September’s Muslim persecution of Christians.
The following are some of the abuses that Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of September, 2019, thematically categorized:
The Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: On September 22, the jihadi group, Boko Haram, released a video depicting the execution of two Christian aid workers. Lawrence Duna Dacighir and Godfrey Ali Shikagham, both members of the Church of Christ in Nations, appeared on their knees, with three armed men behind them, who proceeded to shoot them. Both Christians had gone to Maiduguri—near where they were captured—to help build shelters for people displaced by Islamic extremist violence. In the same video and “speaking in the Hausa language, the middle one of the three terrorists says … that they have vowed to kill every Christian they capture…” Responding to the executions, Pastor Pofi, a cousin of the two executed Christians, said, “Lawrence and Godfrey left Abuja for Maiduguri in search of opportunities to utilize their skills for the betterment of humanity and paid with their lives. We will never get their corpses to bury. The community will have to make do with a makeshift memorial to these young lives cut short so horrifically.”
Separately, a Christian pastor and the wife of another pastor were killed in two separate raids by Muslim Fulani herdsmen. “After they had killed her [Esther Ishaku Katung], they were still demanding the ransom without telling her family that they had killed her,” a local Christian said. “It was only after the ransom was paid that it was found by her family that she had been killed by her abductors.” Her mutilated body was found dumped in the bushes.
Pakistan: Police in Lahore tortured Amir Masih, a 28-year-old Christian man, to death. After the employer that Amir worked for as a gardener reported an incident of theft, police contacted and told Amir and the other employees to come in for questioning. “My brother went to the police station of his own will,” Sunny Masih, Amir’s sibling, explained. “When he reached there [n August 28] the cops seized his phone, bundled him into a vehicle and spirited him to some unknown place.” Four days later, police contacted his distraught family to say Amir was ill and that they should take him to a hospital. “We rushed to the police station, where we were handed a semi-conscious Amir,” his brother continues: “He was beaten up mercilessly, and his body was full of bruises.” While en route to the hospital, Amir told Sunny that six officials, two inspectors and four constables, had tortured him for four days. “He told us that the police officials had urinated on him while cursing him for being a Christian and tried to force him to confess to the crime.” Sunny also noted that all other employees who were questioned regarding the theft were released “without a scratch,” and that his brother “was subjected to severe torture because he was a poor Christian whom police believed could be coerced into a false confession…. But my brother was innocent, and he refused to admit to something that he had not done, which further infuriated his interrogators. They increased the intensity of the violence, also subjecting him to electric shocks.” Two hours after arriving in the hospital Amir succumbed to his injuries and died. A post-mortem report indicated broken ribs and visible torture marks on the hands, arms, back, and feet. The murdered Christian is survived by a wife and two sons, aged 7 and 2-weeks-old.
In a separate incident, also in Pakistan, three Muslim men—Muhammad Naveed, Muhammad Amjad, and Abdul Majeed—participated in the slaughter of two Christian brothers, Javaid and Suleman Masih. According to Javaid’s widow, “For over a year, we have been experiencing and smelling hatred against us by our Muslim neighbors. Often their women discussed and passed insulting remarks against Christians. However, keeping our safety in view, we always kept quite [sic] and never replied…. The Muslim neighbors did not like our van, which carries a holy cross inside, to be parked next to their door. They often criticized it.” Javaid’s 17-year-old son continues: “Naveed, one of the Muslim family members, was trying to put some scratches on the wind-screen of my uncle’s van on the incident day. When I tried to stop him, he reacted in anger stating ‘whenever I step out of my house, I see this hanging stuff (holy cross) in the van – which I don’t want to see.’ He pointed out the cross in an insulting way. ‘Therefore, you must remove it,’ he ordered.” Soon thereafter, both brothers “left their house to visit a relative in the neighborhood,” Javaid’s widow resumes; “they were suddenly attacked in front of their house by the two Muslims with knives. Each received 5 – 8 attacks, which resulted into their deaths. The father of the two Muslims was provoking his sons and chanting loudly, ‘don’t spare, kill all of these Chooras!’” (Chooras is a derogatory word used for Christians in Pakistan.) Javaid is survived by his wife and four children (aged 10 to 17). Suleman was recently married; he and his wife were expecting their first child weeks after his murder.
