The uptick in often lethal persecution of Christians in Muslim regions has caused many Christian leaders to appeal for aid. Canon Andrew White, the prominent minister known as the “Vicar of Baghdad” told Fox News in March, “If there is anything I can tell Americans it is that your fellow brothers and sisters are suffering, they are desperate for help,” he said. “And it is not just a matter of praying for peace. They need a lot – food, resources, clothes, everything. They need everything.”
White also went as far as to say that Christianity in Iraq, where it has been since the times of the apostles, is finished.
As Fox News reported:
“Thirty years ago, there were approximately 1.4 million Christians in Iraq. The number dwindled to around 1 million after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and a year ago it was estimated that there were less than 250,000 left. Numbers have continued to decline as families flee, and today even approximate figures are difficult to obtain.”
According to a Vatican Radio report, Nigerian Catholic Bishop Joseph Bagobiri responded to “the recent atrocities of Fulani [Muslim] Cattle herdsmen…, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Christians and the destruction of property worth millions of Naira,” by calling on all Christian denominations to implement counter measures against the “systematic elimination of Christianity in the northern part of Nigeria.”
One source said that in one of these assaults, two of the victims “had their eyes plucked out.” A survivor of another said, “The sad thing is that these Fulanis have been attacking our communities, and no one is doing anything about it.”
Commenting on the “horrific attacks” on Coptic Christians in Egypt between December 2016 and March 2017 — during which 40 “innocent children, women and men had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians” — Coptic Bishop Anba Angaelos of the United Kingdom said the slaughter has “gone largely unnoticed by the international community.” He continued:
“In our fast moving world that is filled with so much news of tragedy, war and death, it is all too easy for atrocities to become ‘incidents,’ and for individuals suffering them to become mere statistics, very quickly pushed aside by the next item of news. In the eyes of the perpetrators they are a viable target, and in the eyes of the world they become a regrettable phenomenon; yet what is actually left behind is traumatized individuals, families and communities that have lost loved ones, living the reality of themselves being targeted.”
- “Islamic extremism” remains the dominant force responsible for the persecution of Christians in 40 of the 50 worst nations;
- Nine out of the 10 worst nations for Christians have a Muslim majority (with North Korea being the only non-Islamic exception);
- In the 21 (18 of which are Muslim-majority) worst nations for Christians, “100 percent of Christians experience persecution”;
- 1,329 churches have been attacked, damaged, or destroyed, mostly in Muslim-majority nations;
- Muslim Somalia is now the second worst nation for Christians, who are executed instantly if their faith is discovered, or even rumored;
- In Nigeria — where more Christians have been slaughtered by Muslims than possibly in any other nation — the killing of Christians went up by 62 percent;
- The nation where the most violent and sexual attacks on Christians take place – Muslim-majority Pakistan — rose to the number four spot on the list of the worst countries for Christians.
Accounts of widespread Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in the month of March include, but are not limited to, the following:
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: A Christian mother and her three children — aged four, five and nine — were “hacked to death by unknown assailants within a church premises” in Muslim-majority Lagos State. The incident occurred around 3 a.m., “when the woman and her children had gone to the ‘Holy Land’ part of a Cherubim and Seraphim church. Their bodies were seen “in a pool of blood by some worshipers,” who arrived at the church later in the morning. The three children died inside the church. Their mother died an hour after making it to the hospital. Police said they were still seeking a motive.
Somalia: Assassins dispatched by the militant Islamic group Al Shabaab — “The Youth” — invaded the home of a clandestine Christian family during the night, and murdered the 35-year-old wife and mother, along with her 11-year-old son, as they slept. The 38-year-old husband and father was shot in the chest and survived. His three other young children escaped through the back door of the house and also survived. According to the account of the man of the house, the four gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” [“God is great”] and said they “cannot allow the defiling of our religion with a foreign, Western religion.”
Somalia is widely considered the second worst nation for Christians. There, the mere suspicion or accusation that someone is secretly living as a Christian can lead to a public execution.
Pakistan: After refusing to work on Sunday, as his Muslim employer demanded he do, a 20-year-old Christian sanitation worker was killed in a drive-by shooting by two assailants on motorcycles. The victim’s family attorney said that the employer had warned the worker that he would face “dire consequences” if he did not comply, and threatened to “cut off his legs and riddle his body with bullets” for defying his order. “Many Muslims find it hard to accept refusal by a ‘lowly’ Christian,” a Christian rights activist said. “This is not the first time a Christian sanitary worker has been killed or subjected to violence for refusing to comply with unjust demands of persons from the Muslim majority.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Missionaries and “Apostates”
Philippines: A 70 year-old Irish nun living on the island of Mindanao — notorious for its separatist, extremist Muslim population — was attacked by a masked assailant who beat her so badly that she required surgery. Sister Kathleen Melia, who has spent more than 30 years serving the Philippines, was locking up her convent on March 1, when a masked man covered her mouth with his hand, and began to punch her.
Uganda: A Muslim who discovered that his 21-year-old daughter had converted to Christianity beat her up and threw her out of the house. When she fled to her pastor for sanctuary, her father contacted the police and accused the church leader — a married father-of-six — of having abducted her and turning her into a “human sacrifice.” Police immediately arrested the pastor, a former Muslim and well-known sheikh, who embraced Christianity in 2003. Since then, he has lost his job; his first wife left him; his extended family beat and disowned him; an aunt tried to poison him with insecticide; and one of several Islamic attacks on his home left one of his daughters dead. During his interrogation, the pastor explained that the girl he allegedly “sacrificed” was not only still alive, but taking a tailoring course. When located by police, the young woman confirmed her pastor’s version of events, saying that her father had vowed to “fight hard until we destroy everything [the pastor was] doing.”
