St. Mary's Church in Khuygan-e Olya, Isfahan Province, Iran.
FPI / September 24, 2019
The persecution of Christians by extremists is growing, is not random but systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location, according to a report by the Gatestone Institute.
The Sept. 22 report by Ryamond Ibrahim chronicles the slaughter of and attacks on Christians in the month of July, most of them carried out by Muslims, in several nations.
In Yaqoubiya, a small Christian village in the Idlib governorate, Islamic jihadists gang-raped a 60-year-old Christian woman before stoning her to death. A priest on July 9 sent parishoners to search for Susan Grigor (or "Gregory") after no one had heard from her. “They eventually found her mangled and bloodied corpse on the ground of a field adjacent to her home,” the report said.
An autopsy revealed that Susan had been repeatedly raped and tortured over the course of nine hours before finally being murdered by stoning. The men responsible are believed to be members of the Al Qaida-linked jihadi group al-Nusra.
Also in Syria, on July 11, the Islamic State (ISIS) carried out a car bomb attack near the Virgin Mary Church in the city of Qamishli. More than ten people, including an 8-year-old child, were injured in the blast. An intercepted communication indicated that the terrorists were targeting a gathering of "belligerent Christians."
Christians were identified and killed for wearing crucifixes, according to a report by Open Doors USA, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide.
Open Doors USA said that "Unidentified armed individuals entered the village of Bani (about six miles from the town of Bourzanga), looking for Christians... [T]he militants told everyone to lie down and proceeded to look for Christians by asking for first names or looking for anyone wearing Christian insignia (like crosses). The deadly search yielded four men.... They were all wearing crosses.... [W]hen they saw crosses, the assailants singled them out. All four were taken aside and executed."
Before leaving the village, the terrorists torched a shop that belonged to one of their victims. They then moved on to another village, Pougrenoma, where "They also told Christians to convert or risk execution." Between February and July, 27 Christians have been killed under similar circumstances, including instances when "the armed terrorists challenged Christians to convert or die."
The jihad on Christians, “which has widely been described as a genocide, continued to claim more lives,” Ibrahim wrote.
A pregnant woman, a mother of two children, was among those slain when Muslim Fulani herdsmen raided the Christian village in the early hours of July 15, and torched 75 Christian homes and two churches. On the same day, the jihadis raided another Christian village. Among those slain in that attack were a father (46) and his young son (7), who had been returning home from church. The father was beheaded.
"We have been experiencing daily attacks by these Fulani herdsmen in our communities, most especially on Sundays during worship hours or Thursdays when church activities are held," a local Christian said.
On July 10, a Muslim man shot and killed a Christian woman because she refused to convert to Islam and marry him, Asia News reported. Problems began a few months earlier when Muhammad Waseem began accosting Saima Sardar, 30, often on her way to and from a hospital in Faisalabad, where she worked as a nurse. The harassment got so bad that she asked her brother to walk her to work.
According to another family member: "Saima was in [a] healthy and friendly relationship with Waseem. However, when he continuously insisted Saima convert [to Islam], she decided to keep distance from him and prove her loyalty to her Christian faith. Therefore, Saima very boldly refused his proposal even though she was threatened with consequences."
When Muhammad learned that she was set to marry a Christian man in November, he got more aggressive and threatened that "if you do not convert and marry me, you will die." Finally, on July 10, Muhammad managed to get into the hospital, even though Saima had warned guards about him, and shot her dead, before taking his own life.
"Converting to another religion or marrying someone is a personal choice," said a local human rights organization concerning this incident. "Unfortunately, in Pakistani society Muslim men who like minority girls think that the latter should obey them and that their offer cannot be refused."
Also in Pakistan, a Muslim parliamentarian, his wife, and two sons repeatedly beat and raped their domestic worker, a 15-year-old Christian girl, Pakistan Today reported.
According to Riaz Masih, the girl's father, "I am a poor person living in a rented house with my children whereas, my daughter Saima who is 14-15 years old, was working at the MPA's [Member of the Provincial Assembly] house for the last six months. A couple of days ago, she told me that the MPA raped her twice and his sons have been harassing her while his wife beats her over petty issues besides making her work day and night. They had warned my daughter of beating her up more if she ever dared to tell me anything.... They pressured me to not go to the police but I need justice because my underage daughter has been tortured and raped several times."
Also in Pakistan, Muslim mob attacked Internal Salvation Church in Bhiki village, Punjab district, on July 23, Ibrahim reported. The mob charged in, in the middle of prayer services and began beating members of the congregation.
A local human rights organization described the incident: "There were over a hundred individuals praying in the church when Muhammad Azam, Muhammad Ijaz, Muhammad Amjad and Muhammad Zafar, along with other armed Muslim men, intruded into the church. They forcefully seized the prayer service and reportedly thrashed both men and women."
During the beating, the Muslim men used abusive language, disparaged Christians and Christianity, and demanded that the church "stop this circus." The church submitted a complaint to local police; it was rejected.
The human rights group continued: "There has been a sharp rise in the number of incidents violating the religious freedom rights of Christians in Pakistan. Their churches are being attacked, properties are being grabbed, forced to stop their prayer services and other church activities, and are forced to convert to Islam. This is alarming for Christians in this country."
Following protests from Muslim locals, the Bantul regency government revoked and canceled the building permit of a Pentecostal Christian Church in Sedayu district on July 26, according to Ibrahim’s report.
The congregation was subsequently banned from meeting and performing worship service in the building. Although authorities said the church had failed to meet building codes, "the administration seems to have created a made-up reason to stop the church operation," according to the National Commission on Human Rights.
