via Raymond Ibrahim’s series Muslim Persecution of Christians: August, 2012
Egypt: The nation’s jihad organizations dropped leaflets calling on Muslims to kill Christians wherever they found them. Islamists in the Constituent Assembly demanded that the Coptic Church’s funds be placed under state financial control.
While many people are regularly persecuted by Islam’s blasphemy law, one particular case made August headlines: a 14-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan, Rimsha Masih, was arrested, accused of burning pages of a Quran. Rioting Muslims destroyed Christian homes and churches, tore Bibles to pieces and broke crosses, while calling for the death penalty against her. Because this story made it to the mainstream media, widespread international condemnation caused Pakistani authorities to release her recently, not by annulling Pakistan’s blasphemy law, but by finding loopholes, from characterizing the girl as retarded—Islamic law does not mandate punishment for blasphemers if they are retarded—to the unprecedented exposure of a Muslim cleric who framed her.
Because this incident prompted a widespread rampage against Pakistan’s Christians, thousands have deserted their homes and are dispossessed. The Christians from Rimsha’s neighborhood, including women and children, fled into the woods in fear of Muslim retribution, while others were evicted by their Muslim landlords. A few Christians sleeping overnight on the ground just miles away from Pakistani government buildings decided to build a church there and make it their permanent dwelling place. “Here it is not anybody’s home, nobody’s land. Let us live here in safety,” said one. Another said: “We have cleared this place with our hands, and we have laid the first foundation of a small church here. Although this is a mere skeleton made of tree branches, this is the holy home of God. This should be respected.”
Categorized by theme, August’s batch of 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.
Jihad Killings and Christian Displacement
Iraq: What Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors, characterized as “religicide,” continues unabated in the nation that was liberated by U.S. forces a decade ago: “Christians in cities like Baghdad and Mosul are gripped by terrorism. They are fleeing in droves. Today [August 16] it was reported that at least 20 people died in blasts and shootings across the country.” Before the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Mosul was home to some 75,000 Christians, but now the number has dropped to around 25,000. Christian homes are set on fire, bombs placed in their cars; other Christian families are receiving letters threatening them to leave Iraq or be kidnapped or killed.
Ivory Coast: As part of the civil war, Muslim rebels “massacred hundreds and displaced tens of thousands” of predominantly Christian supporters of Laurent Gbagbo. Since the attack, when their homes were taken by rebels, some 5,000 predominantly Christian ethnic Guere have been forced to flee into the ungoverned, inhospitable bush, or to the Catholic mission in Duekoue. The priest there reported that the mission has also been threatened by “crowds of angry youths.”
Mali: As many as 200,000 Christians are fleeing to Algeria and Mauritania, where they are seeking a safe haven from Islamic terrorists linked to al-Qaeda, who have become increasingly active in the northern regions of the nation.
Nigeria: The Islamic terrorist organization Boko Haram [Western Education is a Sin] continued its jihad [holy war] to purge north Nigeria of all Christians. In one instance, gunmen murdered a 57-year-old evangelist of a Pentecostal church. When threatened earlier, he had said “I leave everything in the hands of God.”
Syria: Some 12,000 people were blockaded in the predominantly Christian town of Rableh by anti-government forces; they killed several people trying to leave and refused the entry of food and medical supplies. Government forces had reportedly driven out the opposition by August 24. Christians were also given an ultimatum to leave the nearby cities of Qusayr and Homs, which has been almost entirely cleansed of its 50,000-60,000 Christian population. The predominantly Christian part of Aleppo was also hit by heavy fighting earlier this month; and a car bomb was detonated in the predominantly Christian area of Jaramana, a suburb of Damascus, as “a crowd of faithful, families, elderly people, women and children, were heading to the cemetery to bury two young people who had died a day earlier, on August 27, also victims of an IED. Twelve died (other sources say as many as 27), including five children, and injuring more than 50 people.” Further, “a family of Armenian Christians was found murdered, and all members of the family horribly decapitated.”
Azerbaijan: The highest appeals court upheld the decision to close Greater Grace Church, “the first religious community to be liquidated by a court since the country’s harsh new religion law came into force in 2009.” The church, registered since 1993, had provided a place for Christian worship and teaching for almost 20 years; and with a congregation of nearly 500, was one of the larger Protestant churches in the country.