Violence against and Abuse of Christians
Philippines: In the early hours of September 6, an explosion occurred in the marketplace of a predominantly Christian area; several people were injured. The Islamic State claimed responsibility. According to one report,
The group issued a statement late on Saturday saying the motorcycle bombing had wounded seven Filipino Christians at a public market. It was the fourth blast in the area in 13 months, according to the Philippine military, which said a militant group operating in the mostly Christian city of Isulan in the province of Sultan Kudarat was among the suspects…. [T]hree incidents in the past year authorities said were suicide bombings by militants linked to the Islamic State.
Burkina Faso: “Christians … are currently being exterminated or expelled from their villages by Muslim extremists,” notes a September 18 report. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a local source said that the militants sometimes give Christians a chance to convert to Islam; he referred to it as “part of a program by the jihadists who are deliberately sowing terror, assassinating members of the Christian communities and forcing the remaining Christians to flee after warning them that they will return in three days’ time—and that they do not wish to find any Christians or catechumens still there.” He elaborated on the recent experiences of the village of Hitté: “At the beginning of September, 16 men arrived in the village, intercepting the villagers who were returning from the fields. Some of the men forced the people to enter the church where they threatened the Christians and ordered them to leave their homes in the next three days, while others set fire to whatever they found in their path. Now Hitté no longer has any Christians and any catechumens.” He also made an observation that has been made of militants in Nigeria: “Weapons like these [those used by the Muslim invaders] are not made in Burkina Faso. We know that the arms are supplied by international organizations. We are calling for the removal of these weapons, so that peace can return to Burkina Faso…. The situation is critical.”
Egypt: Unknown persons hurled bricks at Marina Sami Rageb, a Christian woman, as she exited her church. The 21-year-old medical student’s skull was fractured and she suffered hemorrhage from the assault. Little else is known about the incident or assailant(s). According to the report, “This type of incident, unfortunately, is common place in Egypt. Christian women are not religiously compelled to cover their hair, but are constantly pressured to do so by their Muslim peers. Uncovered women are frequently targeted for harassment, and even attacks. This underlying threat greatly impacts their ability to walk freely in Egypt and to choose their clothing preference.” One woman comments that “In Egypt, there are a lot of security threats in the streets. But I always avoid walking in the radical Muslim districts or areas, just preferring the main streets.” “I always wear long clothes,” explained another Christian woman. “In the streets, I always avoided dealing with the extremists or the radical Muslims.”
Pakistan: On September 16, Muhammad Ramiz and four other Muslim men, kidnapped a 14-year-old Christian girl, Samra Bibi, from her home while her family was away, “in what is but the latest in a long series of kidnappings and forced conversions of underaged minority girls, often obtained under threat and after sexual violence,” the report adds. Samra was subsequently forced into Islam and forced to marry her abductor. Her family rushed to the local police station on learning what happened. Police refused to open a case and instead mocked and insulted the distraught family. After two days of continued pleadings from the family and local Christian leaders, police arrested Muhammad—only to release him an hour later, in part due to pressure from Islamic clerics. According to Samra’s father, “Muhammad Ramiz had long set his sights on Christian girls and teased them. When they told him to stop, he used abusive language against them. When we were not at home, he abducted our underage girl. About ten days have passed and no one has been arrested.” Discussing this and other like incidents, a human rights activist said, “According to the law, no minor girl can be converted to any other religion but here no one has courage to challenge the radicals who are committing such crimes.” “Sometimes courts seem to be more supportive of perpetrators,” another family representative said. “For example, in Samra’s case, the girl is 14, a juvenile who cannot be married; yet police deliberately wrote in their report that she is between 15 and 16 years. We will also challenge this aspect during the trial.”
Attacks on and Hostility for Muslim Converts to Christianity
United Kingdom: Around mid-September, police announced that they would be taking no action against a Muslim man who had earlier threatened to sodomize any Muslim who dares convert to Christianity. Zaheer Hussain, 41, made a video, which subsequently went viral, while chatting with a laughing companion. Speaking to the camera, Hussain said:
Bro, listen… any motherf**er wants to convert to f**king Christianity, we’re both gonna f**k you up the a**, you under-f**king-stand? … We’re gonna f**ck you up the a** [moves his pelvis in a sexual act]…. Why you f**king converting for, you motherf**kers? Huh? Why you f**cking — why would you want to become Christian? You f**king baptizing sh*t motherf**kers. Ah [mocking sound] “in the Lord of Jesus”…
The above was spoken in English, of a sort, though extended portions of his tirade were in a foreign (likely Pakistani) language. “It frightens me now to identify myself as a Christian to someone that I don’t know,” said the Christian woman from Preston who reported Hussain to police; “[it’s] sad that I have to hide my religion… His threats to sexually assault those who convert to Christianity is the heart of hate speech…. I’m genuinely concerned for the welfare of the public who may not be aware of his extreme views.” Regardless, and despite the UK’s anti-hate-speech laws, police took no action, even though, as one report notes:
Hussain’s generous treatment by the authorities contrasts sharply with that meted out to Scottish comedian Markus Meechan … who was arrested, charged, and convicted in a trial without a jury for causing gross offence with a viral video in which he trained his girlfriend’s pug dog to imitate the “least cute thing that I could think of, which is a Nazi.”