In a separate situation, Muslim protests caused a Protestant church to stop holding services, even though it had the required governmental permit. Protesters claimed that the church was in a predominantly Muslim region and in close proximity to an Islamic boarding school and a mosque. Church administrators rejected the claim and said there was no mosque or school nearby.
Reverend Timotheus Halim, head of the Family of God Church, said the same Muslim protesters — particularly the Islamic Defenders Front — had hounded them out of their last church building in West Jakarta: "We have moved here, and have met similar opposition.... I will fight and not give up because we have a legal permit and have fulfilled all requirements from the government."
Indonesian law states that, in order to build a place of worship, a religious community must have at least 90 congregation members, as well as the approval of at least 60 people from other religious communities (namely Muslims) living in the vicinity. Halim said he and his 150-strong congregation were eagerly looking forward to their first prayer meeting in the church on July 7, when the Muslim threats began. "How ready is the government to go up against certain groups that try to impose their own will on others," he asked.
On July 17, a Christian community was again forced to hold its fourth funeral in the street since the police shuttered its church in December 2018, Ibrahim’s report noted:
“The funeral was rushed in part due to the extreme heat of the summer day (110 degrees Fahrenheit). Although the village has about 2,500 Christians, repeated requests to build a church have been turned down; when Christians began to use a home, Muslims rioted, prompting officials to shut down the unregistered building.”
Also in Egypt, Sarah Atef, a Christian college student, was kidnapped while standing near her church. "When her mother knew that her daughter was kidnapped," a family neighbor said, "she got out to the balcony and screamed. All of the neighbors got out of their houses to monitor."
After the family contacted police, many websites, including some affiliated with the Islamic State, claimed that the girl had called her mother and informed her that she had willingly converted to Islam and married a Muslim man. The local Coptic bishop, who met with the family, confirmed that no such phone call ever took place, nor has anyone from the Christian community heard from the girl. "This is a trap for Christian girls," one of her teachers said. "This girl is very religious and believes in Jesus. It is hard (for her) to convert to Islam."
On July 1, "Eight converts to Christianity, including five members of one family, were arrested in the southwestern city of Bushehr," according to a report by Article 18, an organization which promotes religious freedom.
"The arresting officers introduced themselves as agents from the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS). They stormed the Christians' homes in a coordinated operation at around 9 a.m., confiscating Bibles, Christian literature, wooden crosses and pictures carrying Christian symbols, along with laptops, phones, all forms of identity cards, bank cards and other personal belongings.... The officers are reported to have treated the Christians harshly, even though small children were present during the arrests."
Nearly all of the Christians “remain detained, with no access to lawyers, and are being held in solitary confinement..."
From the start of 2019 to July, the total number of Christians arrested in similar circumstances grew to at least 34. "Reporting suggests that Christianity is on the rise in Iran, along with other non-Islamic religions," Article 18 said.
"This is a threat to the Islamic republic, a regime based on a narrow and totalitarian view of Islam. As the regime faces more internal unrest, the more it'll crack down on religious minorities it views as threatening its stranglehold on religion."
Muslims harassed, threatened, and displaced a former Muslim woman who embraced Christianity to return to Islam or face the consequences, Ibrahim’s report noted.
Sharifa Nakamate began receiving threatening text messages after she had a Christian pastor bury her husband, 65, who had died on June 15. "It is now clear to the clan that you and your deceased husband abandoned Islam, since Hajji was buried by Christians," read one text. "We are giving you a few days to recant the Christian faith or face the wrath of being an apostate."
Her 29-year-old son was among those threatening her. Finally, on July 11 she fled her home. "I realized my life was now in danger, so I sought refuge at the church," said Sharifa. Although she has since relocated to another undisclosed location, it was last reported that she was preparing to flee again. "Two days ago a Muslim from my home village came and bought items from me," she explained.
"I am afraid that she will go back and spread news of my new place of residence. This new place is not safe for me.... I never expected such thing to happen to me. I have lost everything that I did in developing the homestead for more than 30 years of our married life, only to lose everything just like that because of following Jesus."
Another Muslim apostate in Uganda, a 20-year-old man, was beaten and disowned by his family after they learned that he had embraced Christianity. Asuman Kaire's stepfather, who called him a "disgrace to the family," nearly beat him to death, Ibrahim wrote.
When local Christians rushed to the young man's cries for help, his stepfather and other Muslims fled, leaving him unconscious. "After recovering, I feared going back home because I knew they were going to kill me," said Kaire, so he began living in the streets. When a church took him in, and local Muslims learned of it, in mid-June, when Kaire was in the church, a mob and tried to storm it. They cried out, "Allahu Akbar" and said that the apostate must die. Kaire has since moved again, lives in hiding, and is unable to finish his last year in high school: "I fear my classmates who are Muslims, as they might plan something bad for my life," he said.
A number of successive fires broke out in as many as eight Christian villages, nearly turning them to ash, near the nation's southern border, according to a Persecution.org report.
"Local activists," said the report, "claim that the fires were intentionally started to eliminate the Christian heritage in the region."
In a separate incident, two Muslim men beat a Christian teenager in the street after they noticed he was wearing a crucifix around his neck. They initially stopped him and pulled on his cross-necklace while asking him if he "knows what this means?" When the youth responded, "Yes, I know. I'm a Christian," they beat him and fled. The Protestant Association of Churches said in response that "This attack is a result of the growing hatred against Christians in Turkey. We invite government officials to take action against hate speech."
Following the Islamic suicide bombing of churches and hotels on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, which claimed more than 250 lives, "Many Tamil Christians and Hindus in Sri Lanka are being ordered by Muslim extremists to convert to Islam or leave the villages where their families have lived for generations," a July 11 report by the Christian agency Barnabus Fund said.
Free Press International