by Raymond Ibrahim
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Iraq: The Islamic State blew up the country’s oldest Christian monastery, St. Elijah’s. The 27,000-square-foot building had stood near Mosul for 14 centuries. For several years, prior to 2009, U.S. soldiers protected and sometimes used the monastery as a chapel. “Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled,” reported a Roman Catholic priest in Irbil. “We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, [and] eliminating and finishing our existence in this land.” Yet, when Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for America’s military efforts against ISIS, was asked about the status of Christians in Iraq soon after the monastery’s destruction, he replied, “We’ve seen no specific evidence of a specific targeting toward Christians.”
Kosovo: Muslims urinated in an Orthodox Christian church in Pristina, the capital. Deputy Prime Minister Branimir Stojanovic condemned the desecration of the Temple of Christ the Savior: “Urinating in a sanctuary is shameful, uncivilized, vandalism.” (Last year in Italy, Muslims broke a statue of the Virgin Mary and also urinated on it.) Stojanovic added that, “The quiet observation of the demonstrators by the police, as they entered the temple and urinated is also shameful.” Serbian [Christian] sanctuaries in Kosovo are constantly desecrated,” the deputy prime minister said.
Algeria: On January 7, unknown vandals damaged, robbed, and wrote jihadi slogans on a church. Furniture, ritual objects, and money worth about U.S. $8,000 was stolen from Light Church in Tizi-Ouzou, around 62 miles from Algiers. According to Pastor Mustapha Krireche, “Thieves broke into the inside of our church through the window, because we installed a reinforced door very hard to force open. … They took the music equipment like guitars, synthesizer, percussion, and sound equipment, plus a printer, the trunk of tithes, a sum of money, and other material.” The assailants left Islamic supremacist graffiti on the church walls including “Allah Akbar [“Allah is Greater”].” The church was targeted at least twice before: in 2009, “about 20 Islamist neighbors tried to block the congregation … from meeting for worship”; in 2010, a group of Muslims rampaged through the church building, trying to burn it down and damaging Bibles and a cross.
Kuwait: Lawmaker Ahmad Al-Azemi said that he and other MPs will reject an initially approved request to build churches because it “contradicts Islamic sharia laws.” He added that Islamic scholars are unanimous in banning the building of non-Muslim places of worship in the Arabian Peninsula.
Mongolia: Days after a church celebrated Christmas, explosives were thrown into the stove chimney of a Kazakh house-church. As a result, “Believers decided not to come together for a while. They [are] afraid of a repetition of the explosions in the homes of believers,” said a church leader. Large numbers of people had attended the church’s Christmas services and local Christians believe that this turnout had “angered some of the local Muslims and led them to carry out the attack.”
Pakistan: Three churches were attacked:
1) Apostolic Church was burned in the Punjab. The church building was torched a day after a prayer vigil for Epiphany on Jan. 6. Pastor Zulfiqar of the Apostolic Church said Bibles and sacred vessels were also lost in the blaze. An earlier dispute between Muslims and Christians is believed to be behind the arson attack. Locals accused police of being negligent, as usual. According to a local resident: “All the local Christians are now in great fear, the fire illustrates that Christians are not wanted in the local area.”
2) Akba Azhar, a 26-year-old Muslim man, broke into the Victory Church in Kasur and burned copies of the Bible and other sacred books. Although he was captured and detained by a group of Christians who handed him over to police, and although any act of blasphemy against any religion is punishable in Pakistan by death, police claimed that he was mentally unstable and therefore could not be tried. Local Christians disagree, insisting that he is of sound mind. Several Christians are on death row in Pakistan due to accusations of blasphemy against Islam.
3) A group of Muslims illegally seized a church property. The Christian congregation eventually gave up trying to reacquire its church building and a reconciliation meeting was held by police: “the Muslims instead armed themselves with guns and machetes and attacked the Christians’ family members in their homes,” said local Christian, Bashir Masih. After the church seizure, Muslims in the area “made it almost impossible” for church members to worship even in their own homes. “We obtained written approval from the district police chief, Rai Ijaz, to hold a three-hour prayer meeting in the private courtyard of a Christian…” But when the congregation of about 30 Christians began worshipping, Rashid Jutt, a Muslim in his late 20s, appeared and disrupted the service. A young Christian in attendance stepped forward in an effort to stop the Muslim’s harassment. A fight started, but the congregation separated the two men. The Muslim vowed to “teach all of us a lesson” as he left, said Masih. Apparently the Muslim’s revenge was to tell police that the Christian congregation tied him up and tortured him. The Christian congregation “immediately reached the police station and told the inspector in-charge what had really happened.” A police officer advised them to drop the matter and instead try to “reconcile with the Muslim youth.”
The Christians agreed to a reconciliation meeting, but the Muslim never showed up. Instead, they found him “and some 30 other men armed with guns, machetes, and batons storming through our houses and beating up our boys.” The Christians instantly called police, who arrived slowly and “did not arrest any of the Muslims. … We feel that the entire Muslim community has turned against us for standing up against their aggression. … Even the local police, are on the Muslims’ side,” Masih concluded, “as raids were being conducted to arrest Christian boys while no effort is being made to arrest Jutt and his accomplices, whom we have named in our police complaint for attacking our homes and beating up our boys.”
