MURDER OF CHRISTIANS
Shepherd Me, O God
Refrain: Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.
God is my shepherd, so nothing shall I want,
I rest in the meadows of faithfulness and love,
I walk by the quiet waters of peace
Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
You lead me by pathways of righteousness and truth,
my spirit shall sing the music of your Name.
Though I should wander the valley of death,
I fear no evil, for You are at my side,
Your rod and Your staff, my comfort and my hope.
You have set me a banquet of love
in the face of hatred,
crowning me with love beyond my power to hold.
Surely Your kindness and mercy follow me
all the days of my life
I will dwell in the house of my God forevermore.
Evangelist in Eastern Uganda Killed after Muslim-Christian Debate
Islamists had threatened church lay leader.
October 15, 2015 By Our East Africa Correspondent
Kenya (Morning Star News) – Islamists upset by a Christian-Muslim
debate are suspected in the killing of a long-time evangelist in
eastern Uganda who led many Muslims to Christ, sources said.
mutilated body of Samson Nfunyeku was found close to his home in
Kalampete village, Kibuku District early on Sept. 23, after the latest
in a series of organized debates with Islamic scholars at Tirinyi
Trading Center ended prematurely due to flaring tempers the previous
night. He was 59.
a previous debate, also sponsored by Nfunyeku’s Church of Uganda and
other churches, Muslim leaders had threatened him and warned him to
hold no more debates, a source said.
months ago Samson and others had a very hot debate at Tirinyi Trading
Center with the Muslim scholars that ended on a bad note, and they gave
warning that such debates were not good for the Muslims,” said one of
the participants, a former sheikh (Islamic teacher) who became a
another debate was held on Sept. 22 with few in attendance, said the
source, whose name is withheld for security purposes. The debate ended
at about 5:30 p.m., and as the trading center is about seven kilometers
(four miles) from Kalampete, colleagues estimated Nfunyeku was killed
between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
He had head injuries and a mark on his neck indicating he was strangled, they said.
was a lay leader who boldly proclaimed Christ in house-to-house visits
and at evangelistic events for more than 30 years. Loved ones showed
strong emotion at his burial on Sept. 25 in Kalampete, sources said.
are going to miss the courage and passion seen in the life of Samson,
who was out to win Muslims for Christ,” Gauma Samuel of the Church of
Uganda’s Budaka Archdeaconry said at his funeral service.
Nfunyeku is survived by seven children and 16 grandchildren.
“They need prayers in this moment of mourning,” a source said.
from Islam to Christianity in eastern Uganda have recently experienced
regular instances of persecution. A Muslim in Nsinze village, Namutumba
District beat and left for dead his wife and 18-year-old son on Aug. 11
after learning they had converted to Christianity, area sources said.
Kasoono beat and strangled his wife, Jafalan Kadondi, but she survived,
said a source who requested anonymity. He said other relatives joined
Kasoono in beating her and their two sons, Ibrahim Kasoono, 18, and
Ismael Feruza, 16, though the younger son managed to escape with only
bruises on his arm.
wife of a former sheikh was poisoned to death on June 17 after she and
her husband put their faith in Christ in Nabuli village, Kibuku
District. Namumbeiza Swabura was the mother of 11 children, including a
Kiryolo, Kaderuna Sub-County, Budaka District on March 28, five Muslims
gang-raped the 17-year-old daughter of a pastor because the church
leader ignored their warnings that he stop worship services, she said.
85 percent of the people in Uganda are Christian and 11 percent Muslim,
with some eastern areas having large Muslim populations. The country’s
constitution and other laws provide for religious freedom, including
the right to propagate one’s faith and convert from one faith to
CHRISTIANS ARE ‘PRIME TARGET’ OF ISIS’ RELIGIOUS CLEANSING CAMPAIGN
by THOMAS D. WILLIAMS, PH.D.
14 Oct 2015
Archbishop of Aleppo has called on the West to act to save Syria from
the “fundamentalist, jihadist mercenaries” who threaten his country,
“killing anyone who would speak of freedom, citizenship, religious
freedom and democracy.”
to the Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart, the situation for Christians
in Aleppo is “desperate,” with churches bombed and no way of finding
work for the people. He is asking the West to help Syria reclaim “our
freedom and our rights” from ISIS.
own cathedral has been bombed six times and is now unusable, and his
home has also been struck more than 10 times. “We are facing the rage
of an extremist jihad; we may disappear soon,” he said.
“Christian communities,” he said, “are the prime target of the so-called caliphate’s religious cleansing campaign.”
spoke Tuesday at the UK launch of the report “Persecuted and Forgotten?
A report on Christians oppressed for their faith 2013-15,” produced by
the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need. He described how the
Islamic State has been systematically destroying his nation through
massacre and destruction, and undermining it through the suppression of
basic human rights and freedom.
“The country has been in a flood of blood. They have destroyed our economy, our industry, our churches, everything,” he said.
suffer a lot, but the thing that we are suffering most from is that
they are taking away our right to be and our right to choose what we
want to be,” he said.
said that freedom of religion is crucial for this fight. People must be
free to choose their faith with no fear of repercussions, and no one
should be condemned because of his faith.
Archbishop also enumerated some of the recent brutality they have
suffered at the hands of the Islamic State, noting that in the last
month alone, 50 Christians have been killed, “many of them savagely
executed by ISIS.”
a few days ago three of our faithful were kidnapped by ISIL and huge
ransoms demanded,” he said. “We tried to found a way to let them go but
it was impossible, so they beheaded them.”
praised the diversity of London’s population as an example that mutual
respect is possible, whereas in Syria, “Anyone who is not
fundamentalist Muslim has no right to live.”
Prime Minister David Cameron attended Tuesday’s release of the study on
Christian persecution, and said: “Every day in countries across the
world, Christians are systematically discriminated against, exploited
and even driven from their homes because of their faith.”
to the report, Christianity is fated to disappear from Iraq “possibly
within five years” unless the international community offer substantial
assistance to the persecuted faithful there.
Pew Study: Christians Are The World’s Most Oppressed Religious Group
February 6, 2014
– Restrictions, harassment, and intimidation towards people who
practice their religion increased in every major region of the world in
2012 except the Americas, with Christians the major target, says a new
report by the Pew Research Center.
“Muslims and Jews experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments,” the study found, but Christians continue to be the world’s most oppressed religious group, with persecution against them reported in 110 countries.
recent report by the Christian group Open Doors noted that “North Korea
remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice
Christianity,” followed by Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi
Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen.
than “5.3 billion people (76% of the world’s population) live in
countries with a high or very high level of restrictions on religion,”
Pew noted, “up from 74% in 2011 and 68% as of mid-2007.”
fifth of the world's nations (20%) also experienced religious terrorism
or sectarian violence in 2012, Pew researchers found, which was “up
markedly from 2007 (9%).”
Obama expressed hope that the “Arab Spring” would give rise to greater
religious freedom in North Africa and the Middle East, which has had
the world’s highest level of hostility towards religion in every year
since 2007, when Pew first began measuring it. However, the study finds
that these regions actually experienced the largest increase in
religious hostilities in 2012.
the six years that Pew has conducted the study, Christians were being
harassed for their faith in 151 countries and Muslims in 135. Together
they represent the world’s two largest religious groups and more than
half of the world’s population.
who make up less than 1% of the world’s population, experienced
religious persecution in 95 countries. Researchers also found an
increase in religious harassment in countries where Hindus, Buddhists
or followers of other traditional religions predominated.
the world's 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia,
Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in
2012,” the report stated. Pakistan had the highest level of social
hostilities involving religion, while Egypt had the highest level of
government restrictions on religious practice, Pew found.
Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Burma rose to the “very
high” level of social hostility towards religion last year.
were harassed about the way they dressed due to religious reasons in
almost a third of all countries in 2012 – up from less than 7 percent
is the fourth report by Pew Research Center analyzing the global issue
of freedom to practice religious beliefs. “As part of the original
study, published in 2009, Pew Research developed two indexes – a
Government Restrictions Index and a Social Hostilities Index – that
were used to gauge government restrictions on religion and social
hostilities involving religion in nearly 200 countries and
territories,” Pew says.
first report created a baseline for each country, broken down into five
geographic regions. Subsequent reports have looked at changes in
restrictions and hostilities in the individual countries, as well as in
the regions to which they belong.
Reported Christian 'martyr' deaths double in 2013: report
BY TOM HENEGHAN, RELIGION EDITOR
LONDON Wed Jan 8, 2014 1:24pm GMT
(Reuters) - Reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the year before, with Syria accounting for more than the whole global total in 2012, according to an annual survey.
Doors, a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians
worldwide, said on Wednesday it had documented 2,123 "martyr" killings,
compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria
alone last year, it said.
"This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm," said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other Christian groups put the annual figure as high as 8,000.
Open Doors report placed North Korea at the top of its list of 50 most
dangerous countries for Christians, a position it has held since the
annual survey began 12 years ago. Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan
were the next four in line.
United States-based group reported increasing violence against
Christians in Africa and said radical Muslims were the main source of
persecution in 36 countries on its list.
"Islamist extremism is the worst persecutor of the worldwide church," it said.
WAR AGAINST THE CHURCH
is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2
billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to
a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life.
faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries, ahead of the 90
countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam,
another Pew survey has reported.
Varton, head of Open Doors France, told journalists in Strasbourg that
failing states with civil wars or persistent internal tensions were
often the most dangerous for Christians.
Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war -- the
war against the church," he said while presenting the Open Doors report
10 percent of Syrians are Christians. Many have become targets for
Islamist rebels who see them as supporters of President Bashar al-Assad.
of the 10 countries listed as dangerous for Christians are
Muslim-majority states, many of them torn by conflicts with radical
Islamists. Saudi Arabia is an exception but ranked sixth because of its
total ban on practicing faiths other than Islam.
the list of killings, Syria was followed by Nigeria with 612 cases last
year after 791 in 2012. Pakistan was third with 88, up from 15 in 2012.
Egypt ranked fourth with 83 deaths after 19 the previous year.
report spoke of "horrific violence often directed at Christians" in the
Central African Republic but said only nine deaths were confirmed last
year because "most analysts still fail to recognize the religious
dimension of the conflict."
report had no figures for killings in North Korea but said Christians
there faced "the highest imaginable pressure" and some 50,000 to 70,000
lived in political prison camps.
"The God-like worship of the rulers leaves no room for any other religion," it said.
was now "a strong drive to purge Christianity from Somalia," the report
added, and Islamist attacks on Iraqi Christians have been increasing in
the semi-autonomous Kurdish north, formerly a relatively safe area for
based near Utrecht in the Netherlands, said that killings were only the
most extreme examples of persecutions. Christians also face attacks on
churches and schools, discrimination, threats, sexual assaults and
expulsion from countries.
Doors, which began in the 1950s smuggling Bibles into communist states
and now works in more than 60 countries, estimated last year that about
100 million Christians around the world suffered persecution for their
Muslim Brotherhood and the killing and persecution of Christians in Egypt
BY: JOSEPH GILBERT
August 20, 2012
"Let Allah be avenged on the polytheist apostate"; "Allah empower your religion, make it victorious against the polytheists"; "Allah, defeat the infidels at the hands of the Muslims," and "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger." Those were the prayers spoken by the narrator in a June 4th video just moments before a convert to Christianity was publicly beheaded in Tunisia. His crime was his conversion to Christianity from Islam. According to Muslim, or Sharia law, the punishment for leaving Islam, apostasy, is death.
The Arab Spring started in Tunisia. On 19 December 2010 when Mohamed Bouazizi, set fire to himself in protest after police confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling from a street stall. It was touted as a spontaneous, grass-roots groundswell of democratic ideals and liberty. The people of the Middle East were at last to have self-determination.
The movement quickly spread across North Africa. Protestors hit the streets from Tunis to Benghazzi. But, the main attraction was Egypt. The US supported the movement even committing American military power through NATO to oust Gaddafi from Libya.
But, this Arab Spring has a darker side. With the rise of Islamization comes the rise of oppression and violence against Christians across the Middle East.
Now, embolded by the Muslim Brotherhood rising to power in Egypt, Muslim jihadist organizations are openingly calling for genocide against the Egyptian Christian population. The extremist group El Fagr openly distributed leaflets titled “An Urgent and Important Notice,” it begins by calling on “all brothers and sisters” to “kill or physically attack the enemies of the religion of Allah—the Christians in all of Egypt’s provinces, the slaves of the Cross, Allah’s curse upon them". The next day, Christian Refaat Eskander was murdered while tending to his shoe store in Asyut.
After their churches were repeatedly attacked and burned in October 2011, Egypt's Coptic Christians took to the streets of Alexandria in protest. The response from the Egyptian military was swift and brutal. The army opened fire into the crowd and then charged in with armored personnel carriers, running over the Christians. At least 25 Christians were killed and many more injured.
The Muslim Brotherhood is now turning also to crucifixion as a form of punishment. During a protest in Cairo on 16 August 2012, according to a Sky News Arabic reporter "protestors belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others. Likewise, Muslim Brotherhood supporters locked the doors of the media production facilities of 6-October [a major media region in Cairo], where they proceeded to attack several popular journalists".
Crucifixion is sanctioned by the Koran which states "The punishment of anyone who fight against Allah and His apostle and do mischief in the land is to be killed or crucified or to have their hands and feet from opposite ends or be banished from the land.” (Quran: The table spread). According to Clare Lopez, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy, “Crucifixion is a hadd punishment, stipulated in the Quran, Sura 5:33, and therefore an obligatory part of Shariah".
Al Azhar, Egypt's most authoritative Islamic institution, has just issued a fatwa calling for more violence and oppression, saying that "fighting participants in anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations planned for 24 August is a religious obligation". But the worst persecution is reserved for Christians.