Iran: Two Christian converts, a mother and son, were arrested in their home and taken to an unknown location. During the raid, bibles and other books on Christian theology were confiscated.
Another convert to Christianity, imprisoned since 2013 for working in a house church and orphanage, has been denied urgent health care a heart defect, “drastic” weight loss, weakness and depression.
A five-year prison sentence issued to a Christian convert — for allegedly “forming a group in order to disrupt national security” — was confirmed by the Revolutionary Court. Human rights activists involved in his case say, however, that the convict “is in prison only for his [Christian] beliefs.”
Malaysia: A pastor accused of attempting to convert Muslims to Christianity — a crime in Malaysia — was abducted in what was seen on closed-circuit TV to be a professional job, and is feared dead, due to no ransom having been demanded, and despite the family’s offer of reward money to anyone with information on the case.
Muslim Attacks on Churches
Central African Republic: Muslim converts to Christianity were attacked by a Muslim mob while worshiping at a Central Africa church. Brandishing swords and iron bars, the mob shouted “Allahu Akbar” [“Allah is the greatest”], while destroying the church and ripping off its roof. They then stabbed the pastor and beat up members of the congregation. This was one of at least three Muslim attacks on churches in the Central African Republic between January and March of 2017.
Indonesia: The government shut down three churches, two Protestant and one Catholic, on the grounds that it “cannot guarantee their safety” after intimidation by a radical Muslim group. “We are struggling for our right to worship,” a church leader lamented. Possibly emboldened by the government’s action, hundreds of Muslims demonstrated in front of the Santa Clara Church in Bekasi, and called on the mayor to revoke the church’s permits. After the mayor said he would not do so, “even if I am shot,” protesters hurled rocks and bottles at the police, and tried to force their way into the church. Police used tear gas to disperse the mob. This violence is part of a reportedly growing trend of intolerance, particularly against Christians, in Indonesia.
Iraq: A church in Mosul was turned into a religious police base by ISIS, which desecrated it with Islamic graffiti and damaged the stone cross above its front door. According to a report by NDTV:
“Not a single crucifix, or statue of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary has survived in the building’s nave, from which all mark of Christianity has been methodically removed… Terrorists have scribbled their noms de guerre on the church’s walls, and a large chandelier has been dumped in the yard.”
Kuwait: A Muslim man dressed in traditional thobe and armed with a long kitchen knife burst into a Catholic church in Kuwait City during mass, went straight to the officiating priest, and demanded “to see the Pope.” He then walked to the podium and “tried to seize the microphone from the priest,” says the report. Several ushers managed to remove him from the church premises and hand him to police, which are always stationed outside the church during service hours. Kuwaiti authorities later stated that the man “suffers from mental health issues” and “denied involvement of any terrorist organization or threat to the church or its parishioners.”
Muslim Discrimination against and Hostility towards Christians
Egypt: A Muslim man sexually harassed and attempted to slit the throat of a Christian woman on a busy street, in broad daylight. Passersby intervened, holding the perpetrator until authorities arrived. The woman was rushed to a hospital and survived.
In addition, the brother of an 18-year-old Christian girl who was abducted earlier this year learned that his sister had been given a new Muslim identity and was being held by security services. When the family approached the national security headquarters and demanded that she be set free, authorities denied knowledge of her whereabouts. As family and friends proceeded to protest, singing Christian hymns, the police responded with violence, wounding several participants.
Nigeria: According to a report in the Christian Post, Christians displaced by Islamic attacks at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists are being denied food and vital assistance at camps run by local Muslim organizations. As many as 1.8 million people in Nigeria are currently facing starvation. Bishop William Naga, who fled his home in the Borno state, said, “They will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians.” A human rights activist elaborated:
“Christians often get pushed to the back of the line. Because Muslims are the majority there, even non-extremist Muslims, some of their neighbors are typically going to get preferential treatment by those providing food and assistance because of their Muslim faith.”
Pakistan: A Muslim family falsely accused their 15-year-old Christian maid and her father of stealing, after the girl fell ill with appendicitis and could not work until she recuperated. The father and daughter were arrested and are now engaged in a legal battle to prove their innocence.
A Pakistani government want-ad for street sweepers states that applicants must be Hindu, Christian or Shia — anyone but the dominant Sunni Muslim population – illustrates the way in which minorities are prevented from earning a living wage. When minority groups protested, officials responded by saying the word “Shia” was added by mistake, as they are still considered Muslims.
A Pakistani prosecutor reportedly has been blackmailing Christians facing trial — over the lynching of two men suspected of bombing two churches – to convert to Islam in exchange for their acquittal. One lawyer said that the prosecutor’s office has used this tactic before, but that it was “simply ignored.”
United States: A sophomore at Rollins College in Florida was suspended for challenging a Muslim professor’s assertion that the crucifixion of Jesus never took place, and that his disciples never believed he was God. After the incident, during a Middle East Humanities class, the straight-A student was graded an “F” on a major essay. When he confronted the professor about this, she filed a complaint with the school, claiming he made her feel “unsafe.”
The student recounted that one day, the professor led a discussion about the application of Sharia Law, and a Muslim in the class said gays and adulterers should be beheaded. No action was taken against that person, however.
A week after the student contacted a lawyer, his suspension was lifted.
About this Series
The persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. Accordingly, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month.