Raymond Ibrahim: Muslim Persecution of Christians, February 2016

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As opposed to their Western counterparts, Christian leaders who live in the Middle East continued expressing their frustration at the West’s indifference and worse. Jean-Clément Jeanbart, the Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop of Aleppo, asked during an interview: “Why are your bishops silent on a threat that is yours today as well? Because the bishops are, like you, raised in political correctness. But Jesus was never politically correct, he was politically just! The responsibility of a bishop is to teach, to use his influence to transmit truth. Why are your bishops afraid of speaking? Of course they would be criticized, but that would give them a chance to defend themselves, and to defend this truth. You must remember that silence often means consent.”

The archbishop also criticized the migration policies of Western countries: “The egoism and the interests slavishly defended by your governments will in the end kill you as well. Open your eyes, didn’t you see what happened recently in Paris?”

Similarly, in Iraq, Christian representatives invited to participate in the “Conference on the Protection of Peaceful Coexistence” — the sort of conference that would be heavily attended, praised, and cited by Christians in the West — boycotted the event on the grounds that such government-sponsored events are purely for show and nothing comes of them: “What need is there in participating in meetings like this and repeating the formulas that give the title to the conference if then one does not see initiatives and changes in concrete terms?” said Chaldean Patriarch Raphael Louis I. Other non-Muslim religious minorities, including the Yazidis and Mandaeans, also boycotted the conference.

The Chaldean Patriarch went on to launch an appeal to government authorities and political and religious leaders to denounce the continuing legal discrimination and sectarian bullying suffered by Christians: “We met with government officials, and paid a visit to some of the Islamic religious authorities to talk about what we have in common, with regards to our faiths and the life we share in this land. During these meetings, we assured our loyalty to Iraq, which is our country, and we do not seek revenge, we want to live in peace with all Iraqis. Unfortunately, none of their promises has become reality.”

January’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:

Muslim Persecution of Christian Churches

USA: Federal authorities arrested a Michigan man believed to be an ISIS supporter who had planned to carry out an attack on a 6,000-member Detroit church. Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, of Dearborn Heights, was allegedly in possession of guns and a large knife, and told an undercover FBI agent that he “tried to shoot up a church one day.” “I bought a bunch of bullets. I practiced reloading and unloading,” he said in an online conversation. Investigators did not specify which church Abu-Rayyan was eyeing, but said it has a capacity of 6,000 members. In conversations with an undercover agent, he said, “If I can’t do jihad in the Middle East, I would do my jihad over here.” He also had armed himself with a knife and told the undercover agent, “It is my dream to behead someone.”

Bangladesh: Catholic nuns were attacked on two separate occasions. In the early morning hours of February 7, around 15 masked, armed men broke into the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and its adjacent Catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent, in Chuadanga. They vandalized the convent’s chapel, desecrated the Eucharist, slapped a nun around, and looted over $8,000 as well as other valuables. A few days later in Tumilia, 12 men broke into St. Mary’s Catholic Mother Care Center, a hospital clinic founded in 1933, and stole some items. “They broke down the door of my room,” said Sister Mary, “and were armed. They threatened me and asked where I held the money. I had no other choice, I gave them all the cash we had.” According to Theophil Nokrek, secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, the two recent attacks “are not isolated incidents. Some groups are trying to harm our Christian community. They are doing so with premeditated actions. The government should protect us adequately.” He added that a few days earlier in the same district a Christian micro-credit bank was also robbed.

Kosovo: Four ethnic Albanians were arrested near the Serbian Orthodox monastery, Visoki Decani, a UNESCO world heritage site. Two of the suspects wore beards and were dressed in Salafi garb. A Kalashnikov rifle with ammunition and a pistol, as well as jihadi books, were found in their car. One of the suspects was later found to have an ISIS flag in his house. Even so, Kosovo police said the four men had no intention to attack the monastery and had no links to terrorism; Albanian media accused the monastery of exaggerating the threat. One month earlier, Muslims had urinated in an Orthodox Christian church in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo.  And in October 2014, ISIS graffiti was sprayed on buildings belonging to the same monastery.

Turkey: On February 18, authorities ordered four Christian congregations to vacate the church building they shared. The Christians were given until February 26 to comply—eight days. Built in the 1880s, the building, which accommodated as many as 200 people, had, since 2004, been shared by four different Christian denominations for their Sunday worship. Due to protests against the decision, on February 23 authorities withdrew the order. Discussing this incident, Turkish academic Aykan Erdemir said, “Christians do not have any legal entitlement to the building. They only have usage rights for the time being, which I think is a very precarious situation …. Members of non-majority religions have to depend on the goodwill of bureaucrats and the majority population.”

Muslim Violence Against and Slaughter of Christians

United States: Police shot and killed a Muslim man of Somali background after he attacked several people with a machete at Nazareth Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. The restaurant is owned by a pro-Israel Arab Christian. Thirty-year-old Mohamed Barry walked into the restaurant, had a conversation with an employee, and then left. He returned 30 minutes later, went up to a man and a woman who were sitting at a booth just inside the door, and started slashing. Four people were injured. Law enforcement said the man had traveled to the Middle East in 2012 and that the incident appears to be the type of “lone wolf terrorist attacks they’re trying to stop.” Even so, Columbus police Sgt. Rich Weiner said, “right now there’s nothing that leads us to believe that this is anything but a random attack.”  Recalling the incident, a waitress said, “He looked straight at me, but he went over to the booths and just started going down the booths. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.”  Karen Bass, another eyewitness, said, “He came to each table and just started hitting them. There were tables and chairs overturned there was a man on the floor bleeding there was blood on the floor. I fell like five times. My legs felt like jelly. I just thought he was going to come behind me and slash me up.” After the attacks, Barry fled in his car but was chased by police and cornered. With a knife in one hand and a machete in the other, Barry got out of his car and lunged across the hood at the officers before he was shot dead.

