“Why are your bishops silent on a threat that is yours today as well? Because the bishops are, like you, raised in political correctness. But Jesus was never politically correct, he was politically just! The responsibility of a bishop is to teach, to use
As opposed to their Western counterparts, Christian leaders who live in the Middle East continued expressing their frustration at the West’s indifference and worse. Jean-Clément Jeanbart, the Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo, during an interview, asked “Why are your bishops silent on a threat that is yours today as well? Because the bishops are, like you, raised in political correctness. But Jesus was never politically correct, he was politically just! The responsibility of a bishop is to teach, to use his influence to transmit truth. Why are your bishops afraid of speaking? Of course they would be criticized, but that would give them a chance to defend themselves, and to defend this truth. You must remember that silence often means consent.”
The archbishop also criticized the migration policies of Western countries: “The egoism and the interests slavishly defended by your governments will in the end kill you as well. Open your eyes, didn’t you see what happened recently in Paris?”
Similarly, in Iraq, Christian representatives invited to participate in the “Conference on the Protection of Peaceful Coexistence” — the sort of conference that would be heavily attended, praised, and cited by Christians in the West — boycotted the event on the grounds that such government-sponsored events are purely for show and nothing comes of them. “What need is there in participating in meetings like this and repeating the formulas that give the title to the conference if then one does not see initiatives and changes in concrete terms?” said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis I. Other non-Muslim religious minorities, including the Yazidis and Mandaeans, also boycotted the conference.
The Chaldean Patriarch went on to launch an appeal to government authorities and political and religious leaders to denounce the continuing legal discrimination and sectarian bullying suffered by Christians: “We met with government officials, and paid a visit to some of the Islamic religious authorities to talk about what we have in common, with regards to our faiths and the life we share in this land. During these meetings, we assured our loyalty to Iraq, which is our country, and we do not seek revenge, we want to live in peace with all Iraqis. Unfortunately, none of their promises has become reality.”
January’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Persecution of Christian Churches
USA: Federal authorities arrested a Michigan man believed to be an ISIS supporter who had planned to carry out an attack on a 6,000-member Detroit church. Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, of Dearborn Heights, allegedly had guns and a large knife, and told an undercover FBI agent that he “tried to shoot up a church one day.” “I bought a bunch of bullets. I practiced reloading and unloading,” he said in an online conversation. Investigators did not specify which church Abu-Rayyan was eyeing, but said it has a capacity of 6,000 members. In conversations with an undercover agent, he said, “If I can’t do jihad in the Middle East, I would do my jihad over here.” He also had armed himself with a knife and told the undercover agent, “It is my dream to behead someone.”
Bangladesh: Catholic nuns were attacked on two separate occasions. In the early morning hours of February 7, around 15 masked, armed men broke into the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and its adjacent Catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent, in Chuadanga. They vandalized the convent’s chapel, desecrated the Eucharist, slapped a nun around, and looted over $8,000 as well as other valuables. A few days later in Tumilia, 12 men broke into St. Mary’s Catholic Mother Care Center, a hospital clinic founded in 1933, and stole some items. “They broke down the door of my room,” said Sister Mary, “and were armed. They threatened me and asked where I held the money. I had no other choice, I gave them all the cash we had.” According to Theophil Nokrek, secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, the two recent attacks “are not isolated incidents. Some groups are trying to harm our Christian community. They are doing so with premeditated actions. The government should protect us adequately.” He added that a few days earlier in the same district a Christian micro-credit bank was also robbed.
Kosovo: Four ethnic Albanians were arrested near the Serbian Orthodox monastery, Visoki Decani, a UNESCO world heritage site. Two of the suspects wore beards and were dressed in Salafi garb. A Kalashnikov rifle with ammunition and a pistol, as well as some extremist jihadi books, were found in their car. One of the suspects was later found to have an ISIS flag in his house. More than a year earlier, in October 2014, ISIS graffiti was sprayed on buildings belonging to the monastery. Even so, Kosovo police said the four men had no intention to attack the monastery and had no links to terrorism; Albanian media accused the monastery of exaggerating the threat. One month earlier, Muslims had urinated in an Orthodox Christian church in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.
