The Slaughter of Christians
Egypt: A Muslim policeman charged with guarding a Coptic Christian church shot and killed two Christians—a father, 49, and his son, 21—on the night of December 12 in Minya. Eyewitnesses say a verbal quarrel had ensued before the officer pulled out his gun and opened fire on the two men. Video footage of the incident shows the killer-cop brandishing his gun as he stalks around the bloodied but still moving Christians on the ground. He loudly curses them—or all Copts in general?—as “mother-f*****s.” Thousands of angry Christians attended the funeral, chanting kyri eleison (“Lord have mercy!), and “One, two—but where are the rights of the martyrs!” Coptic Solidarity said in a statement:
Whatever punishment—if any!—the killer policeman may end up getting, the real culprit in this heinous crime is nothing but the authorities themselves, as they have allowed impunity to killers of Copts time and again, making it easy for anybody having an argument with a Copt to pull a gun, or knife, and just kill.
Attacks on Christians by Muslim officers are not unprecedented in Egypt. In 2011 an off-duty policeman boarded a train, identified some of its passengers as Coptic Christians (based on the tattoo of the cross on some of their wrists) and opened fire, killing one elderly Christian and wounding four others —while shouting Islam’s war cry, “Allahu Akbar.” More recently, a Muslim “policeman tasked with guarding a church from extremists instead aggressively entered the church and hurled insults at the congregation, calling them infidels.” Coptic Bishop Makarious likened the recent killing of Christian father and son at the hand of an officer guarding their church as having “a fox guard the hen house.” He added that this incident is worse than the St. Samuel Monastery attacks—where scores of Christians were massacred by Islamic terrorists on two separate occasions, the more recent weeks before this double murder—as it involves, not outlaws, but a lawman.
Nigeria: On the day after Christmas, Islamic Fulani tribesmen slaughtered seven Christians. Rawuru, where the murders took place, was attacked by the Muslim tribesmen six months earlier; then 230 Christians were butchered. “The size and coordination of those attacks showed that this could not just be another small local clash. It was clearly a well thought out and preplanned attack meant to kill as many people as possible,” the report said. “These types of attacks are not the normal farmer-herder conflict that the Nigerian government has been trying to claim they are,” the report continued in reference to both domestic and foreign mainstream media reports that habitually portray the murders as a result of clashes between nomadic Fulani herdsmen, who just so happen to be Muslim, and farmers, who just happen to be Christians.
Attacks on Christian Churches
[G]roups of Muslim villagers … waged attacks against the houses of the Copts in the village of Kom al-Raheb, pelting them with stones and thumping at doors and windows. They were livid that the Copts had a day earlier, Sunday 9 December, opened a new church building and celebrated Holy Mass inside. The police arrived and demanded immediate closure of the unlicensed church. The Copts persuaded the police to wait for Mass to conclude before closing the building, which they did and confiscated its keys…. [F]undamentalist Muslims had used the local mosque’s microphone to rally the village Muslims against the Copts.
“It’s a hard time,” said one local Christian. “We don’t know what we should do. How does the government permit us to open new churches and then force us to close churches? We barely open churches, and the police don’t want to keep us safe!” “They are easily building many mosques, and when we try [to] build a church, all of them try to harm us,” said another. “It’s unfair, the situation has become so ridiculous!” “We are so depressed,” added the local pastor. “It’s not the first time extremists [have done] this; I think it’s government policy toward the Christians. We have nothing to do, just pray… God is good.”
Iraq: On December 1, Shabak, a Shia militia formed in 2014 to reclaim the Nineveh Plain from the Islamic State, opened fire on the St. George Assyrian Church in Bartella, formerly a Christian majority city, and threatened its priest, Fr. Behnam Benoka. Discussing the incident, Benedict Kiely, a Catholic priest, wrote:
Last week I spoke with Fr. Benoka for over 40 minutes on FaceTime. A few weeks ago, the Shabak militia blocked the road to his church, preventing his congregation from attending. They also strafed the church with gunfire. Fr. Benoka told me that this was the second time his church had been attacked in the last nine months. One of the militiamen held a handgun to the priest’s face when he went out to demand that they clear the street and stop shooting. Later, in a provocation unreported in any media, the same hostile militia went to Qaraqosh, the largest Christian town on the Nineveh Plain, and menaced the people living there. Fr. Benoka told me that the Shabak want to drive the Christians from the area. “They are the new ISIS,” he told me. “We are really vulnerable.”…
A separate December 2 report concerning the Islamic State’s depredations on the Christian communities found that 120 Christian churches and shrines and thousands of Christian homes were and destroyed in Mosul alone. An estimated15 billion dinars (over twelve million USD) is required to restore these building. According to the report,
The damage ISIS wrecked upon Christians was not just physical property damage. ISIS targeted Christians for genocide and many believers reported how their neighbors joined the militants in their violent intentions. Mosul’s Christians in particular are quick to point out that the ideology of ISIS was heavily present in their city long before the militants made it their capital in Iraq. Community trust was broken, lives lost, families separated.
Uzbekistan: Forty police and military personnel raided an unregistered Baptist church in the capital, Tashkent, during Sunday morning worship, November 25. Police detained 14 Christians, including a 14-year-old boy, and kept them outside in near freezing temperatures and later interrogated some for several hours. Everyone in attendance was photographed and their details recorded. Nearly 8,000 pieces of Christian literature and hymn books were seized. When one woman tried to conceal some songbooks used for worship, an official “screamed at her that you are liars, Christians must not hide anything,” said a witness. Towards evening, authorities cut off the church’s heat, as temperatures dropped below zero. “[We] were almost freezing as it is very cold at night,” a member of a family staying in the building explained. Officials concluded by telling the congregation that “we will come every Sunday and disrupt the church service every time until you give up and stop your activity…. We as the state cannot adjust to you, you need to adjust to our laws.” As in many other Muslim majority nations, stringent legal requirements make it nearly impossible to register churches in Uzbekistan.
