In one of the most brazen attacks on Egypt’s Christians, a Muslim man slaughtered a Christian bishop in broad daylight. Security camera footage captured a man with a large butcher knife chasing and stabbing Bishop Samaan Shehata—in the head, neck, and torso—in the streets of Cairo on October 12. According to eyewitnesses “the assailant had seen Shehata in his car, forcibly stopped him, ordered him out and then started to stab him in the neck and torso. Shehata fled, and the attacker followed him into the warehouse and finished his attack there with several blows to the head.” Then, while standing over his victim, “the assailant used the bishop’s blood to form a cross on his forehead.” It took 90 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, and “the bishop was alive for half an hour after being struck and could have been saved if the ambulance had arrived timely.”
Some people acquainted with the murderer said that Ahmed Saeed Ibrahim had recently “begun praying in the street, shouting loudly and calling Christians infidels.” As for a motive, one report said, “he had decided to kill any Coptic priest, purchased a dagger, and lay in wait for one to pass by, in a street leading to the local church.” His father “is more of a terrorist than his son,” added one woman; he “used to stop children on their way back from church and say, ‘You are multiplying, may Allah destroy your houses and burn you all. You have filled our neighborhood with filth.'”
As in similar cases, Egyptian authorities labeled Ahmed “crazy,” prompting one Copt to ask:
“Why is it that anyone who kills Christians is crazy? The person who killed two Christians in a train was crazy. We got used to this, and are expecting [the murderer] will soon be released too. We don’t want to be unfair to anyone, but Ahmed Saeed is not crazy, he’s a religious extremist.”
A woman waiting for visits from the police said:
“We saw a sheikh online saying those who kill Christians should be prosecuted and not sentenced to death, even before the priest’s blood had cooled, because those who kill Christians are better than us. But, if a Christian does something, he is executed, his house burned and his family displaced… What did the dead priest do wrong? Christians have always had no rights…We saw a sheikh online saying those who kill Christians should be prosecuted and not sentenced to death, even before the priest’s blood had cooled, because those who kill Christians are better than us. But, if a Christian does something, he is executed, his house burned and his family displaced.”
The rest of October’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Pakistan: On October 9, seven Muslim police officers stormed a school and beat to death a 14-year-old Christian boy who had refused a forced conversion. According to the boy’s father, “they all started beating Arsalan with fists, kicks and rifle butts.” After murdering him, “the police team threw Arsalan’s body on the roadside and fled.” Four months earlier, Arsalan had apparently fought a Muslim classmate who was pressuring him to renounce Christianity and accept Islam. “I did not know about the fight until recently,” the father explained. “Arsalan had reportedly beaten up a boy whose uncle, Sardar alias Billu, is a constable in the Sheikhupura District police. Billu nurtured a grudge against Arsalan, and that’s why he brought his police friends with him to teach the poor boy a lesson.” (Another teenage Christian student had been beaten to death by Muslim students angered that an “unclean” infidel had drunk from the same water source used by Muslim pupils a few weeks earlier, in September.)
In a separate incident, a Muslim man murdered his sister because she had married a Christian. Mubeen Rajhu, 24, from Lahore, confessed to shooting Tasleem,18. He said the murder came largely in response to ongoing taunts from co-workers that his sister was involved with an infidel. One of his colleagues said, “He used to tell us, ‘If you don’t stop, I will kill myself. Stop!’ The guys here told him, ‘It would be better to kill your sister.'” At one point, Rajhu demanded that his sister swear on the Koran never to marry an infidel: “I told her I would have no face to show at the mill, to show to my neighbors, so don’t do it. Don’t do it. But she wouldn’t listen. I could not let it go. It was all I could think about. I had to kill her. There was no choice. There was no yelling, no shouting. I just shot her dead.” Their father blames his daughter: “My family is destroyed. Everything is destroyed only because of this shameful girl. Even after death I am destroyed because of her.”
Syria: Islamic State militants are believed to have executed two Russian mercenary fighters— Roman Zabolotny, 39, and Grigory Tsurkanu, 38—for refusing to renounce Christianity and embrace Islam. Commenting on their appearance on an ISIS propaganda video, Senior Russian MP Viktor Vodolatsky said:
“It is very sad but 99 per cent Roman Zabolotny is not alive, nor is the second prisoner. Before filming that video they were given a statement which they had to read. In this text they would reject their Orthodox religion, reject their motherland, become Muslim and join ISIS. They stayed loyal to the Orthodox faith and their Motherland until the very end, and this is what they were killed by those gangsters for.”
