our dead nor show our firelights with them near the market places of the Muslims;
Not to display any signs of polytheism, nor make our religion appealing, nor call or proselytize anyone to it;
Not to prevent any of our relatives who wish to enter into Islam;
Not to possess or bear any arms whatsoever, nor gird ourselves with swords;
To honor the Muslims, show them the way, and rise up from our seats if they wish to sit down;
We guarantee all this to you upon ourselves, our descendants, our spouses, and our neighbors, and if we change or contradict these conditions imposed upon ourselves in order to receive safety, we forfeit our dhimma [covenant], and we become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition.
To “become liable to the same treatment you inflict upon the people who resist and cause sedition” simply meant that, if any stipulation of the Conditions was broken, the Christians would resume their natural status as non-submitting infidels who “resist and cause sedition” against Islam—becoming, once again, free game for killing or enslavement.
Far from being merely a historical or theoretical text, the Conditions are very much on the minds of some Muslims. Aside from the new reports that jihadis are enforcing the Conditions—and to a tee—on the Christians of Raqqa, Syria, consider the following words of Saudi Sheikh Marzouk Salem al-Ghamdi, spoken once during a Friday mosque sermon:
If the infidels live among the Muslims, in accordance with the conditions set out by the Prophet—there is nothing wrong with it provided they pay Jizya to the Islamic treasury. Other conditions are . . . that they do not renovate a church or a monastery, do not rebuild ones that were destroyed, that they feed for three days any Muslim who passes by their homes . . . that they rise when a Muslim wishes to sit, that they do not imitate Muslims in dress and speech, nor ride horses, nor own swords, nor arm themselves with any kind of weapon; that they do not sell wine, do not show the cross, do not ring church bells, do not raise their voices during prayer, that they shave their hair in front so as to make them easily identifiable, do not incite anyone against the Muslims, and do not strike a Muslim. . . . If they violate these conditions, they have no protection.
From here, one can understand why all around the Islamic world Christians are under attack—their churches bombed, burned, or simply denied permits to exist or renovate, and their Bibles, crosses, and other symbols of “polytheism” confiscated and/or destroyed; why Christians who openly speak of Christianity are accused of proselytizing or blaspheming—both which can lead to execution; and why Christians are being forced to pay tribute or else convert to Islam or die.
Just the other day in Pakistan, Christians “began the construction of a church on land donated by the Christian Akber Masih, a resident in the area. They built the walls of the building and placed a cross in front of the main gate of the small construction yard.” But “when a large group of Islamic extremists saw the Christian symbol they arrived unexpectedly with bulldozers and started demolishing the building.” Although the Christians notified police and authorities, “the perpetrators were not arrested.” As for the aggrieved Christians, they “have received threats and have to abandon the idea of the project to build a church.”
Thanks to Western intervention in the colonial era, the Conditions largely disappeared—not least because Muslim leaders and elites were themselves westernizing. But today, as Muslims turn back to their Islamic heritage and its teachings—not least because Western leaders and elites are urging them to, in the name of multiculturalism if not moral relativism, the Conditions are returning; and woe to the Christian minority who dares break them by exercising religious freedom—what I call the “How Dare You?!” phenomenon, which is responsible for the overwhelming majority of Islamic attacks on non-Muslims.
Even so, thanks to the “progressive” dissembling of academia, media, and government—the supposed guardians and disseminators of truth and knowledge—such simple facts about Islam remain a great mystery in the West, to our own detriment.
Moscow (AsiaNews) – The Kremlin is still speaking of a visit still at the preparation phase , but by the Holy See Press Office has officially announced that at 5pm November 25, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, will make his first official visit to Pope Francis. Putin could meet the Pope in Rome in late November , said presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov , commenting on the news releases of Italian media, and confirmed by the Vatican, on the private audience between the two leaders on November 25 , the eve of the inter-government summit between Italy and Russia , scheduled the next day in Trieste .
“The possibility of this meeting is being discussed as part of the preparation for the visit of the President to Italy, on 25 and 26 November,” Peskov told Interfax . The audience with the Pope according to some media is “strongly desired” by the Russian president , who at the G20 summit in September in St. Petersburg, had explicitly cited the Vatican among states opposed to an external military attack on Syria , which at the time seemed imminent .