“The Copts must get out of Egypt as soon as possible – for the many millions who will not be able to get out, I expect things will continue to deteriorate – just as they did for Germany’s and Europe’s Jews from the 1930s onward,” Lopez said.
“The warnings were there long before the ghettos and round-ups and one-way train trips to the concentration camps began in the 1940s,” she said.
The United States supported the Arab Spring that toppled long-standing US ally, Egyptian President Mubarak. Now, it is sending $1.5 Billion to the Muslim Brotherhood in military aid, despite Congress' halting all aid to Egypt.
Muslim Persecution of Christians: April 2012
"The police are also involved in this."by Raymond Ibrahim
May 18, 2012 at 5:00 am"500 Muslims had gathered and were watching in amusement as the extremists chased and harassed the Christians, attempting to murder them all, for about 90 minutes."
As Easter, one of the highest Christian holidays, comes in April, Christian persecution in Muslim nations—from sheer violence to oppressive laws—was rampant: In Nigeria, where jihadis have expressed their desire to expunge all traces of Christianity, a church was bombed during Easter Sunday, killing some 50 worshippers; in Turkey, a pastor was beaten by Muslims immediately following Easter service and threatened with death unless he converted to Islam; and in Iran, Easter Sunday saw 12 Christians stand trial as "apostates."
The persecution of Christians has come to regions not normally associated with it. As in Nigeria, Muslim militants are now also running amok in Timbuktu, Mali—beheading a Christian leader and threatening other Christians with similar treatment. Sharia law has been imposed, churches are being destroyed, and Christians are fleeing Timbuktu in mass.
Categorized by theme, April's assemblage of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed in alphabetical order by country, not severity:
Azerbaijan: A church in the Muslim-majority nation has "become the first religious community to be liquidated by a court since the country's harsh new 'Religion Law,' requiring all previously registered religious institutions to re-register, came into force in 2009. Greater Grace Protestant Church in the capital, Baku, "was stripped of its registration at a 15-minute hearing on 25 April. The decision, which was made in the absence of any church representatives, makes any activity by the church illegal and subject to punishment."
Indonesia: Gunmen opened fire on the GKI Yasmin church, causing much damage, in the latest attack on the building, which has been illegally sealed off by authorities since 2008 in response to Muslim demands. Another Protestant church unlawfully sealed off by the authorities—despite meeting all requirements for a permit—was met with violent opposition from Muslims when its members tried to hold a service on the street in front of their sealed-off church building. Muslim residents made death threats, played loud music, and rode a motorcycle through the congregation. A church spokesman said: "We are constantly having to change our location because our existence appears to be unwanted, and we have to hide so that we are not intimidated by intolerant groups… We had hoped for help from the police, but after many attacks on members of the congregation, we see that the police are also involved in this."
Kenya: Two separate grenade attacks on churches took place: 1) Muslims threw grenades into an open-air Christian church gathering, killing a woman and a boy, and wounding some 50 other Christians: Muslims had been holding a meeting near the gathering, and Christians could hear their preachers railing against Christianity right before the attack took place. 2) In a separate incident, a Muslim man pretending to be a worshipper at a church threw three grenades during service, killing a 27-year-old university student and injuring16. The terrorist, who, according to eyewitnesses, appeared to be of Somali origin, "looked uncomfortable and always looked down. He threw three hand grenades and only one exploded. He took off, and he fired in the air three gunshots."
Nigeria: An early morning attack on a Christian church service left at least 16 people dead: Jihadi gunmen on motorcycles stormed Bayero University in the city of Kano Sunday morning during a Catholic mass held in the school's theater hall, hurling improvised explosive devices, and opening fire as people fled. "The attack follows a string of violent incidents against Christians in the predominantly Muslim north."
Sudan: A Christian compound in Khartoum was stormed by a throng of Muslims "armed with clubs, iron rods, a bulldozer and fire," the day after a Muslim leader called on Muslims to destroy "the infidels' church." Shouting "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is Greater!"], and "No more Christianity from today on—no more church from today on!" the jihadis stormed the Bible school bookstore, burning Bibles and threatening to kill anyone who tried to resist. "What happened could not be imagined—it was terrible," said an eyewitness. "They burned all furniture of the school and the church as well." As usual, "Police at the compound stood back and did nothing to prevent the mob from vandalizing the compound."
Tunisia: Members of the Christian Orthodox Church in Tunis, one of very few churches in the nation, are being "abused" and receiving "threatening messages." Church members are "living in a state of terror," so much so that the Russian ambassador in Tunis specifically requested the nation's Ministry of Interior to "protect the church." The abuse has gotten to the point where "Salafis covered the cross of the church with garbage bags, and told the church members that they do not wish to see the vision of the Cross anywhere in the Islamic state of Tunisia." Separately, a Muslim burst into a church to deliver a letter from an Islamist party inviting the archpriest to convert to Islam or to take down the church's crosses and pay jizya, the Islamic subjugation tax.
Apostasy and Blasphemy: Death and Prison
Algeria: A Christian was sentenced to five years in prison for "shaking the faith" of Muslims. He had discussed his faith with a Muslim man at a food court when the Muslim became angry and accused the Christian of "insulting Muhammad." Police arrested the man and found a large amount of Christian material in his apartment. The judge gave him the maximum sentence of five years in prison, even though the prosecutor himself had recommended a lesser sentence.Bangladesh: A former Muslim prayer leader who converted to Christianity was "welcomed by threats and violence." Members of his Muslim community "beat him almost to death," causing him to be hospitalized for almost two months: "the same Muslims who followed him and held him in high esteem when he was their imam now cannot accept his new status."
Egypt: Two incidents of "blasphemy" convictions took place: 1) A juvenile court sentenced a Coptic Christian teenager to three years in prison for allegedly "insulting Islam," on claims that he posted unflattering cartoons of Muhammad on Facebook. When the incident came to light, Muslims rioted, fire-bombing his home and at least five other Christian-owned homes. 2) Another judge upheld a six-year prison sentence for a Christian convicted of "blasphemy": after a Muslim had told the 49-year old Christian convict that Jesus had illegal sex with at least ten women, the Christian countered "by stating that Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic religion, had more than four wives—a view commonly held by Islamic scholars." Police subsequently arrested him and, in a 10-minute mock trial with no defense attorney present, the judge sentenced him to six years in prison for "insulting the prophet."
Iran: A Christian convert from Islam has been sentenced to six years in prison. Originally arrested in December 2010 as part of a major crackdown on the country's house church movement, "the married father of two has been held in the notorious Evin prison ever since, spending several months in solitary confinement," and likely goaded to return to Islam. He is accused of "action against the regime's security, being in contact with foreign organizations and religious propaganda." In short, according to Iranian Christians, "his 'crime' was practicing his Christian faith."
Pakistan: Two incidents of "blasphemy" charges occurred: 1) A Christian man was arrested and charged with "blasphemy" for rescuing his 8-year-old nephew from a beating at the hands of Muslim boys who sought to force the boy to convert to Islam. "Seeing the attack from a distance, Masih [the man] shouted and rushed to the scene, rescued his nephew and then went to his work as a painter. Soon after the incident, a Muslim mob of about 55 led by the village prayer leader besieged Masih's house," and insisted that "the blasphemer" be turned over to them. After being threatened and harassed by Muslim inmates and jail officials, he was eventually released from prison. 2) The mother of a newborn baby has been illegally jailed for over a month: authorities have failed to file a charge sheet within the mandatory 14-day period against the 26-year-old Christian woman accused of "blaspheming" the prophet of Islam. The woman was arrested after neighbors accused her of "uttering remarks against Muhammad."
Philippines: Two pastors were slaughtered by Muslim assailants: 1) A former Muslim who became a Christian pastor was murdered in front of his wife in his home: "My husband staggered into our bedroom and I was shocked because he was full of blood," she recalled. "I brought him to the hospital right away. He was operated on for eight bullet wounds, but did not survive." The Philippines is a mostly Christian nation, but in the south, "Muslim fundamentalists are trying to build an Islamic state. Christians there face persecution and even death…. This year, at least four house churches closed down after their pastors and lay leaders were killed by Muslim extremists." 2) Another pastor was shot in the head five times, killed by two unknown gunmen in front of his teenage daughter.
Dhimmitude - [General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of non-Muslims as "Tolerated" Citizens]
Egypt: A recent "reconciliation meeting" between members of a sword-wielding Muslim mob that earlier brutalized a Christian school proved to be "nothing less than an attempt at legalized extortion." In exchange for peace, members of the mob that stormed the school last month without provocation—holding two nuns hostage for several hours—demanded in the meetings that the school sign over land that included the guesthouse they attacked. "Human rights groups and Coptic rights activists say the meetings are just a way to pressure powerless groups and people into giving away what little rights they have." Likewise, the judges appointed to investigate the Maspero massacre, which claimed the lives of 27 Christians and injured 329, closed the case, due to "lack of identification of the culprits." As one Christian lawyer put it: "We said all along that it [the investigation] was just a show and this is the outcome we got."
India: Muslims stormed and terrorized a home in which a Christian prayer meeting was being held, and beat the Christians, including a 65-year-old widow. The Muslims "called them pagans as they kicked, slapped and pushed the Christians…. The Christians were running in all directions for their lives, including the children who were crying in fear" as one Muslim, "brandishing a sickle, chased many of them, hurling all kinds of insults and attempting to mi=ureder them all…. 500 Muslims had gathered and were watching in amusement as the extremists chased and harassed the Christians for about 90 minutes."
Iran: Historical Christian monuments, including churches and Christian cemeteries, continue to be destroyed or allowed to fall into a state of decay as the Islamist authorities try to wipe out the country's Christian heritage: "It seems that Islamic Republic officials, unsuccessful in stopping the growth of Christianity among the people by pressuring them, arresting them and banning Christian converts from attending church services, want to destroy historical Christian monuments to totally wipe the Christian heritage from the face of Iran."
Pakistan: Yet another study demonstrates that Pakistani school textbooks "promote religious fanaticism, discriminate against minorities and trigger religious conflicts." Christians and Hindus "are obliged to learn the basics of Islam"—studying the Koran is mandatory—while their own religions are openly denigrated. Even in subjects such as social science and linguistics, "about 20% of the content is linked to Islam"; and non-Muslim students receive "bonus points" if they excel in Islamic studies.
Syria: Almost the entire Christian population—nearly 60,000—of the city of Homs, the nation's third largest, have fled as fighting between the government and anti-government, largely Islamist forces continues. Reportedly only 1,000 Christians remain. Opposition forces are attacking churches and other Christian centers; "Muslim neighbors are turning on the Christians. Christians have also suffered kidnapping and gruesome murders. Some Christian families, unable to pay a ransom for their relatives' release and fearing that they may be tortured, have been driven to ask the kidnappers to kill their loved ones at once."
Tunisia: After the Russian ambassador stood up for an Orthodox church under attack (see above, under "church attacks"), the Russian school located behind the church as well as the Christian cemetery in Tunis were vandalized. The walls of the school and religious frescoes were smeared with fecal matter, while the cemetery's crosses were destroyed. Meanwhile, the new "Arab-spring" government has shown its "manifest indifference with regard to minorities' right to protection."
Turkey: The nation's Greek Orthodox citizens living on the island of Gökçeada (Imbros) in the north Aegean cannot buy property on the island, though it is an easy matter for Muslims: "The Land Registry office has admitted to preventing non-Muslims from buying property, citing a National Security Council (MGK) decision, but refused to give further details."
About this Series
Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions, "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, Muslim 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 Sharia.
Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death to those who "offend" Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like cowed dhimmis, or second-class, "tolerated" citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.
Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicities, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East, and throughout the West wherever there are Muslims—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.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali:The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World
From one end of the muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith.
by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
February 6, 2012
We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.The portrayal of Muslims as victims or heroes is at best partially accurate. In recent years the violent oppression of Christian minorities has become the norm in Muslim-majority nations stretching from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania. In some countries it is governments and their agents that have burned churches and imprisoned parishioners. In others, rebel groups and vigilantes have taken matters into their own hands, murdering Christians and driving them from regions where their roots go back centuries.
The media’s reticence on the subject no doubt has several sources. One may be fear of provoking additional violence. Another is most likely the influence of lobbying groups such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation—a kind of United Nations of Islam centered in Saudi Arabia—and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Over the past decade, these and similar groups have been remarkably successful in persuading leading public figures and journalists in the West to think of each and every example of perceived anti-Muslim discrimination as an expression of a systematic and sinister derangement called “Islamophobia”—a term that is meant to elicit the same moral disapproval as xenophobia or homophobia.
But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.
From blasphemy laws to brutal murders to bombings to mutilations and the burning of holy sites, Christians in so many nations live in fear. In Nigeria many have suffered all of these forms of persecution. The nation has the largest Christian minority (40 percent) in proportion to its population (160 million) of any majority-Muslim country. For years, Muslims and Christians in Nigeria have lived on the edge of civil war. Islamist radicals provoke much if not most of the tension. The newest such organization is an outfit that calls itself Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sacrilege.” Its aim is to establish Sharia in Nigeria. To this end it has stated that it will kill all Christians in the country.
In the month of January 2012 alone, Boko Haram was responsible for 54 deaths. In 2011 its members killed at least 510 people and burned down or destroyed more than 350 churches in 10 northern states. They use guns, gasoline bombs, and even machetes, shouting “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”) while launching attacks on unsuspecting citizens. They have attacked churches, a Christmas Day gathering (killing 42 Catholics), beer parlors, a town hall, beauty salons, and banks. They have so far focused on killing Christian clerics, politicians, students, policemen, and soldiers, as well as Muslim clerics who condemn their mayhem. While they started out by using crude methods like hit-and-run assassinations from the back of motorbikes in 2009, the latest AP reports indicate that the group’s recent attacks show a new level of potency and sophistication.