Separately, in what eyewitnesses described as a “shocking massacre,” the Islamic State spent 20 days systematically slaughtering people in the Christian village of al-Qaryatain. According to one report:
“The militant group killed at least 116 civilians [later sources say 128 people] in executions committed in the days before the Syrian regime recaptured the town… ISIS regained control of the town three weeks ago, and then the killings began. Syrian regime forces, backed by Russian air power, arrived and liberated the town on October 21 after dozens of ISIS fighters retreated, at which point the remains of the victims of the mass execution were found. After the regime retook it, the town’s residents found the bodies on the streets. They had been shot dead or executed with knives.”
Iraq: The Muslim family of a Baghdad man who had turned Christian slaughtered him. According to the report, “after Muhammed shared the gospel with his mother, she talked with his father and his father became angry. He gave his son two days to repent or be killed.” When Muhammad refused, “his cousins just killed him.”
In another example of the actions of the Islamic State, a separate report explained how “Three years ago, there were 73 nuns with the Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine,” but “[s]ince the Islamic State captured the Plain of Nineveh in 2014, one-third of them have died,” about 24. One of the survivors, Sister Silvia, said:
“We pray for them [Islamic terrorists] every day as sisters. We pray for them, for those bringing peace, for our soldiers, for those who help people have a better life. This prayer helps us forgive—not to forget, because you can’t forget, but to not hate the other person. If we hate others, that means that we’re doing what the devil wants, not what Jesus wants.
“The sisters—whose community has lived in the Nineveh Plains and Kurdistan regions of Iraq for 120 years—were forced to flee in August 2015. During ISIS’ occupation of the Nineveh Plain, some 100 places of worship were destroyed, mostly Christian churches.”
Nigeria: A report shed light on the nature and frequency of Muslim Fulani raids on Christian villages. In 13 separate invasions, the Islamic herdsmen slaughtered 48 people—including women and children—and destroyed 249 homes. “All Christians in villages around here have been displaced, and worship buildings have been abandoned. Some of the church buildings were destroyed by the attackers, said the resident of one of these villages. “These attacks are being carried out daily,” said the resident of another village. “Every blessed day we witness the invasion, killing of our people, and the destruction of their houses.”
In a different attack, “A Christian woman and her two children were killed … three days after a kidnapped priest was slain by his abductors in the southwestern part of the country.” “We have been under attack constantly from these Fulani herdsmen because we are Christians,” Gyang Dahoro, a Christian elder said. “Our villages have been ravaged, and our houses and churches destroyed, and in most cases these herdsmen have taken over the villages where Christians have been displaced.”
On another day, a masked gunman stormed the mission house of the Christ Apostolic Church in search of Rev. Oluwarotimi Akinroyeje. Upon finding him, the assassin opened fire, and, according to a witness, did not flee until making sure that the pastor was dead. The murderer did not steal anything; it appears he was only targeting Akinroyeje. Although the killer’s motivation is unknown, several Christian leaders have been similarly targeted in Nigeria and elsewhere on the pretense that they are successfully converting Muslims to Christianity.
A separate report in October quotes a Nigerian Christian wondering:
“Why do they [Western people] think Islam is a religion of peace? These people have been killing us for decades and your media just ignores it. Now they are killing you and still your President Obama [had] called it a peaceful religion. We see Western leaders saying that over and over again. Why?”
The Egyptian Jihad on Christian Churches
On Sunday, October 15, a group of Islamic militants in the Sinai region attacked St. George, a Coptic Christian church, as part of a staged operation to distract security forces while another group of militants successfully robbed a nearby bank. The attack, which involved lobbing grenades and exchanges of gunfire, left three civilians—including a young child—three bank guards, and one soldier dead, and 15 people, mostly women and children, wounded. The church, which had sustained extensive damage from earlier terror attacks—after its priest was killed last year, its congregation fled—was not occupied at the time.
In four separate incidents, Muslim authorities responded to Muslim mob uprisings against four individual churches in Minya—in one, Christians were pelted with rocks during service—by closing the Christian buildings of worship on the charge that they incited unrest and violence. As a result, in the heavily Christian regions of Minya province, thousands of Christians were left with no place to worship.