A few days beforehand, Pope Francis had written a letter to the head of the Kremlin , who has always supported a diplomatic and political solution to the Syrian crisis, in which he stressed the concern of the Holy See for the possibility of military intervention as loudly demanded by the United States. Peskov said that “it is still too early” to say whether during the meeting at the Vatican will discuss Bergoglio’s letter, but certainly there will be the theme of international efforts to end the Syrian conflict and the situation of Christians in Middle East on the table. Issues which currently unite the Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow, for its part committed – both economically and diplomatically – to the protection of this minority in the region.
In a recent interview with AsiaNews the same Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate , Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk , chairman of the Department for External Relations described work between the two Churches on the theological level as ” unsatisfactory “, while at the same time speaking of “effective” work together ” on moral values and social issues ” , which also includes the defense of traditional values in Europe and the Christian presence in the Middle East. In fact, Hilarion will visit the Vatican ahead of Putin when, on 12 November , he travels to Rome to present the book “Word of God and the word of man,” with contributions by the Russian philologist Serghei Averintsev .
The issue of persecuted Christians is not only central to the foreign policy of the Patriarchate , but also that of the Kremlin, increasingly willing to stand as mediator between East and West , calibrating complaints of violence against Christian minorities , with declarations of friendship and support for Muslim leaders . Last month, about 50 thousand Syrian Christians asked for Russian citizenship, with the fear of “being banished from their lands, for the first time since the birth of Christ.” The Kremlin has now said it will seriously consider the request. Putin has already had three meetings with the previous Popes : in March 2007, with Benedict XVII and with John Paul II , in June 2000 and November 2003. In February of 2011, it was instead the then head of the Russian state, Dmitri Medvedev, to pay a visit to Pope Ratzinger in the Vatican, two years after the restoration of full diplomatic relations between the two countries.
U.S. Administration Defends “Human Rights” of Worst Islamic Persecutors of Christians by Raymond Ibrahim
Sweden to send Iranian Christian asylum seekers back to Iran to be tortured and possibly executed for the crime of leaving Islam. Also, the Nigerian government recently did go on the offensive to try to contain the jihadis [of Boko Haram], only to be chastised by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, saying he was “concerned by credible allegations that the Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations” against the jihadi mass murderers.
The Islamic jihad against Christians in Nigeria is proving to be the most barbaric. A new report states that 70% of Christians killed around the world in 2012 were killed in that African nation. Among some of the atrocities committed in March alone, at least 41 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack at a bus station in a predominantly Christian neighborhood. According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, these attacks
“were a signpost of the intended extermination of Christians and Christianity from northern Nigeria.”
According to the Rev. Jerome Ituah, “Out of the 52 Catholic churches in Maiduguri diocese, 50 of them have been destroyed by [terrorist group] Boko Haram. When two Christian brothers were returning home after Sunday church service, jihadis opened fire on them with machine guns, killing the brothers, as well as three others, and injuring several more Christians.”
Another 13 Christian factory workers in Kano were “gruesomely” slain. According to the local bishop,
“Reports of the attack reaching us disclosed that on that fateful Saturday at about 7 p.m, Muslim faithful were conducting their prayer close to the affected compound occupied by Christian families, when two taxi cabs stopped in front of the compound and the occupants, who all concealed their arms, dashed into the complex and demanded to know why the residents were not part of the 7 p.m. Muslim prayer. They responded by telling the visitors they were Christians and so could not be part of the Muslim gathering. At that point, they separated the men from their wives and children and shot them dead on the spot after ordering the women and children into their homes” to be enslaved.
The bishop added that, “government should show more concern, like it has always done when Muslims are affected; I have not seen that in the case of Christians—that 13 Christians were killed in one straight attack and nothing is heard from the government reflects selective justice because we are aware of compensation paid to Muslim families in situations of this nature.”
Categorized by theme, the rest of March’s Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed by theme and in country alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity:
Egypt: According to El Watan News, three Christian brothers were shot dead at their home by automatic weapons a few weeks before two of them were set to have their weddings. The victims’ family was earlier accused of trying to build a church on land they owned after purchasing building material to build a house on that land. The rumors about the building of a church spread during the Friday sermon at the mosque, following which, 2,000 Muslims stormed the land and tried to destroy the house, a car and a tractor, resulting in the murder of the three Christian brothers.
Indonesia: Authorities demolished a church building with a bulldozer in West Java, even as Muslim bystanders cheered and denounced Christians as “infidels.” According to Pastor Leonard Nababan, the government is “criminalising our religion.” The congregation had gathered around the church in an effort to save it; so did Muslims, shouting, “They’re infidels and they’ve built their church without permission;” “Knock the church down now,” and “Allahu Akbar”[“Allah is Greater”].