The Christophobia that has plagued Sudan for years takes a very different form. The authoritarian government of the Sunni Muslim north of the country has for decades tormented Christian and animist minorities in the south. What has often been described as a civil war is in practice the Sudanese government’s sustained persecution of religious minorities. This persecution culminated in the infamous genocide in Darfur that began in 2003. Even though Sudan’s Muslim president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, which charged him with three counts of genocide, and despite the euphoria that greeted the semi-independence he grant-ed to South Sudan in July of last year, the violence has not ended. In South Kordofan, Christians are still subject-ed to aerial bombardment, targeted killings, the kidnap-ping of children, and other atrocities. Reports from the United Nations indicate that between 53,000 and 75,000 innocent civilians have been displaced from their resi-dences and that houses and buildings have been looted and destroyed.
Both kinds of persecution—undertaken by extragovernmental groups as well as by agents of the state—have come together in Egypt in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. On Oct. 9 of last year in the Maspero area of Cairo, Coptic Christians (who make up roughly 11 percent of Egypt’s population of 81 million) marched in protest against a wave of attacks by Islamists—including church burnings, rapes, mutilations, and murders—that followed the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship. During the protest, Egyptian security forces drove their trucks into the crowd and fired on protesters, crushing and killing at least 24 and wounding more than 300 people. By the end of the year more than 200,000 Copts had fled their homes in anticipation of more attacks. With Islamists poised to gain much greater power in the wake of recent elections, their fears appear to be justified.
Egypt is not the only Arab country that seems bent on wiping out its Christian minority. Since 2003 more than 900 Iraqi Christians (most of them Assyrians) have been killed by terrorist violence in Baghdad alone, and 70 churches have been burned, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled as a result of violence directed specifically at them, reducing the number of Christians in the country to fewer than half a million from just over a million before 2003. AINA understandably describes this as an “incipient genocide or ethnic cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq.”
The 2.8 million Christians who live in Pakistan make up only about 1.6 percent of the population of more than 170 million. As members of such a tiny minority, they live in perpetual fear not only of Islamist terrorists but also of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. There is, for example, the notorious case of a Christian woman who was sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Muhammad. When international pressure persuaded Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer to explore ways of freeing her, he was killed by his bodyguard. The bodyguard was then celebrated by prominent Muslim clerics as a hero—and though he was sentenced to death late last year, the judge who imposed the sentence now lives in hiding, fearing for his life.
Such cases are not unusual in Pakistan. The nation’s blasphemy laws are routinely used by criminals and intolerant Pakistani Muslims to bully religious minorities. Simply to declare belief in the Christian Trinity is considered blasphemous, since it contradicts mainstream Muslim theological doctrines. When a Christian group is suspected of transgressing the blasphemy laws, the consequences can be brutal. Just ask the members of the Christian aid group World Vision. Its offices were attacked in the spring of 2010 by 10 gunmen armed with grenades, leaving six people dead and four wounded. A militant Muslim group claimed responsibility for the attack on the grounds that World Vision was working to subvert Islam. (In fact, it was helping the survivors of a major earthquake.)
Not even Indonesia—often touted as the world’s most tolerant, democratic, and modern majority-Muslim nation—has been immune to the fevers of Christophobia. According to data compiled by the Christian Post, the number of violent incidents committed against religious minorities (and at 7 percent of the population, Christians are the country’s largest minority) increased by nearly 40 percent, from 198 to 276, between 2010 and 2011.
The litany of suffering could be extended. In Iran dozens of Christians have been arrested and jailed for daring to worship outside of the officially sanctioned church system. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, deserves to be placed in a category of its own. Despite the fact that more than a million Christians live in the country as foreign workers, churches and even private acts of Christian prayer are banned; to enforce these totalitarian restrictions, the religious police regularly raid the homes of Christians and bring them up on charges of blasphemy in courts where their testimony carries less legal weight than a Muslim’s. Even in Ethiopia, where Christians make up a majority of the population, church burnings by members of the Muslim minority have become a problem.
It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem. No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.
As Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out in an interview with Newsweek, Christian minorities in many majority-Muslim nations have “lost the protection of their societies.” This is especially so in countries with growing radical Islamist (Salafist) movements. In those nations, vigilantes often feel they can act with impunity—and government inaction often proves them right. The old idea of the Ottoman Turks—that non-Muslims in Muslim societies deserve protection (albeit as second-class citizens)—has all but vanished from wide swaths of the Islamic world, and increasingly the result is bloodshed and oppression.
So let us please get our priorities straight. Yes, Western governments should protect Muslim minorities from intolerance. And of course we should ensure that they can worship, live, and work freely and without fear. It is the protection of the freedom of conscience and speech that distinguishes free societies from unfree ones. But we also need to keep perspective about the scale and severity of intolerance. Cartoons, films, and writings are one thing; knives, guns, and grenades are something else entirely.
As for what the West can do to help religious minorities in Muslim-majority societies, my answer is that it needs to begin using the billions of dollars in aid it gives to the offending countries as leverage. Then there is trade and investment. Besides diplomatic pressure, these aid and trade relationships can and should be made conditional on the protection of the freedom of conscience and worship for all citizens.
Instead of falling for overblown tales of Western Islamophobia, let’s take a real stand against the Christophobia infecting the Muslim world. Tolerance is for everyone—except the intolerant.
Persecution Christians Seen Rising In Islamic Nations
Thursday, January 5, 2012
By BosNewsLife News Center with reports from Africa and Asia
JAKARTA/ABUJA/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- North Korea leads a list of nations where "Christians face the most severe persecution", but "Muslim-majority" countries represent nine of the top 10 amid spreading Islamic extremism around the world, a major Christian watchdog said in comments obtained by BosNewsLife Thursday, January 5.
The group, Open Doors, said its annual World Watch List (WWL) placed the Communist-run nation at the top spot for the "10th time" as North Korea built a "bizarre quasi-religion" around the country's founder Kim Il-Sung. Anyone with “another god” is automatically persecuted, Open Doors said. Up to 400,000 Christians are believed to worship underground, while up to 70,000 Christians are held in "ghastly prison camps", according to rights investigators.
“How the death of Kim Jong-Il last month and the coming to power of his son Kim Jong-Un will affect the status of Christians in North Korea is hard to determine at this early stage,” explained Carl Moeller, who leads the Open Doors USA branch of the international group serving "persecuted Christians" worldwide.
“Certainly the situation for believers remains perilous" he said, adding that he has urged supporters to "Please pray with me that the Lord will open up North Korea and there will be religious freedom to worship the One, true God, not the gods of Kim Jong-Il and Kim Il-Sung.”
Yet, most other countries on the WWL are Muslim-majority nations with Afghanistan (2), Saudi Arabia (3), Somalia (4), Iran (5) and the Maldives (6) forming a bloc where Open Doors says indigenous Christians have "almost no freedom to openly worship."
"Being a Muslim Background Believer or ‘Secret Believer’ Christian in a Muslim-dominated country is a huge challenge. Christians often face persecution from extremists, the government, their community and even their own families,” said Moeller. “As the 2012 World Watch List reflects, the persecution of Christians in these Muslim countries continues to increase. While many thought the Arab Spring would bring increased freedom, including religious freedom for minorities, that certainly has not been the case so far.”
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is also mentioned in the list, at a time when intolerance and intolerance against Christians in Indonesia almost doubled in 2011, including an Islamist campaign to close down churches, according to rights investigators. In one of the latest reported incidents on Christmas Day, two churches in West Java’s Bogor city were reportedly prevented from holding Christmas services as Islamic extremist reportedly screamed and yelled at worshipers.
No injuries were reported, but the Indonesian Protestant Church Union, locally known as PGI, said it counted 54 acts of violence and other violations against Christians in 2011, up from 30 in 2010.
For the first time Pakistan (10) entered the top 10, after a tumultuous year during which the nation’s highest-ranking Christian politician, Cabinet Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, was assassinated for his attempts to change the blasphemy law. Additionally, Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was shot by one of his security guards on January 4, 2011 after campaigning for Asia Bibi, a Christian farmer from rural Punjab sentenced to death for blasphemy, despite concerns in the investigation convicting her.
Tensions are also rising in Africa. Nigeria, Open Doors said, "remains the country with the worst atrocities" in terms of lives lost. More than 300 Christians were martyred last year in Nigeria, though the actual number is believed to be double or triple that number. "The total is probably greater in North Korea, but impossible to confirm due to its isolation."
Since 2009 the extreme Islamic group Boko Haram, or 'Western education is a sin', destroyed more than 50 churches and killed many Christians, including at least 10 pastors, Open Doors said. On Christmas Day dozens of Christians died in attacks.
Sudan – where northern Christians experienced greater vulnerability after southern Sudan seceded in a July referendum, and where Christians were targeted amid isolated military conflicts – jumped 19 places last year from its 2010 ranking, from 35th to 16th. In northern Nigeria, where Islamist bombings, guerrilla-style attacks and increased government restrictions on Christians contributed to the region leaping by 10 on the list, from 23rd to 13th place.
In July 2011 southern Sudan, which is mostly Christian, seceded to become an independent country, called South Sudan, leaving the Christians of North Sudan much more isolated under President Omar al-Bashir. "In response to the loss of the south, al-Bashir vowed to make constitutional changes to make his country even more Islamic. On the ground the military has attacked Christian communities in battles over resources with many being killed," Open Doors said. .
Violence against Christians is also rising in countries such as Egypt, where Coptic Christians comprise just 10 percent of the mainly Muslim population. There was "a disastrous start to 2011 when a bombing at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mark and Pope Peter in Alexandria killed 21 Christians on New Year’s Day," Open Doors recalled.
"After the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in February, hopes soared for new freedoms for all Egyptians. But on October 9 the military turned on its own citizens in the Maspero massacre in Cairo, killing 27 Coptic Christian demonstrators. At the close of 2011, Islamist parties flourished in the November elections, prompting some to speak of an Arab Winter instead of an Arab Spring for Christians."
In Asia, China still has "the world’s largest persecuted church of 80 million" but it dropped out of the top 20 this year to number 21, Open Doors said. Last year China ranked number 16. "This is due in large part to the house church pastors learning how to play “cat and mouse” with the government, Open Doors explained.
Open doors said in a statement that "the good news behind the bad news of rising persecution is an increase in church growth," which often results from the persecution itself.
It quoted a pastor in Iran as saying: “We wouldn’t be growing if we didn’t have a price to pay for our witness.”
The WWL is based on a questionnaire devised by Open Doors to measure the degree of persecution in over 60 countries. The questionnaires are filled out by Open Doors field personnel working in the countries, and cross-checked with independent experts, to arrive at a quantitative score per country. Countries are then ranked according to points received.
About 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation, according to Open Doors estimates.
Open Doors says it "supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers."
Nigerian Evangelist Slain By Islamic Extremist Group
Written by: Compass Direct News
October 17, 2011
Violence-weary Christians in Borno state have been further upset to learn of the murder of a Nigerian evangelist by Boko Haram less than three months after the Islamic extremist group killed a Maiduguri pastor.
Already shell-shocked from attacks by Boko Haram, which was originally based in Borno state, Christians again took cover after the Aug. 27 shooting of Mark Ojunta, a 36-year-old evangelist from southern Nigeria who was ministering amid the Kotoko people of Nigeria’s northeastern state with Calvary Ministries (CAPRO). He was killed in Maiduguri.
CAPRO International Director Amos Aderonmu said Ojunta died “as a martyr on his field among the Kotokos.” CAPRO had learned that all its staff members working among the Shuwa Arab, Kotoko and Kanuri peoples were on a Boko Haram list of people to be killed and had evacuated them, Aderonmu said.
Ojunta had returned to teach a class after the evacuation of his family.
“Brother Mark took his family out on Friday (Aug. 26), but he went back to the field because he had a class with some believers on Saturday,” Aderonmu reported. “It was in the night that the sect came to where they were staying and knocked at the door, and he tried to escape but could not get away.”
In his statement, Aderonmu said that four days before his death, Ojunta had received an invitation to leave work among the Kotoko people to take a position at CAPRO’s International office in London.
“On Wednesday of that week, brother Kola Kehinde, our national coordinator in the U.K., spoke with him about the possibility of him coming to join the U.K. team,” Aderonmu reported. “His response was that he wanted to invest more years into the work among the Kotokos and hand it over to believers before he can consider leaving. What a passion and commitment! Four days later, he was translated into the presence of his Master.”
Aderonmu said that Ojunta was the “first martyr in CAPRO in our 36 years of existence as a ministry.” Ojunta is survived by his wife, Ema, and two children, 3-year-old Kambe and 9-month-old Akira, besides his parents and sisters.
He was buried in his home state of Abia, in southern Nigeria, on Sept. 30.
The killing came less than three months after the June 7 murder of a Church of Christ in Nigeria pastor and his church secretary in Maiduguri. The Rev. David Usman, 45, and church secretary Hamman Andrew were shot by members of Boko Haram in an area of Maiduguri called the Railway Quarters. The area was the base of Boko Haram until 2009, when Nigerian security agencies and the military demolished its headquarters and captured and killed the sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and some of his followers.
Boko Haram leaders have openly declared that they want to establish an Islamic theocratic state in Nigeria, and they reject democratic institutions, which they associate with Christianity. The Jama’atu ahlus Sunnah lid da’awati wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram, has claimed responsibility for several church bombings and other attacks. Many Christians have left Maiduguri, and some churches have shut down as many of their members have lost their lives.
