Islamic hostility for Christmas was on full display as documented here: on Christmas Day, Muslims in Bethlehem set a Christmas tree on fire and greeted the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem with a hail of stones; Muslim “refugees” set fire to a public Christmas tree in Belgium; Muslim jihadis attacked churches during Christmas mass killing at least 16 in Nigeria; Muslim jihadis in the Philippines slaughtered 10 Christians on Christmas Eve to “make a statement”; three Muslim countries—Somalia, Tajikistan, and Brunei—formally banned any Christmas celebrations; due to assassination attempts on pastors and death threats to Christians, churches skipped Christmas mass in Bangladesh and were on “high alert” in Indonesia, with 150,000 security personnel patrolling; in Iran, Christians celebrating Christmas in homes were arrested.
Christmas related violence aside, sword waving Muslims chased down Christians and in two cases butchered them. In the United States, a Muslim man pulled out a sword and chased his neighbor, a Christian of Mideast descent, while saying he would “Die and kill for Allah.” The incident took place in San Bernardino, California. The victim escaped and called San Bernardino police who subsequently arrested Mohamed Ahmed Elrawi, 57, of Victorville, on suspicion of attempted murder. Police also found evidence at his apartment suggesting he is a “radicalized Muslim.” While being escorted out of his home by police, Elrawi said in Arabic to Mark Tashamneh , a Christian of Jordanian background and Elrawi’s neighbor, that he would kill him. “I’m a Christian, I’m happy … and I believe what I believe,” Tashamneh told reporters. “I am not against what he believes, but he apparently has a problem with me and came and threatened me.” Speaking of that night, another female neighbor said: “My kids were sleeping when I heard a lot of noise. I went outside and saw that (Elrawi) had a big sword that he was swinging back and forth. I went back inside but I could still hear yelling and arguing and I heard (Elrawi) telling someone that he was going to kill him.”
Muslims slaughtered two Christian leaders with swords in two separate incidents in Uganda. Patrick Ojangole, a 43-year-old Christian father of five who also supported several children whose families had disowned them for leaving Islam, was hacked to death. According to the slain man’s friend, who survived to tell the tale, they were traveling to their village when they saw Muslim women covered in burqas sitting on the road: “Because it was late in the evening, we thought they needed some help from us, so we stopped, and while we were still talking with them, a man arrived [followed by two more men] … The two women immediately pulled out swords from their burqas and gave them to the men.” One of the three Muslim men reproached Patrick for refusing to cease his Christian activities. Then the Muslims fell on him with their swords. “Patrick was a very committed Christian and a hard-working farmer,” said his friend. “From his farm work, he used to support 10 children from Muslim families who had been ostracized by their families,” as well as his own five children ranging in age from 7 to 16.
Separately, a pastor was also hacked to death and beheaded after he and other church members resisted efforts by local Muslims to seize land belonging to the church. When pastor Bongo Martin, 32, confronted and resisted them, the imam of the Muslim group answered, “We have told you many times that we do not want the church to be located near our mosque. Your church has been taking our members to your church.” Then a Muslim named Abdulhakha Mugen pulled out a sword and struck at the pastor’s neck. He instantly collapsed while the Muslim swordsman kept hacking at him and eventually decapitating him. Pastor Martin’s body was later found floating the river.
An additional five underground Christians in a predominantly Muslim village in Uganda, including a pregnant mother, died from poisoning after a Bible study.
The rest of December’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches and Symbols
Italy: While screaming Islam’s ancient war cry—“Allahu Akbar!”—two Muslim men, one Palestinian the other Tunisian, attacked and tried to disarm soldiers stationed outside Santa Maria Maggiore cathedral in Rome. According to Italian media, “when police intervened, the two men aged 40 and 30 called other foreigners in the area to their aid, and assaulted and threatened the arresting officers. After they were taken to the police station, they continued to speak out against law enforcement and Europe in both Arabic and Italian. They were charged with resisting and threatening an officer and instigation to commit a crime with intent to commit terrorist acts, slapped with an expulsion order, and taken to a migrant reception center in the southern city of Bari prior to repatriation.”
Egypt: A church under construction in Swada village, Minya, was attacked on December 10 by a mob consisting of at least 400 Muslims incited by local officials. “They destroyed the marble, ceramics, cement, wood and church’s signs inside the buildings and destroyed the contents of the building, and attacked and injured some of the workers,” said a local. After the attack, and although the church had obtained the necessary permits required for construction, it the same officials who incited the attack cited the attack as reason to outlaw the church. The population of Swada is about 35% Christian, or 3,000 people, and there isn’t a single Coptic Orthodox church to serve them.