Uganda: After the Muslim-in-laws of a widowed mother learned that she had converted to Christianity, they attacked her and her children, and drove them away from their home. 54-year-old Lezia Nakayiza’s problems began when her 8-year-old “told one of the relatives of the wonderful choir at church, and that we have been attending the church since March. This was the beginning of our persecution,” she said. It was not long before a “Christian neighbor informed me that the family was planning to attack us.” Soon thereafter, and “by the light from moonlight, I peeped through the window and saw many people approaching our house with sticks and other weapons with loud noise from the animals’ shed.” She heard them shouting, “Away with this infidel!” Nakayiza and her children managed to escape from the backdoor. Afterwards, “We walked on foot for two hours and arrived at the church compound around 11 p.m., and we were received by the pastor.” On the following day, the pastor learned of the “huge destruction” her deceased husband’s brothers visited on her home, including “five cows and six sheep killed, iron sheets pulled down, windows and doors destroyed…. The family has to be relocated to another place,” the pastor added. “Life for them is so hard. The children are out of school. They are very fearful of their lives. Even the church is at risk from the relatives who are radical Muslims. Our church is still too small to support the family.” Last reported, Nakayiza was offering to wash people’s clothes and/or work their land to earn enough for the basic necessities of her children, four of which are aged 15, 13, 11, and 8. “What we are going through at the moment is almost unbearable,” she said.
Iran: The Islamic republic denied two sons (17 and 15) of an imprisoned Christian pastor their high school diplomas, until such time that they complete Islamic education first. Their father, Yousef Nadarkhani, made headlines in 2009, when he was first arrested for protesting Iran’s educational requirement that all students study the Koran. The government responded by arresting him, a convert to Christianity, and charging him with the death penalty for apostasy. Due to international pressure, he was released in 2012—only to be arrested again in 2016. He is currently serving a 10 year sentence.
Contempt for Churches and Crosses
Turkey: “A local municipality in Trabzon (northern Turkey) has ruled that architectural elements of houses which resemble crosses will not be tolerated,” says a report:
This decision follows an investigation which opened last December following complaints that the balconies of certain villas in the village resembled crosses. Photos show that houses had two levels and a cross shape divided the houses into four quadrants. Multiple complaints from primarily local Arab families led the houses to be destroyed on the basis of their architecture incorporating the cross…. [T]he situation is not unusual. In other locations, such as Gaziantep and Ankara, buildings have been renovated so that the cross shaped architecture is no longer visible.
Separately, on September 18, a hooded man approached and threatened the Church of St. Paul in Antalya, Turkey. The incident occurred as representatives from three churches were meeting together, in part to prepare for celebrations of the 20th anniversary of their cultural center’s founding. According to the report,
The man became verbally abusive, and made threats of physical attacks. The identity of the man is unknown, and he was careful to keep his face hidden from security cameras. … The man was shouting that he would take great pleasure in destroying the Christians, as he viewed them as a type of parasitism on Turkey. Police are investigating the incident. Hate speech is one of the primary challenges facing Turkish Christians, who are often viewed as traitors to their country since they have left Islam. While violent persecution attacks are rare, the increase of hate speech throughout Turkey does cause alarm of what it may foreshadow in the future.
A separate study published in Armenian in September found that there were a total of 6,517 incidents of hate speech in Turkish media in 2018. The two peoples most targeted were Jews and Armenians, followed by Syrians, Greeks, and other Christian groups.