Iraq: According to Fox News, before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, there were more than 300 Christian churches. Today, a decade after a jihad was unleashed on Christians and their churches, only 57 Christian churches remain in the nation. And “The churches that remain are frequent targets of Islamic extremists, who have driven nearly a million Christians out of the land…” An Iraqi-based human rights organization said that,
“The last 10 years have been the worst for Iraqi Christians because they bore witness to the biggest exodus and migration in the history of Iraq…. More than two-thirds [of Christians] have emigrated.” One of the most dramatic cases of Christian persecution came in late October of 2010, when Al Qaeda members laid siege to Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad, killing 58 and wounding 78. According to an AP report , “
Iraq’s Catholic Christians flocked to churches to celebrate Easter Sunday [in March], praying, singing and rejoicing in the resurrection of Christ behind high blast walls and tight security cordons… [emphasis added].”
Libya: A Coptic Christian church in Benghazi was attacked by armed Muslims. The jihadis severely beat and shaved the beard and mustache of Father Paul, the priest of the church, as a sign of humiliation. They also beat the deacon and nine attendees. Meanwhile, because Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government had done little to restrain the systematic abuse of Egyptian citizens in Libya, including the murder of one under torture, Copts demonstrated in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo—prompting yet another attack on the Benghazi church, which was set on fire.
Sudan: According to Morning Star News, Khartoum’s jihad continues to “rid the area of non-Arabs and Christianity“: the Evangelical Church in the Nuba was “reduced … to ashes” after an aerial bombardment. Days later, another bombing campaign in the Christian-majority region left two dead and twelve injured. “These bombardments,” said a church leader, “are major sources of fear among the people in South Kordofan.”
Turkey: The 5th century Studios Monastery, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is set to go from being a branch of the Hagia Sophia — Christianity’s grandest cathedral, which was transformed into a mosque after the Islamic conquest, and is currently a museum — to being an active mosque. Many Turkish Muslims continue calling for the return of the Hagia Sophia itself to a mosque.
Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism
Holland: A 43-year-old Iranian Muslim convert to Christianity was found murdered. According to the Farsi Christian News Network, the victim went to church the afternoon he was killed: “The shocking news of this senseless murder has brought grief and sorrow to the local Christians, Iranian-Christian community, and asylum seekers across the country.” Christians constitute a large percentage of the Iranians seeking asylum in the Netherlands. (Islamic Sharia law calls for the killing of apostates; in the Islamic world, converts to Christianity are regularly targeted.)
Iran: During a major conference, a Shi’ite leader claimed that Islam was under attack by Christianity in Iran: “Christian booklets and brochures are being sent to people’s doors for free in many areas…. Christianity is being preached in many shops in the Islamic city of Mashhad. Also Christian booklets are sent to people’s addresses without restrictions.” But a Mohabat News spokesperson said, “Of course, the Islamic cleric did not provide any supporting evidence for his claim. However, it seems their sole purpose in bringing up and repeating these claims is to provoke security authorities against, and provide the means for increased pressure on Iranian Christians converts.”[sic]
Kazakhstan: Vyacheslav Cherkasov , a Christian street evangelist, was detained for offering Christian literature to passersby and fined the equivalent of one month’s wages on charges of “violating the rules” regarding “importing, publishing and distribution of religious literature,” which came into force in 2011. The court ordered the destruction of his 121 pieces of Christian literature, including Bibles and children’s Bibles, in the first such ruling since the nation gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Local Council of Churches Baptists said in published remarks, “We were shocked—this is sacrilege and illegality.”
Pakistan: The blasphemy case against Rimsha Masih, the 14-year-old Christian girl, who was earlier arrested for “blasphemy” when a Muslim cleric falsely claimed that she burned a Koran, has been reopened. According to a BosNewsLife report, “A police investigator asked the Supreme Court in Islamabad to reopen the case” against the Christian girl, “saying he was pressured by the government to drop charges against her after an international outcry.” Her family and she are currently in hiding. A court is also considering a death sentence against 47-year-old Martha Bibi, a Christian and mother, due to alleged “derogatory remarks” about Muslim prophet Muhammad. Another Christian man was arrested after a Muslim (falsely) accused him of blasphemy. But his arrest was not enough to appease the 3,000-strong mob that went on to punish collectively the nation’s Christians — burning two churches and some (approx) 200 Christian homes, and stealing the Christians’ property.