South Sudan: Muslims “sent” from the Muslim majority in Sudan, a country in which Sharia law is enforced, are suspected of burning down a church building in its southern neighbor where there is a Christian majority. On January 16, members of the Sudanese Church of Christ in the refugee settlement of Yida awoke in the morning to find their place of worship in flames. “I learned that those who set our church on fire were sent from Sudan purposely,” reported an anonymous church leader. The fire burned both the exterior and interior of the structure, destroying all of the chairs, a pulpit, and some copies of Bibles in Arabic. The following week his congregation of nearly 200 people held their prayer service in the open air in the remains of the charred church building, an adobe structure.
Egypt: A makeshift bomb was found near a church on January 22. Father Paul of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt found what he described as a “foreign object” next to the garbage can outside of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Aswan. He took it to the authorities for analysis, and it was discovered to be a makeshift bomb. Separately, security forces arrested 10 Coptic Christians for trying to build a wall around a piece of vacant land in order to expand their current church into the territory or possibly even build a church. A church already exists in the village of Abu Hannas in Samalout, Minya but it is too small to serve the village’s large Christian population. So the church purchased an unused piece of land next to it in the hope of expanding the current church or building another.
Iran: Authorities from the Islamic Republic are trying to convert the Assyrian Christian church in Tehran into a mosque. The church was illegally confiscated two years ago, when church leaders were told that an Islamic prayer hall would be built there.
Indonesia: Authorities in the Sharia-governed province of Aceh plan to remove tents built by Christians in which to worship after their churches were torn down late last year by authorities in response to Muslim violence against churches. The attacks left one dead and thousands of Christians displaced. The government claims that the removals were agreed to, as the tents were built only for Christmas services — a claim that Christian leaders reject. When Sharia police and other officials arrived in early January to remove the tents, the congregation resisted. “Mothers, children, and youths blockaded them. They made their objections clear,” said a pastor. Two church tents were torn down.
Turkey: A Syriac Orthodox Church in Diyarbakir, considered to be a “unique heritage site,” is believed to have been destroyed during fighting between the Turkish army and the Kurdish PKK. According to the last Christian family to flee the area, Fr. Yusuf and his wife: “My wife and I managed to escape the Church just moments ago with great difficulty… A few days ago, we already sent our children away in order to put them in safety. My wife and I, however, could not leave this ancient-old Church,” which symbolizes the last living presence of the Arameans in this once flourishing Aramean city.
“We heard the fighting coming closer to us and we felt the ground shaking more and more. Especially my wife got terribly afraid and then we both decided that we had to run for our lives. … Not even at home or church we were safe. Our psychology has been greatly impacted by what we have experienced lately. … We don’t know what has happened to our Church, because we didn’t dare to look while we were running for our lives. Now we have little hope left that there can be a future for us, Aramean Christians, to stay in the land of our forefathers.”
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: At least three Christians were raped and/or tortured to death by Muslims:
1) A group of Muslim men went into a Christian district, abducted a 7-year-old boy, and took turns gang-raping him before finally strangling him to death with a rope. Locals found the child’s body the next day dumped in a field: “[T]he body was sent for post-mortem examination which revealed that the 7-year-old was killed after being brutally raped,” a local said. “The suspects belonged to rich families and were drunk when they kidnapped the child, took him away and they raped him.”
2) A week later, another group of reportedly “rich and drunk” Muslims in a car accosted three Christian girls walking home from work. They sexually harassed them, saying “Christian girls are only meant for one thing, the pleasure of Muslim men.” When the girls tried to run away, the Muslims chased them down in their car and ran them over, killing one 17-year-old girl.
3) A Christian man was brutally tortured to death by police in an attempt to get him to confess to stealing from his Muslim employer. Khurram, the son of Liaqat Masih, the 47-year-old slain Christian, was also tortured by police for the same reason; he shared his eyewitness testimony of the beating his father endured before expiring. Police stripped him naked, made him stand on a chair, tied his hands behind his back, and hung him from the ceiling, causing Liaqat’s shoulders to become dislocated. Each time the captive’s feet hit the floor, a police officer would pull the rope to lift him up again and continued applying tension to his arms and dislocated shoulders. Because both Khurram and Liaqat adamantly maintained their innocence during the ordeal, the officers continued to beat his tied-up father with wooden logs until he eventually died. About an hour into the beating, the guards noticed that Liaqat was no longer breathing. The officers then released the tension on the rope and laid the father’s beaten body down in a pool of his own urine, said the son who watched. At the autopsy, doctors concluded that Liaqat died of a heart attack and failed to record the numerous injuries and bruises suffered during the beating.
Bangladesh: ISIS claimed responsibility for the murder of an 85-year-old Muslim man for reportedly converting to Christianity. He was found lying in a coffin-like structure with blood on his chest. It is believed that he was stabbed to death while working at his homeopathic practice. According to the report, “Soldiers of the caliphate were able to eliminate the apostate, named ‘Samir al-Din’, by stabbing him with a knife.” Although al-Din’s son claims that his father never converted to Christianity and frequently prayed facing Mecca, One Way Church disagrees, stating that he was just “in a meeting of the church at Gopinathpur village on Jan 3” and that he had told others that his life was in danger. “The local church has shown us papers confirming his conversion to Christianity in 2001,” said local police.
Syria: A bomb attack on a mostly Christian neighborhood killed three people and wounded 10 others, all Christians. The attack occurred on January 24 in the Kurdish city of Qamishli. While rumors began that ISIS was behind it, according to one Christian leader, “So many people think that behind the bombing there could also be Kurdish masterminds and executors. It is another disturbing factor of this war: there is terrorism, but sometimes we do not know who really terrifies us.”
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