Compass has witnessed many church buildings shuttered and guarded by soldiers and police in Maiduguri.
Calvary Ministries began in April 1975 in the city of Zaria, in the heartland of Nigeria’s Muslim north, through the evangelistic efforts of young Nigerian graduates from various Nigerian universities doing their one-year mandatory national youth service. The ministry now has more than 550 workers in 27 countries of Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Nigeria’s population of more than 158.2 million is divided between Christians, who make up 51.3 percent of the population and live mainly in the south, and Muslims, who account for 45 percent of the population and live mainly in the north. The percentages may be less, however, as those practicing indigenous religions may be as high as 10 percent of the total population, according to Operation World.
Northern Nigeria climbed to 23rd place in 2010 from 27th in 2009 on Christian support organization Open Doors’ World Watch List of nations with the worst persecution.
Christians Under Genocidal Attack Throughout The Muslim World
By WILLIAM MAYER and BEILA RABINOWITZ
December 3, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - Pointing to the disconnect between claims by American Islamists, that "there is no compulsion in religion," in the Muslim world, persecution of Christians is very real, often deadly and increasing at a frightening pace.
In an article entitled "Muslim Genocide of Christians Throughout the Middle East," Khaled Abu Tomeh documents the ongoing jihad against Christians.
He calls Christians an "endangered species" writing that "hardly a day passes without reports of violence against the Coptic community in Egypt." In Iraq there appears to be an orchestrated campaign to drive Christians from the country.
"The war of genocide against Christians in the Middle East can no longer be treated as an "internal affair" of Iraq or Egypt or the Palestinians. What the West needs to understand is that radical Islam has declared jihad not only against Jews, but also against Christians. In Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian territories, Christians are being targeted almost on a daily basis by Muslim fundamentalists and secular dictators."
Historically, especially early in the 20th century, Egypt had the deserved reputation of being perhaps the most religiously cosmopolitan nation under the Islamic banner. Cooperation between different faiths was common, with Jews having positions of power in the Egyptian government. All of that changed after the creation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna, an event which would profoundly change the Muslim world, setting it once again on the path of religious warfare, jihad. 1
The presence of Muslim on Christian violence in that country now is so commonplace that unless a particular act of intolerance rises above its already pervasive presence in the society it simply isn't deemed to be news.
This is exactly what happened last week in Cairo, where a violent clash between Christian Copts and Islamists resulted in at least one death and over 150 arrests. The deadly protest was precipitated by police stopping the construction of a Coptic church, claiming that the voluminous amount of government paperwork required to build or even renovate churches hadn't been completed.
The situation is far more violent In Iraq. On
October 31, 58 Catholics at Our Lady of Salvation parish in Baghdad were
slaughtered in a suicide bomb attack. Government security forces sifting through
the carnage found 5 passports among the remains of the bombers, 3 from Egypt and
2 from Yemen. [see, Ernesto Londono, Survivors describe deadly attack on Baghdad
church, Washington Post,
In the totalitarian Islamic theocracy of Saudi Arabia, the fatherland of Wahhabism, Bibles are subject to confiscation during customs checks and any type of non-Muslim proselytizing will find the offender having to deal with the harsh reality of the Committee to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice [the Mutawwa'in, or religious police].
In Malaysia, at least 9 churches were attacked in early January of this year, over a dispute over what Malay name for God should be used in worship services. [see, Malaysian Churches Firebombed As "Allah" Row Escalates, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8447450.stm]
Under the siege of this genocidal persecution, Christians are vacating the Middle East, some going to Jordan, all in hopes of immigrating to the sanctuary of the West. Stories such as this, documenting Muslim on Christian violence in the Middle East have gone largely unreported in both the European as well as American press, with journalists operating under the general belief [and unspoken guidance] that such acts need not be overly covered [if at all], they running afoul of the media's perverse sense of multi-culturalism.
1. "…Until the assumption of office by
Farouk, the Jews of Egypt were an accepted and protected part of public life;
they had members in parliament, were employed at the royal palace and occupied
important positions in the economic and political spheres…The Zionist movement
was likewise accepted impartially…" [source, Jihad and Jew Hatred, Matthais
Kuntzel, Telos Publishing 2007, pg. 16-17]
Christian 'hemorrhage' increases in Iraq
Posted on Dec 3, 2010
by Ava Thomas
(BP)--Rahim took one bullet in the leg, then one in the head while
sitting in a church pew. But his death and the deaths of 50 other
Christians gunned down with him on Oct. 31 marked more than just the
ends of their lives. They symbolized the demise of the entire Christian
population of Iraq, said one Baptist worker familiar with the situation.
"This is not the start -- it's the period to a long-running sentence, the end of a tragic novel that's been playing out for years," said Nik Ripken*, who has served 25 years with the International Mission Board and is an expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts.
The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida group, took credit for the massacre at Our Lady of Salvation, a Syrian Catholic church in Baghdad, plus the spate of bombings and killings that followed. The group claimed the violence was in response to the alleged detention of two women in Egypt said to have converted to Islam.
Major news outlets showed the world the bloodbath, the most fatal single incident of violence since Islamic extremists began targeting Christians, according to Compass Direct News in a Nov. 3 Baptist Press article, http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=34004.
But that one highly publicized tragedy doesn't account for the hundreds of thousands of Christians who have been lost to Iraq one way or another in the past seven years, Ripken said. More than half of the nation's Christians have fled Iraq since 2003, according to Compass Direct News. Just shy of 600,000 remain.
Most who flee go first to Syria or Jordan then try to find permanent residence as refugees in Europe, Canada, the United States or Australia, according to Bassam Madany, whose ministry, Middle East Resources, offers perspectives on Islam from a Christian viewpoint.
"This is probably one of the biggest flights in recent history, and the world has stood silently by as it's been happening," Ripken said, noting that the losses might be even bigger than those claimed by news sources. "It's been a hemorrhage since the second Gulf War. When Saddam Hussein thanked the Christians on public television for supporting him -- even though they were simply being peaceable under his rule -- he basically gave them a death sentence. He put a big political target on their backs."
And, he noted, there was no al-Qaida presence in the nation while Hussein was still in power.
The persecution of Christians in Iraq since his removal has reportedly ranged from crucifixions to rape. The Islamic State of Iraq "seeks the establishment of harsh Islamic law and says all Iraqi Christians are targets for jihad," as USA Today put it.
As a result, many Iraqi Christians are facing the decision of whether to flee with their families or stay and likely face severe persecution. Church leaders in Iraq and worldwide are voicing concerns this may nail the coffin shut on a Christian presence in the nation.
"They will definitely leave," Faiz Bashir, curate of St. George's, an Anglican church near Our Lady of Salvation, told USA Today. "We hope it's not the end of Christians in Iraq, but if things get worse, if there are attacks on the churches and killing on the streets, this will be certain."
Christians are soft targets in Iraq, and the world has failed to advocate for them, Ripken said.
The U.S. State Department did not name Iraq as a severe violator of religious liberty when it released its annual International Religious Freedom report Nov. 17. The decision came despite an April recommendation by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom to add it as a "country of particular concern."
"They [Iraqi Christians] talk about their persecution as expected, as normal," Ripken said. "What they talk about with brokenness is being rejected and forgotten by other people. The international Christian community has been silent. Iraq needs the prayers of Christians, for peace to come there so that Iraqi Christians can stay and those who have left can return home."
A nation increasingly devoid of a Christian witness will also need intense prayer, Ripken added. "Iraqis' access to the Gospel is at stake."
Persecution has already stifled sharing between Christians and their neighbors, he said. "Pray for the boldness of Iraqi Christians to share the Gospel in the face of violence. This really needs to be a burden we carry for our brothers and sisters in nations like this."
Ripken said Christians around the world can be praying for a sense of brokenness for brothers and sisters in Iraq, for an opportunity for Iraqi Christians to return home peacefully and for the Gospel to spread in the midst of suffering.
Christians in Danger
July 8, 2010
National Review Online
Bishop Luigi Padovese, stabbed to death last month, is the latest victim of Turkey’s growing hostility to Christians.
For all the attention Turkey has gotten lately, very few Americans are aware that the Roman Catholic bishop serving as apostolic vicar of Anatolia was stabbed to death and decapitated last month by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar! I have killed the great Satan!”
There are fewer than 60 Catholic priests in all of Turkey, and yet Bishop Luigi Padovese was the fifth of them to be shot or stabbed in the last four years, starting with the murder of Fr. Andrea Santoro in 2006, also by an assailant shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” (An Armenian journalist and three Protestants working at a Christian publishing house — one of them German, the other two Turkish converts — were also killed during this period.)
What’s going on? Why has traditionally secularist Turkey, with its minuscule Christian community (less than 0.2 percent of the population), lately become nearly as dangerous for Christians as neighboring Iraq? And why has this disturbing pattern of events so far escaped notice in the West?
In a nutshell, all these violent acts reflect a popular culture increasingly shaped by Turkish media accounts deliberately promoting hatred of Christians and Jews.
As it happens, Bishop Padovese was murdered on the same day (June 3) that the Wall Street Journal published an eye-opening report on how Turkey’s press and film industry have increasingly blurred the distinction between fact and fantasy, especially since the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002.
“To follow Turkish discourse in recent years has been to follow a national decline into madness.” That’s how Robert L. Pollock, editorial-features editor of the Journal, summed up the trajectory of the daily fare that shapes Turks’ attitudes toward the outside world — and toward non-Muslims in their midst. Indeed, much of what passes for fact in Turkish public discourse would be comical if not for the deadly consequences.
Take, for instance, the wildly popular 2006 film Valley of the Wolves, later serialized for television. An earlier Journal piece summing up the plot as “a cross between American Psycho in uniform and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” hardly does it justice. The plot turns on blood-crazed American soldiers committing war crimes for fun and profit in Iraq. These include the harvesting of body parts from murdered Iraqi civilians on an industrial scale (overseen by a Jewish doctor, of course) for shipment in crates clearly labeled New York and Tel Aviv. Valley of the Wolves is the most expensive and most commercially successful Turkish feature film ever. Worse yet, it comes with the endorsement of leading AKP figures, such as the speaker of the parliament (“absolutely magnificent”) and the mayor of Istanbul (“a great screenplay”). Mr. Pollock’s judgment? “It is no exaggeration to say that such anti-Semitic fare had not been played to mass audiences in Europe since the Third Reich.”
Unfortunately, this film — with its poisonous blood libel against Christians and Jews — falls well within what is now mainstream Turkish public discourse.
Consider only some of the wilder rumors given credence by the Turkish press — for example, how the United States intends to colonize the Middle East because of an impending asteroid strike on North America, or how the 2004 Asian tsunami was really caused by secret U.S. nuclear testing. The latter claim was so prevalent in the Turkish media that the U.S. ambassador at the time, Eric Edelman, actually organized a conference call with Turkish journalists to refute the calumny.
This is the overall context in which incendiary published accusations are made that Catholic priests, sometimes identified by name, are engaging in proselytism — that is, seeking to convert Muslims, often with cash payments. I happen to know just how implausible these claims are, based on my own experience as a Catholic seminarian living and working in the Middle East a decade ago. I found that pastors of the historic Middle Eastern churches almost always go out of their way to discourage prospective converts, rightly fearing agents provocateurs from the security services or Islamist groups. In the rare case where a conversion does occur, the person is generally baptized outside his home country, in a place where apostasy is not criminalized or barred by powerful social norms, such as preservation of family honor.
What local Christian clergy actually do is to tend shrinking flocks without seeking to add to their numbers. (These little congregations increasingly include migrants like the Filipina nurses and domestic workers who are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.) Some also provide public goods such as education and health care for Muslims and Christians alike on a non-sectarian basis. Others serve the pastoral needs of pilgrims visiting places (like Turkey) where Christianity once flourished. Nearly all see themselves as silent witnesses for Gospel values in places where prudence now bars the Gospel’s open proclamation.
There are vanishingly few Christians and Jews in Turkey. So the numbers of non-Muslims in the country cannot begin to explain the mounting popular hostility — not simply toward Americans, Europeans, and Israelis, but toward Christians and Jews as such. Turkey’s population (roughly 77 million) is more than 99.8 percent Muslim, with its tiny Jewish and Christian populations (perhaps 25,000 and 150,000, respectively) looking like a rounding error. Yet more than two-thirds of all Turks (68 percent) expressed a negative view of Christians in the 2009 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, as opposed to the results in nearby Muslim-majority states with much larger Christian minorities, like Jordan (44 percent negative) and Egypt (49 percent). Hostility toward Jews, moreover, has spiked recently, with those self-identified as “very unfavorable” jumping from 32 percent in 2004 to 73 percent in 2009.
The short answer to the question why Christians keep getting attacked in Turkey is that ideas have consequences, with bad ones often leading to deadly consequences. In the current issue of Commentary, Michael Rubin offers a masterly step-by-step analysis of the way in which Turkey’s current Islamist rulers have systematically undermined and dismantled Atatürk’s secular legacy and have put in place an embryonic Islamist state. Ideas once expressed on the fringes of Turkish society have now become mainstream and respectable.
It is precisely this darkening climate of public opinion that provides the essential context for the spate of attacks against Catholic priests. Here it’s worth noting that, historically, Catholics were not regarded as enemies of modern Turkey in the way that Greeks and Armenians were. The Holy See was one of the first states to exchange ambassadors with the newly formed Turkish Republic in 1923; and one of its first ambassadors (from 1933 to 1944), still fondly remembered, was Angelo Roncalli, better known today as Blessed John XXIII.