Separately, an ancient Christian monastery, the Paromeos Monastery, was threatened by jihadis online. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary it was built over 1,600 years ago—more than two centuries before Islam overran Christian Egypt. Although the ancient monastery receives police protection, Christian activists are calling for greater security measures in response to growing threats.
Yemen: Days after the Islamic State (“ISIS”) assassinated Aden city’s governor, an abandoned Catholic church was blown up. According to a resident, “The gunmen, who were probably extremists, blew up the [Immaculate Conception] Catholic church in the Mualla district of Aden. We heard a strong explosion which sent a big plume of smoke into the air and afterward saw that the building was completely destroyed.” The church was already severely damaged after a Saudi-led coalition air strike last May. Reuters concludes: “Once a cosmopolitan city home to thriving Hindu and Christian communities, Aden has gone from one of the world’s busiest ports as a key hub of the British empire to a largely lawless backwater. Its small Christian population left long ago. Unknown assailants had previously vandalized a Christian cemetery and torched another Aden church this year.”
Iraq: ISIS bombed a monastery that belonged to nuns in the Christian village of Tel Kepe; ten Assyrian Christian homes were also bombed and several people injured. Separately, a cemetery in Kirkuk used by the Assyrian Church and the Syriac Orthodox church was vandalized. Crosses and tombstones were broken and graves opened. The identity of the perpetrators is unknown. Chaldean Patriarch Louis Sako condemned the destruction of the cemeteries adding “We live in difficult conditions…”
Turkey: Groups believed to be associated with ISIS issued death threats to at least 20 evangelical churches via social media, email, and mobile texts. They included “upsetting videos and pictures” said a human rights activist. Suspected Islamic State militants reportedly said they “are tired of waiting” for Muslims who had converted to Christianity to return to Islam. “Koranic commandments… urge us to slay the apostate like you,” said one message.
Bangladesh: “He who preaches Christianity must leave the country or die”—such were the words of an anonymous letter sent to ten leaders of Protestant Christian churches. An additional four church leaders narrowly escaped attempts on their lives causing the nation’s churches to cancel Christmas Day church services.
Cameroon: Boko Haram jihadis invaded a Christian village and torched a church as well as several homes. Up to 1,000 Christians – men, women and children – were adversely affected, eight killed, during the invasion. After reducing the villagers’ possessions to ashes, the jihadis also set their food supplies and other forms of sustenance on fire, leaving them struggling to survive.
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: Seven Muslim Fulani herdsmen invaded and attacked two households and a compound for Christians displaced from earlier jihadi attacks near Jos. Fifteen Christians were slaughtered, including three children aged 1, 3, and 5, as well as their grandmother. According to the slain woman’s daughter, “My mother struggled with the gunmen until they finally shot her and the three kids. She died trying to save the three children.” According to one resident: “They had come to survey the village that Sunday morning while we were in our churches. The Fulani gunmen even asked our children to give them drinking water, which they did, but the kids did not suspect anything and did not inform us about this. It was only after the attack that we were told about the visit of the gunmen to our village.”
Central African Republic: Armed Muslim Seleka militants attacked a camp for internally displaced people killing eight Christians and wounding one UN peacekeeper. Thousands of people have been killed since Muslim Seleka seized power of the Christian-majority country in 2013. After months of massacres, rapes, and looting by armed Seleka, militant anti-balaka groups emerged. Although they see themselves a Christian militia, the nation’s churches condemn their violent actions.
Egypt: A 70-year-old Christian woman was found stabbed to death in her house in the Muslim majority nation. She had 10 stab wounds in her chest. Police were informed and the matter was last reported as being under investigation.
Norway: Christian camps offered as shelter for asylum seekers were told by local authorities to remove all Christian symbols. According to the report, in order to accommodate “the large influx of asylum seekers to Norway, immigration authorities found it necessary to lodge asylum seekers in more places than ordinary reception centres. The Norwegian Missionary Society offered several Christian camp sites, which authorities accepted as long as the missionary society took down any cross or other Christian symbols.” It agreed. But a speaker for the Progress Party reacted by saying, “I understand that asylum centres should be politically and religiously neutral, but I interpret it so that the camps would not engage in active ministry, which is said they will respect. The cross however, is not just a religious symbol, but also a part of our heritage and part of our flag.… [I]f they fear that people are offended by being surrounded by Christian symbols, then perhaps those [Muslim] people applied for asylum in the wrong country.”