Lebanon: Security officials foiled an Islamic State terror plot targeting Christians and their places of worship: a 10-month police surveillance operation codenamed “Lethal Cheese” uncovered explosives hidden in buckets of cheese smuggled in from Syria. Although Lebanon was once the Arab world’s only Christian majority nation, Christians now represent about 36% of the population and are quickly dwindling thanks most recently to a large influx of Muslim refugees from Syria . In 2016 eight Islamic State suicide bombers exploded themselves—two in front of a church—in Al Qaa, a predominantly Christian town on Lebanon’s border with Syria.
Attacks on Christian “Blasphemers”
Pakistan: On December 13, a court sentenced two Christian brothers to death for allegedly posting blasphemous material on a website in 2011. The brothers, Qaisar and Amoon Ayub, first got in trouble when the offensive material appeared on a website that was copyrighted to Qaisar’s name. He testified that he shut down the site in 2009, but that a Muslim acquaintance reactivated it, and kept it in Qaisar’s name. Regardless, Muslims rioted and called for the Christian’s life, prompting the brothers to flee to Thailand; they were arrested soon after they returned to Pakistan in 2015. “[B]ecause of threats from hardliners lower courts pass their responsibility to the higher court and then it takes years to prove the accused innocent,” said human rights activist Nasir Saeed. “We have seen this in the recent case of Asia Bibi.”
Egypt: On December 22, an appeals court upheld a Christian man’s three year prison sentence for blaspheming against Islam. Abd Adel Bebawy was arrested six months earlier, in July, after he linked to an article that compared Muhammad to Jesus on Facebook. On the following day, Muslims rioted in Minbal, where he resided, including by attacking Christian homes and trying to storm the village church. Windows were smashed and some Christians sustained injuries from glass shards. “The Muslim extremists in our village and the nearby villages incited the Muslim villagers against us …. They began pelting the Coptic-owned houses with stones and bricks, while shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ [Allah is greater] and chanting slogans against Copts, such as ‘We will displace you and the priest from our village, oh kafir [infidels], O worshipers of the cross, O defiled people,’” recalled one resident. “We lived very terrible moments while the mob were attacking our homes. Our children were screaming,” said another: “We spent a painful evening we shall never forget,” remembered another Christian resident of Minbal. “An evening of terror.” Discussing Bebawy’s recent sentencing, a lawyer involved in the case said, “This is not a sentence based on the law, but it is meant to please the public!” “We were thinking that the appeal will end up setting Abd free, and we were thinking who will compensate Abd for the months detained in prison until we reached the appeal time. Who will compensate his family, who have left the village and his kids moved to another school?” Mona, a family friend, explained. “Now after the [three-year] prison sentence, there is no justice expected.” “What else is expected by a blasphemy law?” asked Moheb, another family friend. “It is a law meant to be tailored for Christians so anyone can accuse a Christian and no matter what the proof of innocence is, he will be imprisoned.”
Indonesia: According to one report, “On December 2, an estimated 100,000 Muslims dressed in white carrying Islamic flags gathered at the national monument in Indonesia’s capitol of Jakarta. The occasion was to mark the second anniversary of a mass protest that led to the downfall, and inevitably the arrest, of Jakarta’s Christian governor,” known as Ahok. Two years earlier, “[o]n December 2, 2016, thousands of Muslim hardliners gathered to rallies that demanded him [to] be arrested for blasphemy.” He “was arrested for blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of insulting the Quran. Ahok is still serving his sentence.
Attacks on Muslim Apostates to Christianity
Uganda: “In 24 hours earlier this month, a [Muslim] convert to Christianity … lost his livelihood, wife and children to irate relatives and other Muslims,” reads one report. On December 7, a mosque leader “led a mob to Muhamud Gusolo’s banana plantation and destroyed it after Gusulo’s father objected to him leaving Islam for Christ.” According to Muhamud, 28, a month earlier,
My father [had] confronted me for being a disgrace to the family as a result of my conversion to Christ. Since my expulsion from the community, no one in my community has come to my aid. My father has openly denied me as his son, and the community has openly threatened me, saying, “No burial rites for you, a kaffir [infidel]”…. My wife and children also turned against me…. I am a very frustrated man with no family. After being ostracized from my community, I have appealed for help to the government administration, but this has fallen on deaf hears. I am very far from my family and reside in a lonely environment in another village.
In a separate incident in Uganda, a former Muslim wife and mother of four between the ages of five and nine was beaten, strangled, and threatened with death by her Muslim husband for embracing Christianity. Shakira Wanyenze, 31, converted six months earlier and managed to conceal her new faith from her husband, Ismail. One night, however, “My husband arrived home at around 8 p.m. on the 30th [of November] and heard me concluding the prayers using the name of Jesus,” she explained. “When he interrogated me to give reasons why I was using the name of Jesus, I kept quiet.” On the following morning he resumed questioning her; again she kept silent. He repeatedly began to slap her, successively harder with each strike. When she screamed for help he struck her hand with a wooden board, causing her fingers to bleed. “I fell down, and he started to strangle me. Fortunately, neighbors arrived and rescued me and took me to a clinic at Buyaga town council for treatment, and I was discharged after two days.” Shakira soon learned that her husband had purchased a coffin in preparation of killing her. She and her children took refuge at a pastor’s home. Last reported, Ismail was sending threatening message to the pastor, such as, “If you continue housing my wife in your house, then let it be known to you that soon I will be coming for your head.”