So too is it a fact that Catholic clergy serving in trouble spots like Turkey have sometimes (though not always) enjoyed a certain immunity from violence or arbitrary arrest. That’s because the Vatican is widely perceived as a powerful entity that can command diplomatic and media attention (especially as compared to Christian evangelicals, who lack similar institutional support). That several Catholic priests have now been attacked in Turkey is a troubling new development that may reflect political Islam’s implacable hostility toward Pope Benedict XVI. Recall that what angered Islamists most about Benedict’s 2006 Regensburg lecture was not an injudicious quotation from a 14th-century Byzantine emperor. It was Benedict’s observation that while reason without faith leads to nihilism (Europe’s problem), faith without reason leads to fanaticism and violence (Islam’s problem).
But it’s also a fact that the killing of Catholic clerics in Muslim-majority states tends nowadays in the West to be passed over in silence or treated as business as usual. Imagine for a moment what would happen if — God forbid! — a very senior, foreign-born Muslim cleric were murdered in the U.S. in circumstances amounting to a hate crime. It is not difficult to imagine the likely aftermath: wall-to-wall media coverage, repeated international condemnations, and multiple presidential apologies.
In the case of Bishop Padovese, one close observer makes explicit the connection between pervasive media vilification and violence against Catholic clergy. Fr. Bernardo Cervellera, whose Asia News broke the story of the true facts surrounding the bishop’s murder, maintains that “there’s a campaign against Christian priests in Turkey. The government says it’s not true, the Turks say they don’t believe it, but it’s quite enough to watch television or read the newspapers to realize that indeed it is true.”
These facts — and their necessary implications — are a long way from the Islam-is-a-religion-of-peace happy talk peddled by both the Bush and Obama administrations. Little wonder that there’s practically no understanding in the U.S. that Turkey’s beleaguered religious minorities — and their co-religionists elsewhere in the region — serve as canaries in the coal mine, bellwethers for major policy shifts that our foreign-policy establishment is slow to grasp. Or indeed that the plight of these minorities mirrors, at least roughly, the state of U.S. interests and ideals in the region.
It wasn’t always the case that Americans paid no attention to the plight of Middle Eastern Christians. In the wake of World War I, the New York Times could safely assume a lively interest (and some Biblical literacy) among readers when editorializing in 1922 about the mass expulsion of ethnic Greek Christians from the new Turkish state: “Is this to be the end of the Christian minorities in Asia Minor — that land where, 13 centuries and more before the Turk came to rule, Paul had journeyed as a missionary through its length and breadth, and where the first ‘seven churches that are in Asia’ stood, to which the messages written in the Book of Revelation were sent?”
But that was then; and this is now.
—John F. Cullinan, a regular NRO contributor, writes frequently on international religious freedom and Middle Eastern Christianity.
They Want to Destroy Christians
Spasm of Religious Violence Leaves a Pakistani Minority in Mourning
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, August 3, 2009
GOJRA, Pakistan, Aug. 2 -- They do not want to bury the Christians. They want the nation to see them.
By nightfall Sunday, hundreds of residents of the Christian enclave here stood in defiant vigil around seven particleboard coffins neatly aligned on the train tracks that run through town. They had demands: Until the government investigates the killings and finds those responsible, they will not remove the bodies.
Police waited warily in the street. A man on a loudspeaker bellowed the villagers' sentiments, which included anger at provincial authorities for not stopping the killings.
"Death to the Punjab government!"
A spasm of religious violence came to this rural town in the shape of an angry Muslim mob Saturday morning. The Muslims marched to avenge what they believed was the desecration of a Koran one week earlier. When it was over, dozens of houses were torched and Faith Bible Pentecostal Church lay in ruins. Two villagers were shot dead, residents said. Five others, including two children, burned alive.
Killing has become commonplace in Pakistan. But this attack startled the country both for its ferocity and for its stark message to religious minorities. Many saw the violence as further evidence of the growing power of the Taliban and allied Islamist militant groups in Punjab province, home to about half of Pakistan's population.
"They have made up their minds to crush Christianity. They always call us dogs of America, agents of America," said Romar Sardar, an English teacher from the area. "There has been no protection by the police. Nothing."
The conflict apparently began with a wedding. On the evening of July 25, a wedding procession for a Christian couple passed through the nearby village of Korian, according to a police report. Revelers danced and threw money in the air, as is local custom. In the morning, a resident told police he had picked up scraps of paper on the ground and found Arabic writing. "We examined them, and it was the pages from the holy Koran," the man said in the report.
Four days later, the accused, a member of the wedding party named Talib Masih, faced a meeting of local elders, who demanded that he be punished. Instead of repenting, the report said, he denied the desecration, and as a result, "the whole Muslim population was enraged." The house burning began that night and then quieted down until Saturday morning.
That day, Riaz Masih, 68, a retired teacher, grew increasingly worried as a crowd gathered, chanting anti-Christian slogans and cursing Americans. He locked his house and rushed with his wife and children to the home of a Muslim friend nearby. The crowd, some wearing black veils and carrying guns, turned down Masih's narrow brick alley near the train tracks and into the Christian Colony, according to several witnesses. Residents and marchers threw rocks at each other, and gunfire broke out. Using what residents described as gasoline and other flammable chemicals, the mob torched Masih's house.
"We have nothing left," he said, standing in the charred remains of his living room, his daughter's empty jewelry box at his feet. "We are trying to face this in the name of Jesus Christ. The Bible says you cannot take revenge."
On Sunday, the scenes of wreckage and dismay played out in house after house. Residents tossed burned blankets and clothing, broken televisions, and charred beds into heaps on the street. Fruit seller Iqbal Masih, 49, stepped over his mangled carts on his patio and tried to assess what was left of his daughter's dowry. The armoire, a refrigerator, the bedding were burned; the $675 for furniture had disappeared.
"I am out of my mind. I can't look," he said. "They have subjected us to severe cruelties. May God show them the right path."
At least four of the dead came from a single house. As the mob approached, a bullet struck Hamid Masih, a builder, in the head as he stood in his doorway, said his son, Min Has. Has heaved his father onto a motorcycle and drove him to a hospital, while the rest of the family members crowded in a back bedroom. The house began burning, and smoked billowed into the rooms. At least three other relatives, including 5- and 8-year-old siblings, died in the flames, according to residents. "There was fire everywhere, and it was impossible for them to get out," Has said.
"I know one thing. They want to destroy Christians," said Atiq Masih, 22, a janitor who was shot in the right knee. "They were attacking everything."
Christians, who make up about 2 percent of the Punjab population, have been targeted in other recent cases. In June, a mob attacked Christian homes in the Kasur district of Punjab for allegedly dishonoring the prophet Mohammed. In Pakistan, which has strict laws against blasphemy, people can be imprisoned for life or put to death for insulting Islam.
Residents in Gojra said that this was the first incident of its kind in the town and that Christians and Muslims have long lived alongside one another without serious problems. They blamed Muslim clerics for inciting anger over the Koran incident in mosque sermons and accused the Taliban and the militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba of involvement in the attack.
"The provincial government is not accepting that a large part of Punjab is suffering from religious intolerance due to the Taliban and religious outfits," said Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, which issues an annual report on religious minorities in Pakistan. "They have been very negligent. This conflict was brewing for three days, and they were not receptive. They were not taking it seriously."
Pakistan's president and prime minister have called for investigations into the violence. By Sunday, police and paramilitary troops had taken up positions in the town. Provincial authorities said they have already made arrests and registered cases against 800 people. Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti denied that any Koran had been desecrated.
Police in Gojra said the violence Saturday was beyond their control.
"It happened all of a sudden. The police that were here were too few in number to stop it," said policeman Kashif Sadiq. "It's not fair to assume they let this happen intentionally."
Special correspondents Shaiq Hussain and Aoun Sahi contributed to this report.
Church of martyrs
by Anthony Browne
For most citizens of Iraq, the invasion meant the end of tyranny. For one group, however, it meant a new start: the country's historic Christian community. When the war stopped, persecution by Islamists, held in check by Saddam, started.
At a church in Basra I visited a month after the war ended, the women complained of attacks against them for not wearing the Islamic veil. I saw many Christian-owned shops that had been firebombed, with many of the owners killed for exercising their legal right to sell alcohol. Two years and many church attacks later, Iraq may still be occupied by Christian foreign powers, but the Islamist plan to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its nearly 2,000-year-old Assyrian and Armenian Christian communities is reaching fruition.
There is nothing unusual about the persecution of Iraqi Christians, or the unwillingness of other Christians to help them. Rising nationalism and fundamentalism around the world have meant that Christianity is going back to its roots as the religion of the persecuted. There are now more than 300 million Christians who are either threatened with violence or legally discriminated against simply because of their faith — more than any other religion. Christians are no longer, as far as I am aware, thrown to the lions. But from China, North Korea and Malaysia, through India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, they are subjected to legalised discrimination, violence, imprisonment, relocation and forced conversion. Even in supposedly Christian Europe, Christianity has become the most mocked religion, its followers treated with public suspicion and derision and sometimes — such as the would-be EU commissioner Rocco Buttiglione — hounded out of political office.
I am no Christian, but rather a godless atheist whose soul doesn't want to be saved, thank you. I may not believe in the man with the white beard, but I do believe that all persecution is wrong. The trouble is that the trendies who normally champion human rights seem to think persecution is fine, so long as it's only against Christians. While Muslims openly help other Muslims, Christians helping Christians has become as taboo as jingoistic nationalism.
On the face of it, the idea of Christians facing serious persecution seems as far-fetched as a carpenter saving humanity. Christianity is the world's most followed religion, with two billion believers, and by far its most powerful. It is the most popular faith in six of the seven continents, and in both of the world's two biggest economies, the US and Europe. Seven of the G8 richest industrial nations are majority Christian, as are four out of five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The cheek-turners control the vast majority of the world's weapons of mass destruction.
When I bumped into George Bush in the breakfast room of the US embassy in Brussels last month, standing right behind me were two men in uniform carrying the little black 'nuclear football', containing the codes to enable the world's most powerful Christian to unleash the world's most powerful nuclear arsenal. Christians claiming persecution seem as credible as Bill Gates pleading poverty. But just as Christian-majority armies control Iraq as it ethnically cleanses itself of its Christian community, so the power of Christian countries is of little help to the Christian persecuted where most Christians now live: the Third World.
Across the Islamic world, Christians are systematically discriminated against and persecuted. Saudi Arabia — the global fountain of religious bigotry — bans churches, public Christian worship, the Bible and the sale of Christmas cards, and stops non-Muslims from entering Mecca. Christians are regularly imprisoned and tortured on trumped-up charges of drinking, blaspheming or Bible-bashing, as some British citizens have found. Just last month, furthermore, Saudi Arabia announced that only Muslims can become citizens.
The Copts of Egypt make up half the Christians in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity. They inhabited the land before the Islamic conquest, and still make up a fifth of the population. By law they are banned from being president of the Islamic Republic of Egypt or attending Al Azhar University, and severely restricted from joining the police and army. By practice they are banned from holding any high political or commercial position. Under the 19th-century Hamayouni decrees, Copts must get permission from the president to build or repair churches — but he usually refuses. Mosques face no such controls.
Government-controlled TV broadcasts anti-Copt propaganda, while giving no airtime to Copts. It is illegal for Muslims to convert to Christianity, but legal for Christians to convert to Islam. Christian girls — and even the wives of Christian priests — are abducted and forcibly converted to Islam, recently prompting mass demonstrations. A report by Freedom House in Washington concludes: 'The cumulative effect of these threats creates an atmosphere of persecution and raises fears that during the 21st century the Copts may have a vastly diminished presence in their homelands.'
Fr Drew Christiansen, an adviser to the US Conference of Bishops, recently conducted a study which stated that 'all over the Middle East, Christians are under pressure. "The cradle of Christianity" is under enormous pressure from demographic decline, the growth of Islamic militancy, official and unofficial discrimination, the Iraq war, the Palestinian Intifada, failed peace policies and political manipulation.'
In the world's most economically successful Muslim nation, Malaysia, the world's only deliberate affirmative action programme for a majority population ensures that Muslims are given better access to jobs, housing and education. In the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia, some 10,000 Christians have been killed in the last few years by Muslims trying to Islamify the Moluccas.
In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, most of the five million Christians live as an underclass, doing work such as toilet-cleaning. Under the Hudood ordinances, a Muslim can testify against a non-Muslim in court, but a non-Muslim cannot testify against a Muslim. Blasphemy laws are abused to persecute Christians. In the last few years, dozens of Christians have been killed in bomb and gun attacks on churches and Christian schools.
In Nigeria, 12 states have introduced Sharia law, which affects Christians as much as Muslims. Christian girls are forced to wear the Islamic veil at school, and Christians are banned from drinking alcohol. Thousands of Christians have been killed in the last few years in the ensuing violence.
Although persecution of Christians is greatest in Muslim countries, it happens in countries of all religions and none. In Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, religious tension led to 44 churches being attacked in the first four months of 2004, with 140 churches being forced to close because of intimidation. In India, the rise of Hindu nationalism has lead to persecution not just of Muslims but of Christians. There have been hundreds of attacks against the Christian community, which has been in India since ad 100. The government's affirmative action programme for untouchables guarantees jobs and loans for poor Hindus and Buddhists, but not for Christians.
Last year in China, which has about 70 million Christians, more than 100 'house churches' were closed down, and dozens of priests imprisoned. If you join the Communist party, you get special privileges, but you can only join if you are atheist. In North Korea, Christians are persecuted as anti-communist elements, and dissidents claim they are not just imprisoned but used in chemical warfare experiments.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, director of the Barnabas Trust, which helps persecuted Christians, blames rising global religious tension. 'More and more Christians are seen as the odd ones out — they are seen as transplants from the West, and not really trusted. It is getting very much worse.'