Turkey: On February 18, authorities ordered four Christian congregations to vacate the church building they shared. The Christians were given until February 26 to comply—eight days. Built in the 1880s, the building, which accommodated as many as 200 people, had, since 2004, been shared by four different Christian denominations for their Sunday worship. Due to protests against the decision, on February 23 authorities withdrew the order. Discussing this incident, Turkish academic Aykan Erdemir said, “Christians do not have any legal entitlement to the building. They only have usage rights for the time being, which I think is a very precarious situation …. Members of non-majority religions have to depend on the goodwill of bureaucrats and the majority population.”
Muslim Violence Against and Slaughter of Christians
United States: Police shot and killed a Muslim man of Somali background after he attacked several people with a machete at Nazareth Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The restaurant is owned by a pro-Israel Arab Christian. Thirty-year-old Mohamed Barry walked into the restaurant, had a conversation with an employee and then left. He returned a half hour later, went up to a man and a woman who were sitting at a booth just inside the door, and started slashing. Four people were injured. Law enforcement said the man had traveled to the Middle East in 2012 and that the incident appears to be the type of “lone wolf terrorist attacks they’re trying to stop.” Even so, Columbus police Sgt. Rich Weiner said, “right now there’s nothing that leads us to believe that this is anything but a random attack.”
Recalling the incident, a waitress said, “He looked straight at me, but he went over to the booths and just started going down the booths. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.”
Karen Bass, another eyewitness, said, “He came to each table and just started hitting them. There were tables and chairs overturned there was a man on the floor bleeding there was blood on the floor. I fell like five times. My legs felt like jelly. I just thought he was going to come behind me and slash me up.” After the attacks, Barry fled in his car but was chased by police and cornered. With a knife in one hand and a machete in the other, Barry got out of his car and lunged across the hood at the officers before he was shot dead.
In Columbus, Ohio, Mohamed Barry, a Muslim man of Somali background, attacked several people with a machete at Nazareth Restaurant — a business owned by a pro-Israel Arab Christian. Police later shot and killed Barry when he lunged at them with a machete and knife.
Kenya: In a pre-dawn raid on a predominantly Christian area, the Somalia-based Islamic jihadi group, Al Shabaab, killed at least four Christians, one of whom was beheaded. According to a Christian who was shot in his hand but survived, there were five or six heavily-armed assailants speaking Somali and dressed in military uniforms. They shot two Christians dead, hacked and beheaded another and killed yet another by setting his house on fire. “I could not understand them, so they shot me in my hand, but I managed to escape while a neighbor who was with me was beheaded by the other attackers…. As I fled for my life, bleeding, I could see two houses burning. Those who were attacked are Christians. I am very sure that the attackers were looking for Christians… This is the third time the area has been attacked, and we have lost several Christians.”
Egypt: Another young Coptic Christian conscript allegedly committed suicide in his unit in Menufia. According to Maj. Gen. Muhammad Mas’ud, the 20-year-old, known only as Michael, “shot a bullet from his firearm into his chest, dying instantly.” He supposedly killed himself “after receiving a phone call from his home,” said Mas’ud. Lawyer Hani Ramses remarked that “It’s new for us constantly to hear about Coptic recruits killing themselves in the military and police stations. It’s especially strange that it’s happening now, and not previously, when Egypt was often in a state of war and under constant threat… The killing of Coptic conscripts in the military has become a [new] phenomenon.” (Read here for several more accounts of Coptic Christians being killed in their military units under “mysterious circumstances,” such as supposed suicide.) The lawyer also wondered if these deaths indicate that “extremist groups” have infiltrated the Egyptian military.