Eritrea: After finding a new life in Europe, Gospel singer Helen Berhane shared her experiences in Eritrea, including how she was locked in a shipping container and tortured for being Christian. Speaking at a conference in Rome she said: “The only reason they [Muslim authorities] let you go is when they torture you to death…. They don’t want you to die in prison, it’s not their responsibility, so they send you home to die.” Berhane, who was arrested for evangelizing and releasing religious music, was released only after she became deathly ill.
Syria: A Christian priest who escaped to the West after being held for months by Islamic State in Raqqa shared his “very intense experience, from the spiritual point of view.” According to Syriac Catholic priest Rev Jacques Mourad: “It was very difficult above all when they said, ‘Become Muslim or we’ll cut your head off.’”
Turkey: After widespread international criticism, the nation’s schoolroom textbooks appear improved in several areas, including how non-Sunni Muslims are depicted, but still contain several biases against non-Muslim religions, said a new study. The “major weakness” is that the “textbooks are still written through the paradigm of the officially-sanctioned interpretations of Islam and Islamic culture. All religious minority traditions in the country are depicted within the Muslim context rather than as distinct traditions. In addition, only superficial, limited, and misleading information is given about religions other than Islam, such as Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism.” For example, instead of explaining that Christians view Jesus as the Son of God, an eighth-grade text depicts him as one in a line of Islamic prophets called by Allah, akin to the Islamic historiography about Muhammad: “When Jesus reached 30 years of age, Allah gave him the duty of being a prophet…. He then began inviting people to believe in Allah. At the start, only 12 people believed in his call. They are called the ‘disciples.’”
Pakistan: Mary Javaid, a Christian teacher at a female primary school in the Punjab, was accused of having “preached Christianity to Muslim girls.” A Muslim man Muhammad Sharif filed a complaint with the Department of Education containing accusations against Mary which, according to human rights lawyer, Sardar Mushtaq Gill, are false and instead represent yet another case of discrimination and abuse towards a Christian involved in the delicate area of education. A few months earlier, a Catholic teacher appointed headmaster at a primary school was beaten and tortured by a group of Muslim teachers who spurned the authority of a Christian “infidel.”
Nigeria: Mercy, a 22-year-old Christian woman who was abducted by Boko Haram in June 2014 and rescued after five weeks, described her ordeal in the Islamic camp. In June 2014, members of Boko Haram overran the town and declared it an Islamic caliphate. At least 100 people were killed in the attack. She was sized from her home in the middle of the night. “Everyone in the town ran to save themselves. My dad and I were separated. I don’t know what happened to him. I think he died the same way many others died, because they refused to deny Christ.” She was marched off to a Boko Haram camp. “When we got to the place, there were about 50 other women. I recognised many other Christians, who had now become Muslims and were forced to undergo Islamic teaching…. My first day was like hell. I cried all day and all night. I prayed like never before and asked God to give me courage.” The next morning, Mercy and the others were taken to a clearing for questioning and asked to convert to Islam.
The four other girls were very scared and immediately agreed. I pleaded that they allow me to remain a Christian, but my pleas fell on deaf ears. They beat me and told me to never mention Christianity in the camp again. Then they told me that they would arrange a husband for me….. We were forced to attend prayers at 5am. After that, we were sent to a madrassa [Islamic school]. There was only a short break. After we were given a little food, we returned to the madrassa. They constantly told us to work hard for the advancement of Boko Haram. In the afternoon we were dispersed to do our chores, such as washing the men’s clothes…. I witnessed constantly how Boko Haram members killed innocent people. Christian men who were captured and brought to the camp were killed for refusing to deny their faith. [It was like] the fulfilment of the [things written in the] Bible played out in front of my eyes, as people died for their faith in Christ. But others, including me, could not endure the torture and gave in to their demands.
Mercy was eventually “married” off to a Muslim man and without giving any details only said, “Every single day came with tears and fears for the unknown.”
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. It serves two purposes:
1) To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians.
2) To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; apostasy, blasphemy, and proselytism laws that criminalize and sometimes punish with death those who “offend” Islam; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or third-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination thereof.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to Indonesia in the East—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.