Even in what was, before multiculturalism, known as Christendom, Christians are persecuted. I have spoken to dozens of former Muslims who have converted to Christianity in Britain, and who are shunned by their community, subjected to mob violence, forced out of town, threatened with death and even kidnapped. The Barnabas Trust knows of 3,000 such Christians facing persecution in this country, but the police and government do nothing.
You get the gist. Dr Paul Marshall, senior fellow at the Centre for Religious Freedom in Washington, estimates that there are 200 million Christians who face violence because of their faith, and 350 million who face legally sanctioned discrimination in terms of access to jobs and housing. The World Evangelical Alliance wrote in a report to the UN Human Rights Commission last year that Christians are 'the largest single group in the world which is being denied human rights on the basis of their faith'.
Part of the problem is old-style racism against non-whites; part of it is new-style guilt. If all this were happening to the world's Sikhs or Muslims simply because of their faith, you can be sure it would lead the 10 O'Clock News and the front page of the Guardian on a regular basis. But the BBC, despite being mainly funded by Christians, is an organisation that promotes ridicule of the Bible, while banning criticism of the Koran. Dr Marshall said: 'Christians are seen as Europeans and Americans, which means you get a lack of sympathy which you would not get if they were Tibetan Buddhists.'
Christians themselves are partly to blame for all this. Some get a masochistic kick out of being persecuted, believing it brings them closer to Jesus, crucified for His beliefs. Christianity uniquely defines itself by its persecution, and its forgiveness of its persecutors: the Christian symbol is the method of execution of its founder. Christianity was a persecuted religion for its first three centuries, until Emperor Constantine decided that worshipping Jesus was better for winning battles than worshipping the sun. In contrast, Mohammed was a soldier and ruler who led his people into victorious battle against their enemies. In the hundred years after the death of Mohammed, Islam conquered and converted most of North Africa and the Middle East in the most remarkable religious expansion in history.
To this day, while Muslims stick up for their co-religionists, Christians — beyond a few charities — have given up such forms of discrimination. Dr Sookhdeo said: 'The Muslims have an Ummah [the worldwide Muslim community] whereas Christians do not have Christendom. There is no Christian country that says, "We are Christian and we will help Christians."'
As a liberal democrat atheist, I believe all persecuted people should be helped equally, irrespective of their religion. But the guilt-ridden West is ignoring people because of their religion. If non-Christians like me can sense the nonsense, how does it make Christians feel? And how are they going to react? The Christophobes worried about rising Christian fundamentalism in Britain should understand that it is a reaction to our double standards. And as long as our double standards exist, Christian fundamentalism will grow.
Anthony Browne is Europe correspondent of the Times.
Note: Atheists don't understand why the world hates Jesus Christ and His followers or Christianity in general.
Jesus said: "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you." John 15:18.
Jesus said: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:11-16
are worldwide victims
Monday, April 10, 2006
Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
It was gratifying to hear about Abdul Rahman's release from his persecutors in Afghanistan. I wish with all my heart that Rahman's plight was an isolated case of the violent abuse of Christian converts, but that is sadly not the case.
Our family receives monthly updates from an organization called Voice of the Martyrs. They report regularly on Muslim, Communist/atheistic, and Buddhist nations where Christians are, on a regular basis, burned out of their homes, arrested and jailed on false charges, tortured, have their property and Bibles seized or destroyed, and are often raped and murdered -- sometimes without government approval, but far too often with.
Unfortunately, we are not talking about two or three isolated cases of a zealot getting out of hand. We're talking about large scale, planned, brutal persecution of hundreds and even thousands of Christian believers. Worse yet, there are more countries and more instances of Christians being horribly persecuted than can even be touched on in a short editorial letter.
So where are the news reports? Where is the public outrage? Where is our government's decisive stand for civil rights? Hopefully, they'll be starting right here, right now, with us.
Please, log on to www.persecution.com or contact Voice of the Martyrs, P.O. Box 443, Bartlesville, Okla. 74005-0443 to get more information on the widespread, violent persecution of Christian believers and, more importantly, what you can do to help them.
Pakistani blasphemy law key factor in attacks against Christian minority
By David Pinault
NEW YORK (America) – Gambling often produces sore losers. This past November, in the town of Sangla Hill in Pakistan’s Punjab Province, it served as the trigger for something worse: religious riots and violence against members of Pakistan’s minority Christian population.
Yousuf Masih, a 40-year-old Christian, won several thousand rupees playing cards with a Muslim neighbor. The angry loser retaliated by filing an allegation with the local police that Masih had set fire to a copy of the Koran – a punishable offense under Pakistani law. Within hours, rumors that a Christian had insulted the Islamic scripture were circulating throughout town. Local Muslim clerics used mosque loudspeakers to call on the faithful to avenge the insult.
The result: the next day, Nov. 12, 2005, a mob of more than 2,500 men (some from Sangla Hill, others from nearby Punjabi villages) attacked buildings belonging to the town’s minority Christian community. They set fire to three churches and vandalized a Catholic convent and a Christian elementary school. Local Christian families were forced to flee or go into hiding. Police did nothing to restrain the violence – but they did arrest the luckless Christian card-player Yousuf Masih.
When I visited the Punjabi city of Lahore in December, local Christians showed me photographs of the destruction at Sangla Hill: a marble altar smashed to rubble, a tabernacle lying dented on the ground, a statue of the Virgin Mary that rioters had defaced with hammers. I was also shown a copy of a letter of protest dated Nov. 14 that had been sent to Pakistan’s President Pevez Musharraf immediately after the violence in Sangla Hill. Signed by prominent Pakistani Catholic and Protestant church leaders, the letter identified a salient factor in the recurrent violence against the country’s religious minorities in recent years: Ordinance 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code.
The blasphemy law
Ordinance 295 – commonly referred to as the blasphemy law – dates back to the 1980s and the reign of the military dictator General Zia ul-Haq. Zia sought to legitimize his dictatorship by indulging the fundamentalist-minded mullahs of Pakistan’s various religious parties. Ordinance 295 gave them what they wanted.
The law’s roots go back to the colonial era: the British Indian Penal Code provided two years’ jail time for persons convicted of religious insults or acts of desecration against any faith whatsoever.
Zia’s regime updated this legislation by adding provisions designed specifically to “safeguard” Islam. Section 295-B of Zia’s law mandates life imprisonment for desecration of the Koran. Section 295-C goes further: it stipulates the death penalty for anyone who defames or insults the Prophet Muhammad.
A progressive-minded legislator from Pakistan’s National Assembly whom I interviewed in Islamabad listed what he called “three substantive legal problems” with Ordinance 295. First, no evidence is required when filing a blasphemy complaint. The word of anyone claiming to be a witness is enough. Second, the alleged blasphemer is arrested and imprisoned as soon as the complaint is lodged. Defendants often remain in jail for months awaiting trial. Third, plaintiffs can make false accusations with little worry of punishment or any other legal repercussion.
This third factor is especially important in light of recent data assembled by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, a human-rights advocacy group established in 1985 by Pakistan’s Catholic Bishops Conference. The commission demonstrated that in more than 100 cases in which defendants in recent blasphemy trials had been found innocent, the accusers were shown by the court to have been motivated by personal grudges or hope of financial gain.
A popular law
Despite the manifest injustice associated with Ordinance 295, President Musharraf, who has evinced a commitment to protect his country’s religious minorities, has been unable to bring about the repeal of the blasphemy law. It is simply too popular. Judging from interviews with Muslims and Christians in both the Punjab and the Northwest Frontier Province, I would say this law is widely accepted by many Muslims – especially in rural areas – because it is seen as a useful weapon for the defense of Islam.
A Muslim professor in Peshawar explained to me that when rumors of blasphemy or Koran desecration circulate, many mosque preachers warn their congregations that “Islam khatar mayn hay” (“Islam is in danger”). This sense of endangerment comes from a widespread perception among Pakistani Muslims that they are a beleaguered minority.
This might be surprising, since 97 percent of Pakistan’s population is Muslim. But it makes sense if one takes into account the feeling many Pakistanis have that they are overshadowed and threatened by neighboring India – a country that is not only much bigger than Pakistan but is also overwhelmingly Hindu. Hinduism is perceived by many Pakistani Muslims as fundamentally inimical to Islam.
For many Pakistanis, their country is protected from being swallowed up, from disappearing, by its Islamic identity, which is symbolized by reverence for the Koran and devotion to the Prophet Muhammad’s honor. Ordinance 295 is popular because it is seen as safeguarding both of these. Many fundamentalist-minded Muslims question the loyalty of Pakistani Christians and members of other non-Muslim minorities, who are often accused of serving as agents for the United States and other foreign powers.
Christians speak out
But Pakistan’s Christian community is mobilizing to speak out collectively against sectarian discrimination and prejudice. On Dec. 20, Christians throughout the country observed a nationwide day of prayer and fasting to condemn the violence at Sangla Hill and the persecution of minorities in the name of religion. Additional nonviolent protests will continue throughout 2006 for the purpose of drawing attention to the injustice of Pakistan’s blasphemy law.
Most of the individuals I interviewed preferred to remain anonymous because of the volatile politics surrounding Ordinance 295. One exception is Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, the Catholic archbishop of Lahore. Archbishop Saldanha, who is currently the president of Pakistan’s Catholic Bishops Conference, is spearheading a movement for the repeal of Sections B and C of Ordinance 295. In December we met in his office in Lahore’s Catholic Cathedral. He is fighting for the repeal, he told me, because this harmful ordinance – which is worded so as to encourage slander against anyone designated an “enemy of Islam” – has provided a legal rationale for inciting interreligious violence and the persecution of minorities.
Muslims also suffer
But Christians are not the only ones who have suffered because of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. The Catholic Bishops Conference has pointed out that 50 percent of the individuals imprisoned under Ordinance 295 have been Muslims. They were denounced as apostates by fellow Muslims – whether out of religious zealotry or sheer opportunism – on charges of questioning the Koran or showing insufficient reverence for the Prophet Muhammad’s legacy. (The remaining 50 percent of those imprisoned have been Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis.)
The fact that Muslims have used Ordinance 295 to indict fellow Muslims points up the larger harm inflicted on Pakistan as a whole by this legislation. A Lahore-based Muslim intellectual told me, “295 makes it impossible to think out loud about Islam freely. We’re at risk of paralysis, both as a nation and as a religious tradition.”
For the good of all its citizens, it is time for Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy law.
Pope Benedict XVI Remembers Sacrifice Of Slain Cleric
April 13, 2006
Mary K. Brunskill - All Headline News Contributor
Vatican City, Rome (AHN) - In a Holy Week Mass dedicated to priests on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI recalled the slaying of Rev. Andrea Santoro, who was killed for preaching Catholicism in the predominantly Muslim Turkey.
Santoro was shot and killed on February 5th while he was praying in his parish in the Black Sea city of Trabzon. Witnesses said his 16-year-old killer screamed "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," and then fired two bullets into Santoro’s back.
Benedict read a letter written by Santano during his homily. In the letter, the Italian prelate professed his willingness to sacrifice his own body for his God.
Santoro wrote, "One becomes capable of salvation only by offering one’s body."
Santoro was killed at a time when caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in Europe were causing an uproar in th Muslim world. Santoro has been called a martyr by top church officials.
During the mass Pope Benedict prayed, "Let us put our hands today again at (God’s) disposition. Let his hand take ours so we won’t sink, but will serve life which is stronger than death, and love which is stronger than hatred."
Not Afraid to Die: The Kingdom and Compassion
Paul J Dean
Pastor, Counselor, Professor, Columnist and Radio Talk Show Host
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Those who take Christ and His Kingdom
seriously are willing to do and suffer anything to see Him exalted and that
Kingdom advanced. We sit around and think things that may sound strange to
typical church-goers. For example, we think it might be better if persecution
were to come our way. Then the true church would be revealed and it would be
strong and Christ would be glorified. Our personal comforts are irrelevant. We
then contemplate whether or not we should pray for persecution. In the end, most
of us do not go that far because we are told to pray for those in authority that
it might go well with us (1 Tim. 2:2). God can advance His gospel in a free
country if He chooses. His people certainly have greater opportunity to spread
the gospel in such an environment. They must simply be obedient. But, we must
admit, certain thoughts are tempting in light of the downgrade in the church and
culture at this present hour.
One can overhear that sentiment, praise God, in the words of Joel Belz in his article entitled, "Not Afraid to Die." (http://www.worldmag.com/articles/11708). He noted that "the story of Abdul Rahman, the Afghan fellow who was sentenced to death because he had converted to Christianity some 16 years ago, was changing so fast last week that it was hard to tell just which way it was going to go next. Maybe even harder, though, was knowing which way you wanted it to go. I'll admit that seems like a harsh thing to say."
He continues. "But let me put it in perspective by asking this: Which would have been better 50 years ago--for the God of all mercy to rescue five missionaries to the Indians of Ecuador, or to let them be murdered by the people to whom they wanted so much to take the gospel? Which would have been better for the missionaries' families? For the Indians of Ecuador? For the evangelical church in North America? For the Kingdom of God at large? And what about the tens of thousands of people around the world who became Christians through the ministry of the thousands of missionaries who volunteered for service after the five men were martyred? And their children and the generations who will follow them?"
"It was hard not to think of all those issues when you listened to the courageous words of Abdul Rahman. 'I am a Christian,' he said boldly while holding a Bible up for all to see. 'I am not afraid to die.' You couldn't help thinking about how Stephen's face was said to have been shining as he was being stoned to death in the book of Acts. And you really didn't want to see Abdul Rahman's radiance dimmed by some cheesy compromise."