Kenya: In a pre-dawn raid on a predominantly Christian area, the Somalia-based Islamic jihadi group, Al Shabaab, killed at least four Christians, one of whom was beheaded. According to a Christian who was shot in his hand but survived, there were five or six heavily-armed assailants speaking Somali and dressed in military uniforms. They shot two Christians dead, hacked and beheaded another, and killed yet another by setting his house on fire. “I could not understand them, so they shot me in my hand, but I managed to escape while a neighbor who was with me was beheaded by the other attackers…. As I fled for my life, bleeding, I could see two houses burning. Those who were attacked are Christians. I am very sure that the attackers were looking for Christians… This is the third time the area has been attacked, and we have lost several Christians.”

Egypt: Another young Coptic Christian conscript allegedly committed suicide in his unit in Menufia. According to Maj. Gen. Muhammad Mas’ud, the 20-year-old, known only as Michael, “shot a bullet from his firearm into his chest, dying instantly.” He supposedly killed himself “after receiving a phone call from his home,” said Mas’ud. Lawyer Hani Ramses remarked that “It’s new for us constantly to hear about Coptic recruits killing themselves in the military and police stations. It’s especially strange that it’s happening now, and not previously, when Egypt was often in a state of war and under constant threat… The killing of Coptic conscripts in the military has become a [new] phenomenon.” (Read here for several more accounts of Coptic Christians being killed in their military units under “mysterious circumstances,” such as supposed suicide.) The lawyer also wondered if these deaths indicate that “extremist groups” have infiltrated the Egyptian military.

Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom: No to Apostasy and Blasphemy

Italy: A report said that more than one thousand Muslim converts to Christianity currently living in Italy are hiding their conversions for fear of violent retaliation from the Muslim community.  One of them, a 55-year-old Egyptian chemical engineer who now works as a waiter, said he had been a fervent Muslim who was converted to Christianity and baptized in Italy after the death of his mother three years ago. The man, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid retribution from Muslims, stated that the decisive element in his conversion came from seeing Christians with “a humanity more complete than mine.” He openly expressed his frustration about having to hide his newfound faith: “I cannot openly practice my Christian faith. I am afraid that some fanatical Muslim may do harm not only to me, but especially to relatives who remained in Egypt…. How is it that Italians who convert to Islam can go on TV and talk about it, and instead I have to hide to avoid retaliation?”

Uganda: A Muslim imam known as “the malaria of Christianity” was arrested in connection with the killing of a 28-year-old Muslim convert to Christianity. Laurence Maiso’s body was found on January 27 at his own house, his head in a pool of blood. Four days earlier, Imam Kamulali Hussein had met his wife and him on a local road. According to Maiso’s wife, the imam told him, “You have refused to join us. Do you know that Allah does not want us to have a kafir [infidel] neighbor? And you should know that Allah is about to send to you the Angel of Death in your house. Please prepare to meet him at any time.” Four days after this warning, Maiso’s wife went out of the home and returned to find her husband dead on the floor. A neighbor said that on the day of the murder she saw eight men—including Imam Hussein—coming out of Maiso’s house. On several earlier occasions other Muslims had confronted Maiso and demanded that he recant his Christian faith. The killing is the latest in a series of attacks on Christians. On December 23, 2015, a pastor was hacked to death as he and other church members resisted an effort by Muslims to take over their land. Less than a week before that, five underground Christians, including a pregnant mother, in a predominantly Muslim village, died from a pesticide put into their food after a Bible study.

Pakistan: A disabled Christian man sentenced to death for blasphemy said that he was forced into admitting to the charges in order to stop his wife from being tortured: “There is no man who can stand to see his wife being tortured by police, so to save my wife, I confessed,” Shafqat Emmanuel said in his appeal. Emmanuel and his wife were found guilty of insulting the Muslim prophet Muhammad in text messages to a local imam in 2013, and sentenced to death. The conviction came despite the fact that the poor Christian couple is illiterate, witnesses are offering contradicting testimonies against them, and evidence that the blasphemous text messages could not have been sent by from the phone of the Christians.

Kenya: A Christian of Somali descent was last reported unable to see or eat after Muslim relatives beat him unconscious on his way to church service, Sunday, February 7, outside Nairobi. Relatives told 26-year-old Hassan that they ambushed him because they had learned that he and others were holding mid-week Christian devotional times in their home. “They hit me with a blunt object, and I fell down bleeding. Then they stepped on my stomach, and while I was struggling, another hit me on my head [with the blunt object]. I was not able to know what happened after that point. I just woke up to find my mother screaming for help.”  One of the assailants had told Hassan, “You have been deceiving us that you have been having a ‘family meeting’—we have found out that you have been conducting Christian activities, which is against our family tradition of being a Muslim family.” Hassan declined to name the relatives, saying he feared they would kill him. Somalis generally believe all Somalis are Muslims by birth and that consequently any Somali who becomes a Christian can be charged with apostasy, but Hassan was raised Christian from childhood…. Keep reading, there is much more

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