Iran: The government removed tax exemption status from all non-Muslim institutions. According to one report,
The Tehran City Council will no longer consider churches and synagogues as eligible for tax exemption… Before this decision, these non-Islamic institutions were eligible for tax exemption so long as they were purely religious in nature. The city’s decision has been heavily criticized by Assyrian [Christian] parliamentarians… Iran’s constitution recognizes the freedom of religious practice only for those who can prove that their families belonged to certain non-Muslim faiths prior to the 1979 revolution. These [sic] means that, technically, Assyrian and Armenian Christians should have some (albeit limited) freedom of religious expression. The reality, however, is that Iran does not follow its own laws. All Christian groups, as well as other religious minorities, face heavy persecution from the authorities.
Algeria: Authorities shut down two more church buildings. On September 24, eight police officers arrived at the Church of Boghni, and sealed off the Protestant church’s doors and windows. “I was surprised when one of the police officers contacted me to meet them at the site where our church is,” Pastor Chergui explained. “I had not received any notice; they went straight to proceed with the closure by sealing. They could have warned us before; why didn’t they?” The building had served two separate churches—Pastor Chergui’s congregation of 190 members, and another Protestant church of nearly 200 members from a neighboring village. Police left a note explaining that they closed down the building because it was being “illegally used … to celebrate non-Muslim worship.” A separate report discussing this same closure elaborates on the law being cited:
Since November 2017, the government has been engaged in a systematic campaign against Christians. EPA-affiliated churches [the Protestant Church of Algeria] have been challenged to prove that they have licenses according to the requirement of a 2006 ordinance regulating non-Muslim worship. These regulations stipulate that all places of non-Muslim worship must be licenced. However, the government has yet to issue any licence for a church buildings under this ordinance, ignoring applications from churches to regularise their status in accordance with the ordinance.
This closure raises the number of sealed church buildings affiliated with the EPA, to eight. Another four church groups have been ordered to cease all activities. In at least two cases, authorities have pressured the landlords renting to churches to deny Christians access to the premises.
Separately, on September 26—just two days after the closure of the Church of Boghni—authorities sealed off another church which had served 70, mostly elderly, people; it also functioned as a Bible school. “They told us that they are giving us time to clear useful objects out before they come back to seal it,” church leader Ali Zerdoud said the day before. “I can only say one thing: This is an injustice.”
General Discrimination against Christians
Egypt: Coptic Solidarity, a human rights group, took several initiatives in September—particularly by contacting the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, better known as “FIFA”—to draw attention to the fact that Christian soccer players in Egypt are regularly discriminated against. Although Christians are about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, not a single player on the national and reserves teams is a Christian, Coptic Solidarity noted in a September 17 letter sent to the Normalization Committee of the Egyptian Football Association, a portion of which follows:
CS has received dozens of reports of discrimination from Coptic footballers in Egypt, indicating systematic discrimination against them based solely on faith, which prevents them from reaching the highest levels of competition. In response, CS published a report titled Discrimination Against Copts in Egyptian Sport Clubs, which we also submitted to FIFA by email and via the online complaints mechanism.
The report contains an overview of the widespread discrimination against Copts in football including ample sources and testimonies by moderate Muslims corroborating reality of the ongoing discrimination. It also includes a sampling of 25 of the cases reported to Coptic Solidarity by Coptic footballers.
The Egyptian Olympic Mission to Brazil in 2016 was completely devoid of Copts, and the same applies to the Egyptian national team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Not a single Copt can be found on either the main team or the reserve. There are currently 540 players in the top-flight soccer clubs in Egypt, and that number includes only one Coptic footballer.
Canada: The government’s immigration department sought to deport a refugee family—a mother and three children—that had fled their native country of Nigeria after they were attacked and threatened with death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity. “They ran because her mother wrote her [daughter] a letter saying that she is very disappointed that she is a Christian, but she must run because her father wants to kill [her] to become higher in the organization,” a family spokesperson said. “They face a ‘fatwa’ (a pronouncement of death) against them for converting to Christianity from Islam. They believe they face certain death if they are returned to Nigeria. They are quite fearful.” According to the report, “Ironically, both Hephzibah and Rejoice [two of the children, 14 and 10 respectively] were featured in a CBC News photograph with Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau, with an accompanying caption saying they were his supporters. In reality, they and a spokesperson for the family had delivered a plea to Trudeau in person when he appeared in Niagara-on-the-Lake last month.”
Supporters of the family said the government was not taking the time to establish the family’s humanitarian status or perform a proper risk assessment. “They’re trying to boot [them] out of the country before then.” The family’s current status is unclear.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.