Belz's words strike a chord in the heart of the committed Christian. How we long for the Kingdom of God to advance! And, we know from Scripture and from history that "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church (Tertullian)." Our desire for the Kingdom must be such if we are to be truly committed to Christ's call and gospel. When we pray that God's Kingdom would come, we had better know what we are praying (Lk. 11:2). But, we had better pray that way nevertheless. Kingdom advance is more important than any endeavor or cause or desire or whatever. "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15)!'" Our heart's cry is to see this dynamic in plain view.
And yet, just as surely as we desire the Kingdom to come, we must have and do have compassion on others. In fact, compassion, in one sense, is the attitude of the Kingdom. Compassion from God drives us forward with the gospel (not to make light of a desire for His glory, but, He is glorified in our compassion).
And so Belz says of Rahman, "Of course, you also didn't want to see him die." Indeed not. Our prayers were for Him and God was with Him and we give praise to His mighty Name for His deliverance of our brother in chains. With compassion we cried before the throne and the Father of all compassion heard our prayers!
And yet, what of the chains? What if Rahman were martyred? Belz points out in political and practical terms that "it would be, of course, the very last thing the Bush administration needed just now. It would be no help at all to the supposedly moderate government of Afghanistan. It would diminish to the vanishing point whatever credibility any moderate Muslim anywhere might still have left. Might such an event be the point of ignition for a worldwide conflagration of the sort we have all been dreading so much?"
Afghan religious leaders called for Rahman's death after he was released. "'It's clear that a man who converts has to be killed,' said Abdul Raoulf, a senior Muslim cleric seen, until recently, as a moderate who had several times actually been jailed by the Taliban. 'Rejecting Islam is insulting God. We will not allow God to be insulted.... They should cut off his head, and pull him into pieces so there's nothing left.'"
Of course, had he been martyred by government execution or torn limb from limb by an angry Muslim mob, it would indeed demonstrate that Islam is not the moderate religion that so many vehemently claim it to be. Neither the Bible (which calls Ishmael and His descendents "a wild man," Gen. 16:12), nor the Koran, nor history will bear out a moderate Islam. This note must be sounded. There is the desire for the Kingdom again.
Belz further commented, "It was as if the cleric wanted to demonstrate the absolute futility of all the U.S. effort that has been poured into Afghanistan over the last four years." "'This is a young democracy,' countered Condoleeza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State. 'They do have a constitution, which if they treat carefully, promising things will happen. A constitution is something Afghanistan never had under the Taliban. The constitution they have adopted is clear in its support for a universal declaration of human rights.'"
And yet, the sad truth is that the Afghan Constitution may have a declaration of human rights attached to it, but the Afghan understanding of human rights is far different from the Christian's understanding or even the American's understanding of human rights. The Afghan Constitution is grounded in and committed to upholding Sharia (Islamic) law. There is no place for universal human rights as we understand them in that law. We point this out in our desire for the Kingdom.
But Belz has an opinion on this point as well. And, we respect Belz. Let us hear him out. With reference to Rice's comments and the Afghan Constitution, he asks, "A flat-out contradiction? Probably not. I write this from Dayton, Ohio, where Orville and Wilbur Wright more or less perfected the airplane credited with launching human travel through the air. I say 'more or less' because the Wright brothers' first flight was a mere 120 feet in 12 seconds--before it came to an embarrassing end. Afghanistan's first democratically elected government may or may not fly. I cannot join the skeptics who say that the case of Abdul Rahman is proof that the U.S. investment in his country has been in vain. Disappointing, confusing, and even terrifying? Yes. But maybe it is necessary one more time for a man to die for his people. It may be the only way really to dramatize how truly awful is the religion to which they hold so tenaciously."
And there's the compassion: not the desire for a man to die, but the desire in such for a people to see how truly awful their religion, and predicament apart from Christ, truly is. And, there is the hope of Kingdom triumph in what would be political failure. May God give us such compassion that we might be part of His Kingdom advance.
Christians in the Muslim World
By Chuck Colson
Christian Post Guest Columnist
August 17, 2006
Since the start of the Danish cartoon controversy earlier this year, Vatican officials have expressed sympathy with Islamic outrage over the depictions of Muhammad. This sympathy comes from knowing what it's like to have your beliefs treated with disrespect and even contempt. Yet in much of the Islamic world, that sympathy isn't a two-way street.
That's why the Vatican issued a statement "urging Islamic countries to reciprocate by showing more tolerance toward their Christian minorities." As Angelo Soldano, the Vatican's Secretary of State put it: "If we tell our people they have no right to offend, we have to tell the others they have no right to destroy us . . . "
Destroy is not too strong a word. The anger originally directed at Denmark is increasingly being directed at Christians. In Turkey, a priest was murdered in an attack that the Turkish media has connected to the cartoon controversy. In Pakistan, protesting mobs have ransacked churches and beaten Christians. In Beirut, which, unlike Pakistan, has a large Christian population, a Christian neighborhood was attacked by a Muslim mob.
By far the worst attacks have occurred in Nigeria. In the state of Borno, attacks left as many as fifty-one Christians dead, including a priest. The Christian property destroyed included at least six churches, both Catholic and Protestant, the Bishop's home, and a Christian bookstore.
The rioters, who went on a rampage after hearing a Muslim cleric denounce the cartoons, sent a clear message with their choice of targets: These are our true enemies, the Christians. This led to a deplorable, yet predictable, response: Nigerian Christians retaliated against Muslims, killing one and burning a mosque. This is tragic.
And where Christians aren't under physical attack, they still face restrictions that far exceed the ones being decried by Muslim protesters. These restrictions, which have been chronicled on "BreakPoint," include bans on public and, in Saudi Arabia, even private worship.
This lack of reciprocity, along with the violence in places like Nigeria and Pakistan, has the usually conciliatory Vatican saying, "Enough!" Pope Benedict told the Moroccan ambassador that peace requires a reciprocal "respect for the religious convictions and practices of others . . . "
Other Vatican officials were even sharper. The Secretary of its supreme court told an Italian newspaper, "Enough now with this turning the other cheek! It's our duty to protect ourselves."
His frustration arises from the well-founded doubts that the West will do anything about Muslim persecution of Christians. He noted that "half a century" of relations with "Arab countries" had not produced "the slightest concession on human rights."
Sadly, he's right. While countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are cited for their violations of religious freedom, there are not any sanctions. So, the message is that we are not really serious about freedom and democracy.
Without religious freedom, efforts to spread democracy are futile, because societies that don't respect the rights of religious minorities cannot be expected to respect any other human rights. What this tragic turn of events really proves is that, contrary to the politically correct wisdom of our day, not all worldviews or religions are alike. And the differences really matter—just ask the Christians living in the Islamic world.
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Assailants on Wednesday slit the throats of three employees of a publishing house that distributes Bibles, the latest in a series of attacks targeting Turkey's small Christian minority.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
The attack added to concerns in Europe about whether the predominantly Muslim country _ which is bidding for EU membership _ can protect its religious minorities. It also underlined concerns about rising Turkish nationalism and hostility toward non-Muslims.
The three victims _ a German and two Turks _ were found with their hands and legs bound and their throats slit at the Zirve publishing house in the central city of Malatya.
Police detained four men, ages 19 to 20, and a fifth suspect was hospitalized with serious injuries after jumping out of a window to try to escape arrest, authorities said. All five were carrying a letter that read: "We five are brothers. We are going to our deaths," according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the attack and said investigators were looking into whether there were other suspects or possible links with terror groups.
"This is savagery," Erdogan said.
The German victim had been living in Malatya since 2003, said Gov. Halil Ibrahim Dasoz. Anatolia identified him as 46-year-old Tilman Ekkehart Geske.
The attack is the latest in a string of attacks on Turkey's Christian community, which comprises less than 1 percent of the population.
In February 2006, a Turkish teenager shot a Roman Catholic priest to death as he prayed in his church, and two other priests were attacked later that year. A November visit by Pope Benedict XVI was greeted by several nonviolent protests. Earlier this year, a suspected nationalist killed Armenian Christian editor Hrant Dink.
Authorities had vowed to deal with extremists after Dink's murder, but Wednesday's attack showed the violence was not slowing down.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier condemned the attack "in the strongest terms" and said he expected Turkish authorities would "do everything to clear up this crime completely and bring those responsible to justice."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat Party _ which opposes Muslim Turkey's membership in the European Union _ said the attacks showed the country's shortcomings in protecting religious freedom.
"After today's murders, the Turkish government must ... be asked whether it is doing enough to protect religious minorities," the party's general secretary, Ronald Pofalla, said in a statement.
"Freedom of religion is one of the fundamental human rights. The Turkish state is still far from the freedom of religion that marks Europe. It is the task of the Turkish government to guarantee this freedom of religion," the statement said.
About 150 people lit candles and unfolded a banner that read, "We are all Christians," in downtown Istanbul to protest the attack and show solidarity with the Christian community. But there was far less public outcry than with Dink's murder, which was followed by widespread protests and condemnations. More than 100,000 people marched at Dink's funeral.
Malatya, known as a hotbed of nationalists, is the hometown of Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981.
The Zirve publishing house has been the site of protests by nationalists accusing it of proselytizing in this Muslim, but secular country, and Zirve's general manager said his employees had recently been threatened.
Anatolia said the five suspects were students who lived in the same student residence in Malatya.
The manner in which the victims were bound suggested the attack could have been the work of a local Islamic militant group, commentators said, and CNN-Turk television reported that police were investigating the possible involvement of Turkish Hezbollah _ a Kurdish Islamic organization that aims to form a Muslim state in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated southeast.
"These are fanatics who continue to be present in Turkey and who at a moment's notice emerge with these acts of absurd violence," Monsignor Luigi Padovese, the Vatican representative in Turkey, was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency ANSA.
Of Turkey's 70 million people, only about 65,000 are Armenian Orthodox Christians, 20,000 are Roman Catholic and 3,500 are Protestants mostly converts from Islam. Another 2,000 are Greek Orthodox Christians.
The Plight of the Christians in the Middle East
By Gabriel Sawma Esq.
August 21, 2007
Today, there are 30 million Christians who live in countries whose majority are Muslims. Some 15 million Christians live in Indonesia; somewhere between 6 and 12 million live in Egypt; 3 million in Pakistan; Christians make up 3 percent of Iraq’s population of 30 million and 2 percent of Jerusalem’s population.
In Turkey, the Christian population numbered 2 million in 1920, but now numbers a few thousand. In Syria Christians represented about one third of the population at the beginning of the twentieth century, today they count for less than 10 percent. In Lebanon the number went from about 55 percent 70 years ago to under 30 percent today. At present rates in the Middle East, the 12 to 15 million Christians will in a decade have been substantially reduced to the point that they will have lost their cultural vitality and political significance. This exodus is a result of the unprecedented mistreatment of Jews and Christians throughout the Middle East.
Egyptian Christians are embattled minority with dwindling right; trapped in poverty and uncertainty, despised and distrusted as second class citizens; facing discrimination in education, jobs and from police and the courts. Often they are victim of brutality. This applies to many countries with a Muslim majority. Yet no Muslim leader voices his objection to such a treatment.
In Iraq, following the fall of Saddam Hussein, Christians have been randomly assassinated, , Christian women have been threatened unless they cover their heads, Christian shop owners of liquor stores, music stores, fashion stores and beauty salons have been attacked. Islamists make it clear that these establishments and not welcomed. And yet no ruler in the Middle East voiced objection to such atrocities.
When Islam spread in the Middle East during the seventh century, the attitude to the People of the Book, as Jews and Christians are called, does not entail any obligation on the part of the Muslim either to convert or to exterminate them. It is at that time that Islam’s reputation as a religion of toleration arises.
The People of the Book are considered as dhimmi (from Aramaic dmm, i.e.the insulted ones), that is, as persons in possession of a protective treaty, dhimma, in which they renounce certain rights and in return enjoy the practice of their religion and their customs.
Much has been made of the so called Covenant of ‘Umar as a document of an approximate description of the actual state of affairs around 800 A.D. It demonstrates beyond doubt the isolation of non-Muslims within their own religious groups. Their personal safety and their personal property are guaranteed them at the price of permanent inequality. The Covenant of ‘Umar is in the form of a letter presented by the Christian community to the second Caliph (‘Umar bin al-khattab, the second successor to the Prophet Muhammad). It reads the following: “when you (i.e. ‘Umar) came to us we asked of you safety for our lives, our families, our property, and the people of our religion on the conditions: to pay tribute out of hand and be humiliated; not to hinder any Muslim from stopping in our churches by night or day, to entertain him there three days and give him food there and open to him their doors; to beat the naqus (the wooden board which serves as ‘bell’ amongst the Easter Christians) only gently in them and not to raise our voices in them in chanting;….not to build a church, convent, hermitage, or cell, nor repair those that are dilapidated; nor assemble in any that is in a Muslim quarter, nor in their presence; not to display idolatry, nor invite to it, nor show a cross on our churches, nor in any of the roads or markets of the Muslims; not to learn the Koran nor teach it to our children; not to prevent any of our relatives from turning Muslim if he wish it;….not to resemble the Muslims in dress, appearance, saddles….; to honor and respect them, to stand up for them when we meet together;….not to make our houses higher (than theirs); not to tip weapons or swords, nor wear them in a town or on a journey in Muslim lands;….not to strike a Muslim; not to keep slaves who have been the property of Muslims. We impose these terms on ourselves and on our co-religionists; he who rejects them has no protection.” (See A.S. Tritton, The Caliphs and Their Non-Muslim Subjects, London, 1930).