Indonesia: Two churches were the latest to be forcibly closed in West Java: First, a “large tent” used for services by St. Johannes Baptista Church in Bogor was sealed off by authorities on August 7. The congregation had been using the tent since 2006 as a temporary location while they awaited a permit for a proper building, for which it had applied in 2000. Police threatened to “tear down” the tent if the Christians continued to use it; the church leader suspects the hostility is linked to the growth of the congregation, which now numbers around 500. Second, Batak Karo Protestant Church in Bandung was sealed off by protesters who claimed that the congregation had earlier agreed not to use the building, even though it now has all necessary permits to hold service.
Kenya: After a fight ensued between the supporters of a Muslim cleric who had died and the police, a church near the mosque where the funeral was being held was set on fire, and another church was attacked. Separately, another church was attacked and looted “by an armed mob,” believed to be sympathizers of the al-Shabaab terrorist organization. In the words of the pastor who witnessed the pillage, “attackers armed with guns stormed the compound and immediately began pulling down one iron sheet after another, and soon 60 iron sheets were gone. It was a terrible sight to watch the walls of the church come down, [but] I could not shout for help because the attackers could gun me down. Shocked and dismayed, the church’s 60 congregants arrived for worship the next day to find their church building in ruins.” Police were told that there were threats of an attack and that local Muslims were saying things such as “we do not want infidels in this area,” but did nothing. These latest attacks “came only one week after al-Shabab militants hurled grenades into the African Inland Church of Garissa, in eastern Kenya, and opened fire on congregants, killing 17 people, including 15 worshippers. Grenades were also thrown at the local Catholic church.” More than 14 churches have been attacked in Kenya since April.
Nigeria: Gunmen, probably connected with the jihadi organization Boko Haram, “stormed the Deeper Life Church, where Christian worshippers were gathered in prayer, and surrounded the church in the middle of a worship service and opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles on the worshippers.” At least 19 of them were killed, including the pastor. The following day, an unexploded bomb was discovered at Revival Church.
Syria: Gunmen attacked the Catholic monastery of Mar Musa, which dates from the 4th century, and is located north of Damascus. None of the monks was hurt, although the monastery was, in the words of Father Dall’Oglio, “sacked,” and “gunmen stole everything they could steal,” including tractors and other agricultural tools.
Apostasy, Blasphemy, Proselytism
Egypt: A Christian man accused of defaming Islam was arrested after a complaint in which he was accused of posting opinions in Facebook which insulted Muhammad. Insults to Islam and the prophet are considered crimes in Egypt under Article 98(f) of the Penal Code, which states: “Confinement for a period of not less than six months and not exceeding five years… shall be the penalty inflicted on whoever makes use of religion in propagating, either by words, in writing, or in any other means, extreme ideas for the purpose of inciting strife, ridiculing or insulting a heavenly religion or a sect following it, or damaging national unity.”
Pakistan: After a Pakistani flag with the name of “Allah” on it accidentally blew from a Christian’s property to a Muslim’s, the Muslim accused the Christian of deliberately trying to blaspheme the name of Allah. This accusation was advertised in the local mosques, and prompted enraged Muslims to threaten to burn down the homes of the 15 Christian families in the area. Also, a Christian pastor, who had preached among Muslims, some of whom showed interest in converting, was threatened and subsequently kidnapped.
Tanzania: A 17-year-old girl, Eva Abdullah, who had abandoned Islam three years ago to convert to Christianity, was sentenced to two years in prison after being accused of desecrating the Quran. Her parents had disowned her and “a group of radicals” tried to “persuade” her to renounce her Christian faith. When she refused, they falsely accused her of desecrating a Quran.
Tunisia: The nation’s ruling Islamist party filed a bill to criminalize offenses against “sacred values.” “Crimes” would mandate prison terms and fines for broadly worded offenses, such as insulting or mocking the “sanctity of religion.” Among other things, the bill also codifies the levels of offense to religious feelings, including “insults, profanity, derision and representation of Allah and Mohammed.”
Read it all, and previous monthly reports, at the Gatestone Institute.