United States: The Principal of the Bruce Vento Elementary School in St. Paul, Minnesota, Scott Masini, banned the celebration of Valentine’s Day, a move that accords with Islamic teaching. As St. Valentine’s Day has its origins in the Christian religion, it is banned throughout the Muslim world. In a letter to parents, Masini said that, “my personal feeling is we need to find a way to honor and engage in holidays that are inclusive of our student population.” He went on to explain that the holiday was cancelled as it violates some students’ religious beliefs: “I have come to the difficult decision to discontinue the celebration of the dominant holidays until we can come to a better understanding of how the dominant view will suppress someone else’s view.” He added that the school would also no longer celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, as celebrating those holidays “is encroaching on the educational opportunities of others and threatening the culture of tolerance and respect for all.” Several parents were unhappy with the decision. One parent on the school’s Facebook page wrote, “Very sad. All the fun is gone.” Another wrote, “Tired of the PC. Totally ridiculous.”
Germany: All throughout asylum centers, Muslim migrants are tearing up Bibles, assaulting Christians, sexually abusing women and children, and beating up homosexuals, reported the German newspaper, Die Welt. Yazidi girls who were formerly used as sex slaves by the Islamic State are housed in secret locations in Germany, in order not to attract unwanted attention from migrants sympathetic to the Islamic State or Muslims who view them as nothing more than sexual objects. More than a thousand of these women live in various special shelters across Germany.
Malaysia: Catholic school pupils are being pressured to convert to Islam, according to Sister Rita Chew, president of the Educational Commission of the Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu. She partially attributed this new pressure to increasingly aggressive Muslims in schools run by the Church: “Some people seem very interested in bringing forward Muslim programs in our elementary schools.” Local sources said that Islamic proselytism activities take place in all schools of the country—including Catholic and Christian institutions. Several episodes also show a widespread prejudice against non-Muslim students, noted the sister, adding “Our fear comes from the fact that conversions take place, but the government denies this fact. Some Christian parents have found that their children are taught Islamic prayers.”
Egypt: For the second time, Mervat Seifein, a Christian school teacher, was rejected by students in her school in Minya, Upper Egypt, simply for being Christian. On February 8, Seifein was promoted to school director of Beni Mazar Secondary Girls’ School. It was a routine promotion in which she replaced the previous school director, a Muslim. But students—joined by some teachers—protested and held a sit-in in the school courtyard demanding her removal. “We don’t want a Copt,” they shouted. Police were not able to disband the boys’ demonstration in the school courtyard. Seifein said “The girls who demonstrated against me don’t know me, so why the antagonism? Simply because I am Coptic [Christian]? The only explanation I can fathom is there has been fanatic incitement going on against my promotion, possibly by persons who are purely extremist or who have an interest in keeping me out of that post.” This is not the first such incident. According to Ezzat Ibrahim, a Minya activist who demanded that a prompt official investigation be conducted,
“This is flagrant religious discrimination. It brings to mind the incident in the southern province of Qena when the Islamists rose against the appointment of a Coptic governor in the past-Arab Spring weeks in 2011, and the State gave in and went back on the appointment. It is catastrophic that some 50 or 100 teenage girls or boys should impose their will on the State. And it is equally disastrous that these students were pushed to do so by a group of fanatic Islamists. The positive official response to their preposterous demands amounts to an invitation for religious discrimination. The deputy minister who did that must be dismissed.”
Separately, more than 150 Coptic Christians staged a sit-in protest at the provincial administration office in Minya, to spread awareness for the continued kidnappings of Christians across the country. The protest specifically highlighted the case of an 18-year-old Christian girl who was kidnapped a few days earlier. “Kidnappings that target Christians remain a scourge for the Coptic community in many areas of Egypt. Already several appeals have been launched by Christian organizations to Egyptian authorities, including President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to take so that adequate measures are taken to combat this phenomenon,” added the report. Several kidnappings have ended in the murder of the hostages.
Read it all and Previous reports in the long-running series.