Leaders of the Christian communities in the Middle East have done their utmost to please their Muslims neighbors. One Christian Patriarch claims that “Islam saved us from the atrocities of the Byzantine”; another Christian bishop claims that “the ancestry of the Christians are Arabs”, that the “blood of Arabs runs in our veins”; another leader says “we (Christians) belong to the Arab tribe of Taghleb, or the tribe of Ghassan; another claims, contrary to the fact, that “we (Christians) are not dhimmi, and most of them use verses from the Quran to support the claim that Islam is a tolerant religion. They often refers to the Quranic verse, which reads: “There is no compulsion in religion” Quran 2:256, and “For you is your religion and for me is mine” (Quran 109:6).
Dhimmi is a word which is used twice in the Quran (9:8 and 10), in the context of Muhammad’s dealings with idolators (mushrikun), who are accused of not honoring their covenants or agreements with the prophet; as a result the prophet is also released from his commitments, and their position becomes rather more vulnerable. But in the period of the conquests the term comes to be used more with reference to the agreements made between the conquered population and their Muslim rulers, and therefore more specific.
In some Christian circles in the Middle East, there are those who believe that Islam “always coexisted with Judaism and Christianity peacefully on religious plane though there were clashes between Muslims and Christians in Medieval ages and not between Islam and Christianity”; most of the prevailing thoughts among Christian leaders as well as Muslim writers in the Middle East blame the Western media for projecting clash of interest as clash of religions, or clash of civilizations.
To defend these arguments which claim that Islam is a tolerant religion, Christian leaders and Muslim writers in the Middle East quote certain verses from the Quran: “If thy Lord had pleased, all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Will thou then force them till they are believers?” Quran 10:99. Some quote another verse which reads: “May thou will kill thyself with grief, sorrowing after, if they believe not in this argument (non-believers)”, Quran: 18:6.
Christian leaders in the Middle East defend the status quo by using the same arguments which are raised by Muslims about the so-called ‘peaceful co-existence’ of religious communities under Islam: “the Negus of Abyssinia had given refuge to Muslim migrants to Ethiopia before they migrated to Medina.” They claim, according to Islamic traditions that stated by Ibn Ishaq’s book (Al-Sirat Al-Nabawiyya), that “a Christian delegation from Najran met the Prophet led by Abdul Masih, the Prophet met with the delegation inside the mosque at Medina and he (the Prophet) treated them with respect and in friendly way.” Another Christian bishop in Lebanon do not hesitate to use verses from the Quran, not the Bible, to support his argument.
Muslims on the other hand refer to the same quotations to stress their belief that Islam could co-exist with Christians and Jews peacefully. To promote such arguments, they quote the Quran. One of the verses refers to Christian priests and monks who are “humble and engage in worshipping God.” Muslim writers claim that the Quran treats all human beings on equal plain whatever their creed or color or nation or tribe. They refer to the following Quranic verse: “And surely we have honored the children of Adam, and we carry them in the land and the sea, and we provide them with good tiding, and we have made to excel highly most of those whom we have created.” Quran 17:70.
Muslim writers quote the Quran in order to promote the so-called ‘peaceful co-existence’ with other religions: “For every one of you we appointed a law and a way. And if Allah had pleased he would have made you a single people, but that he might try you in what he gave you. So vie one with another in virtuous deeds.” Muslim writers claim that Allah did not create all human beings as one community, but rather different sects distinctively. They claim that plurality of religions and ways of life and different laws co-exist peacefully with the Muslim community.
The Islamic Conquest
At the dawn of the Islamic invasion of the seventh century, The vast majority of the population of the conquered Byzantine provinces was Christian, belonging to one church or another, and in the Sassanian Empire (Persia) too there was a significant Christian minority presence, consisting mostly of Nestorian Christians (popularly known as the Assyrian Church) . Even the Arab tribes of Ghassan and others were members of the Christian community. There were bishops among them. Their language, like the rest of the Middle East, was Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic. Christian churches and literature spread all over the Middle East. But their status started to decline over the years which followed the invasion.
The initial phase of the encounter between Muslims and Christians should be seen as lasting for roughly 200 years that is until the first half of the ninth century.
Muslim law and, even more, Muslim mentality insisted from the beginning of Islam upon emphasizing without letup the disabilities to which the dhimmi (Christian) was subjected. From the beginning, Islam regarded both Christians and Jews as second-class citizens. Time and again the Muslim texts, which are represented in the Hadith (i.e the interpretations given by Muslim commentators on the Quran and the sayings attributed to the Prophet and his way of life), assert the intention of humiliating the dhimmi. Never was he (Christian or Jew) to be left in doubt about his inferior status. This anxiousness on the part of the Muslim commentators to cajole their own susceptibilities by hurting those of non-Muslims increased as time went by. And it must be said that, on the whole, relations between the communities steadily deteriorated. A Muslim always regarded the Christian to be inferior regardless of the ancestry. In other words, a Christian of Arab ancestry is no different from Greek or European dissent; they are all considered dhimmi and were always second-class citizens.
Under al-Mutawakkil (847-61) a wave of anti-dhimmi feeling swept the Middle East. This Caliph, Barhebraeus (d.1286) reports, “was a hater of the Christians, and afflicted them by ordering them to bind bandlets of wool round their heads; and none of them was to appear outside his house without a belt and girdle. And the new churches were to be pulled down. And if they should happen to have a spacious church, even though it was ancient, one part of it was to be made into a mosque. It may be mentioned in this connection that there is some evidence to suggest that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the Great Mosque in Damascus was, to a certain extent, shared with the Christians, (see Ibn Jubair, Travels). Christians were not lift up crosses during their feasts of Hosanna (Palm-Sunday).
To promote hatred of the Christians, al-Jahiz wrote a risala in which he pointed out the reasons of their comparative popularity and then went on to explain why they should be detested and abhorred. Al-Jahiz makes it clear that the masses to the Christians is the fact “they are secretaries and servants to kings, physicians to notable, perfumers, and money-changers, whereas the Jews are found to be but dyers, tanners, cuppers, butchers and cobblers. Our people observing thus the occupations of the Jews and the Christians concluded that the religion of the Jews must be compared as unfavorable as do their professions.” (See Radd ‘ala ‘nasara by Al-Jahiz – Arabic version).
Al-Jahiz continues: “Our nation has not been afflicted by the Jews, Magians (persians), or Sabians as much as by the Christians; for (in the polemics with us) they choose contradictory statements in Muslim tradition (as the target of their attack). (They select for disputations) the equivocal verses of the Quran, and (hold us responsible for) hadiths, the chains of guarantors of which are defective….”
Abrogation in Islam
According to Muslim interpreters, no body is allowed to interpret the Quran unless he knows what abrogation means (see Al-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al Quran –Arabic version). In one instance Ali (son in law of the Prophet) asked a judge: do you know what abrogation and what abrogated means? The judge said no, and then Ali said: you are doomed and caused other to be doomed. (See same reference)
Abrogation in Islam means to take away, thus the Quranic verse stated: “Allah abrogates what Satan says, and then Allah corrects that”. It also means to change for one another as the Quranic verse states “and if we change one verse for another”. Abrogation also means to turn and move as stated in the following verse: “We used to abrogate what you previously did”.
All Muslim commentators agree on the principle of abrogation, but some disagree as to whether a Quranic verse may be abrogated by the Sunnah (sayings attributed to the Prophet). They state that the Quran says: “what we abrogate from a verse or forget it, we bring a better one (verse) and equal to it”. Others state that the Sunnah may abrogate verses from the Quran because the Sunnah is also from Allah. Muslim interpreters believe that if the Sunnah is an order from Allah, then it can abrogate a Quranic verse, but if it were a result of opinion, it does not cause abrogation.
In Islam, there are different categories of abrogation. One deals with a general rule such as the direction of prayers towards Mecca (the direction used to be towards Jerusalem, then the Prophet changed and ordered his followers to pray towards Mecca); also falls under this category the replacement of the fast of Ahura by the fast of Ramadan. A second category is based on the reason for abrogation, when the reason goes away, then the abrogation is not necessary such as the case when Allah orders some one to be patient because of lack of money, then the order is abrogated when the same person becomes rich.
According to Muslim tradition, there are verses from the Quran that does not allow abrogation, they include the following chapters: Al-fatiha, Usuf, Yas, Al-Hajarat, al-Rahman, Al-Hadid, Al-saff, Al-Um’aa, Al-Tahrim, Al-Mulk, al-Haqa, Nuh, Al-jinn, Al-Mursalat, ‘Amm, al-Nazi’aat, al-Infitar and the following three chapters, al-Fajr to the rest of the chapters except the verses of al_teen, Al’Asr and al-Kafireen (they accept abrogation).
Twenty five chapters of the Quran allow abrogation, they are: Al-baqara and three chapters follow that, al-Hajj, al-Nur, al-Ahzab, Saba’, Al-Mu’min, Al-Shura, Al-dhariyat, Al-Tur, Al-Waqi’ah, Al-Mujadilah, Al-muzamil, al-Mudather, Kawrath, and Al’’Asr. The following chapters allow the abrogation: al_fath, Al-Hash, al-Munafiqun, Al-taghabun, Al-Talaaq, and Al’A’la.
We will not concern ourselves in this study with the verses that fall under the rule of abrogation in general, instead, we will deal with the abrogation concerning the issues discussed above, which is related to the topic of the so-called Islamic “toleration to the other religions” mainly Christianity and Judaism.
According to Al-Suyuti, who is an authority on Islam, there are one hundred twenty four verses in the Quran that have been abrogated by one Quranic verse; he calls it ‘the verse of the sword’. It states the following: “And when the forbidden months have passed, kill the “Mushrikeen” wherever you find them and take them prisoners, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe prayer and pay the Zakat (almsgiving), then leave their way free, surely, Allah is most forgiving, merciful” (Quran 5:9, the Holy Quran, English translation by Maulawi Sher-‘Ali).
Modern Muslim writers replaced the word “mushrikeen” by the term ‘idolators’. But in Arabic, the word includes both: Christians and idolators. In Arabic the stem root is “ishrak” which means ‘in addition’, ‘to associate someone with Allah”. That follows the Christian’s belief, which is based on the fact that Jesus is God. The Muslims consider that to be “ishrak” (i.e. worshipping two Gods), in other words, they believe that Christian worship Jesus and God at the same time, that in itself, Muslim say, is “ishrak”.
So what are the verses that are considered to be abrogated by the verse of the sword? According to Muslim interpreters, they include the following: “And say to the people well done” (i.e. the People of the Book ‘Christians and Jews’). This verse has been abrogated more than one thousand years ago by Muslim commentators.
The verse of the sword forbids fighting during the forbidden month (these are three months of the year during which fighting among the Arabs was forbidden). But Muslim commentators say the verse is abrogated because another verse in the Quran commands the Muslim to “kill all the Mushrikeen” (i.e. Christians and Pagans) (Sea Kitab al-Itqan by Al-Suyuti, Maktabat al-Ma-aarif in Riyadh, Saudi Arabic, volume 2 pp 64, 1996).
Muslim writer’s quote the Quran in matter s related to judiciary. The Quran says: “if they come to you (litigating) you may rule on their matter…” this shows good judgment on the part of the Muslim judiciary. But unfortunately, this verse has been abrogated by the following one: “And if you judge, then be guided with the Islamic Shari’a” (you may not rule according to their norms by the Islamic Shari’a).
In the matter of judiciary, it is necessary to bring two witnesses, the Quran says the following: “bring two from among them” (i.e. Christians or Jews). This verse has been abrogated by the following: “And bring fair witnesses from amongst you” (i.e. from the Muslim community. (See same reference, pp. 65)
Ibn Al’Arabi, a Muslim authority on the interpretation of the Quran, quoted by Al-Suyuti as saying: “everything between the pages of the Quran regarding forgiveness to non-believers by the Muslim community, or compassion and mercy has been abrogated by the verse of the sword (i.e. Quran 5:9, sighted above). Ibn al-‘Arabi states that this verse alone abrogated one hundred twenty four verses.
According to Shaidalah, a Muslim source of Jurisprudence, the Quranic verse that we mentioned earlier which states: “you have your religion and I have mine” has been abrogated by the verse of the sword (Quoted by Al-Suyuti, pp. 68).
The verse of the sword abrogates the following (in italic) of the Quranic verse: “We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob and his children (i.e. the twelve children of Jacob), and what was given to Moses and Jesus, and what was given to all other prophets from their Lord…” (Quran 2: 257). Muslim commentators state that the part in italic is abrogated.
Muslim writers in modern times, try to hide the fact that many verses from the Quran are abrogated. This may be the reason why Muslims around the word sympathize with what is known as “extremists” or “fundamentalists”, “radical Islam” or “militant Islam”. The mild reaction by Muslims around the world to the attack of September 11 on the United States is caused by the principle of abrogation; doing otherwise by Muslims, would be a violation to the principle. Muslims do not hesitate to go along with our ignorance of the Islamic Shari’a by stating that Islam is a “peaceful religion”. Many Western scholars, who do not understand the Islamic Shari’a well, tend to believe in everything written between the two covers of the Quran, not knowing that one hundred twenty four verses which deal with the Christians and Jews are in fact abrogated and non-existent.
Gabriel Sawma is considered an authority in Islam, a lawyer in international law , professor of Semitic Studies, and author of the book: The Qur’an: Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, and Misread. The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an.
SONG OF FAREWELL
Come to his aid, O saints of God;
Come meet him, angels of the Lord.
Receive his soul, O holy ones;
Present him now to God, Most High.
May Christ, who called you, take you home,
And angels lead you to Abraham.
Receive his soul, O holy ones;
Present him now to God, Most High.
Give him eternal rest, O Lord.
May light unending shine on him.
Receive his soul, O holy ones;
Present him now to God, Most High.
I know that my Redeemer lives;
The last day I shall rise again.
Receive his soul, O holy ones;
Present him now to God, Most High.
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