Somalia: Muslim militants murdered another Christian, Ahmed Ali Jimale, 42, who was killed by two men as he stood outside his house, near a police station. Among other charges, the man was accused of apostasy—on the widespread assumption that all Somalis are born Muslims—and, because he worked as a teacher, of “introducing the children to foreign Christian religion.” Muslim militants had warned him that, “We shall come for your head.” A friend of the slain said, “Jimale was a good man who helped our community. His widow is very scared and afraid, not knowing what will happen.” He also leaves behind four children, ages 10, 8, 6, and 4.
[General Abuse and Suppression of Non-Muslims as “Tolerated” Citizens]
Egypt: Muslim rioters in the town of Kom Ombo threw firebombs and rocks at police after Friday mosque prayers in an effort to storm a church in which they claimed a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity was hiding. Violence began when a 36 year-old Muslim woman, who had been missing for five days, was allegedly seen outside the church with a female Christian friend. Days later, hundreds of Muslims marched in the town of al-Wasta, to protest the disappearance of another young Muslim girl and accuse the priest of St. George’s Church of using “black magic” to lure her to Christianity. They hurled stones at the church; Coptic shops were forced to close down; Salfis threatened to kidnap a Christian girl if their Muslim girl did not return. However, Watani newspaper had already reported that the Muslim girl sent her family an open letter, posted on the Internet, saying that she ran away because she was sexually abused by her uncles, as well as forced to marry a man she did not want, and that she had left Egypt and was married to a Muslim man. Unrelatedly, a Fox News report states that “Islamic hard-liners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo, turning it into torture chamber for Christians who had been demonstrating against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in the latest case of violent persecution that experts fear will only get worse.” According to a Voice of Russia report, “Up to 100,000 Christians have left Egypt since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. Some of those have arrived in Moscow.”
Iran: Also according to Fox News, a United Nations report states that “Iran’s hard-line regime has intensified its violent crackdown on Christians and other religious minorities, even imprisoning nursing mothers for practicing their faith…” The March report provides a “rare, detailed view into the shocking treatment of Christians in Iran, where American Pastor Saeed Abedini is serving an eight-year sentence for his alleged work with Christians.” According to a UN expert on human rights in Iran, “The persecution of Christians has increased. It seems to target new converts and those who run house churches…. more than 300 Christians have been arrested since June 2010, according to the report.” Most recently, Five members of the Church of Iran denomination, “charged with disturbing public order, evangelizing, action against national security and an internet activity against the system,” appeared before a judge.
Pakistan: After 3,000 Muslims attacked a Christian village—burning two churches and some 200 homes—the government punished Christians for protesting. According to the Daily Times, “Christians around the country are incensed by the recurring theme of blasphemy allegation followed by attacks and burning down of their vulnerable communities. They have held protests across the country in a concerted effort to vent their disgust at the recent incident and to show solidarity with the victims… Lahore police used the opportunity to beat the innocent Christian protesters. They shot tear gas shells at them and beat them with sticks. Yet when the Muslim attack took place they stood back and watched till the town had been razed to the ground…Muslims of Jhelum city have threatened to burn Christians home in response to the protests. Now the community is living in fear of reprisals for their simple act of condemning violence and the blasphemy laws of Pakistan.”
Sweden: According to Charisma News, “Christians in Iran face arrest, torture, even death. But that doesn’t seem to matter to Swedish immigration officials. Sweden wants to send Iranian Christian asylum seekers, who left Islam, back to Iran where they could be killed. Iran is one of the most dangerous places in the world for Christians. As apostates from Islam, they face grave danger in this country. But their requests for asylum status that could save their lives have been denied.”
Syria: According to a Catholic leader, up to 30,000 Christians have fled the city of Aleppo, and two priests were abducted and held for a ransom of 15 million Syrian pounds each. Christians are regularly kidnapped and beheaded by jihadi rebels. Also, a short English-language video appeared where Fr. Fadi al-Hamzi told of how his uncle was recently murdered:
“They killed him because he is Christian, they refuse to have any Christians in Syria. … I’m not afraid; my uncle died, he’s immortal now. I can be like him.”
“Yes, yes, this will be… they don’t want us here.”
Christians were in Syria 600 years before Islam conquered the nation.
About this Series
Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching pandemic proportions, “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, Muslim 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 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, and throughout the West wherever there are Muslims—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.
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