In one of these uprisings, on Sunday, October, 22, a mob of about 60 Muslim men were seen storming out of a mosque and marching to the nearby church of St. Moses, all while screaming: “no matter what, we’ll bring the church down,” and “Islamic! Islamic!” meaning the village must be entirely Islamic, with no place for infidels. According to the report, “The attackers attempted to break into the building, the first floor of which houses a pre-school nursery [that serves 38 toddlers and children aged 2 to 4] and reception hall. When they could not get through they set the main iron gate on fire and broke the CCTV camera on top of the gate.” They also hurled rocks at Christian homes and burned one Copt’s car. “As soon as the violence erupted, the police cordoned off the village and restored security, but caught no culprit.” Authorities proceeded to shut down the church, thereby leaving 1,000 Christian locals without a place of worship.
Another Christian eyewitness described a different mob attack in similar terms:
“Following the [Islamic] Friday prayer [on October 27], many Muslims gathered into a mob and began to attack us. They threw stones at our homes resulting in breaking the doors and windows of some houses, injuring a Coptic woman… they set three stables owned by Copts on fire. They then headed to the church (the building services) and tried to attack it but the security guards who were assigned confronted them and prevented them from approaching the church.”
Instead, and to appease the Islamic rioters, security services shuttered the church, thereby denying that village’s 1,800 Christian residents a place of worship.
“What did we Copts do to be attacked, our church closed, and Christians prevented from praying in it?” asked another Christian resident.
“We are very peaceful and we have not made any trouble with them. Is this because we are Christians? They do not want us to have a place to pray in. Their aim was to close our church. They consider us Kaffir [infidels] and they say no to places for Kaffir to pray in our village. While they were throwing the stones at our homes last Friday they were shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, we don’t want a church in our Islamic village.'”
In response to these Muslim mob uprisings against churches —followed by their closure — the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of Minya issued a statement on October 29:
“We stayed silent for two weeks after the closure of a church hoping that the officials would do the job they were assigned to do by the state. However, this silence has led to something worse, as if prayer is a crime the Copts should be punished for… churches are closed, the Coptic Christians are being attacked and their property destroyed, and there is no deterrent.”
He went on in his statement to call the response of the Egyptian authorities “disappointing”: closing churches punishes the victims while validating the will of violent mobs.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Pakistan: Islamic terrorists hurled grenades on the Gospel Faith Church before fleeing the scene. Although there was significant damage to the property—including a church wall, the surrounding gate, and a parked car — congregants had already left church so no one was harmed.
Mali: Christians, who make up just 2% of the Muslim-majority nation’s population and churches, “have come under systematic attacks by extremist Muslims” with a “lack of a government response to the crisis,” a report states. In one attack, “armed men stormed the local church, taking the crucifix, altar furnishings, and the statue of the Virgin Mary. They burned the church material right at the church door.” In another incident, “Christians were chased away from their church with the threat that if they kept worshiping, they would be killed. Over the next few weeks, several churches were burned in Mali’s central Mopti region, forcing parishioners to flee.” “On previous occasions,” said a local Catholic leader, “the government has deployed military units in our parishes. But this still hasn’t been done against these new attacks.”
Algeria: Claiming that a 2006 law which regulates non-Muslim worship is being breached, Muslim authorities cracked down on at least two churches, including one that was using a house leased on behalf of the Protestant Church of Algeria (an accredited institution formally recognized by the government since 1974). The report that reveled this condition goes on to argue that churches are facing “intimidation and harassment because of the 2006 law,” even though they are operating in full accordance with the law, as can be seen by their affiliation with a formally acknowledged institution. “It is an unjust law against Christians, who are denied their right to worship and the opportunity to share the Gospel freely,” a local Protestant leader said. He added that “the situation of Christians in Algeria will not improve until the outright law, which is no longer justified, is repealed.”
Sudan: On Sunday, October 22, police officers marched into a church in Omdurman and ordered its leadership to cancel the worship service. When they refused, all five were arrested and taken to jail. There, they were threatened that unless they complied, they would be kept in prison indefinitely. Twelve hours later, they were released.
Nigeria: Unknown persons plundered the Kings Tabernacle International Church before setting it on fire. According to the report, “Burnt roof, drum set, PVC, electric wires, wall clock, light fittings ashes of completely burnt pulpit and alter rug littered the scene of the incident with smoke still billowing out from the burnt items. Sympathizers and members of the church gathered watching helplessly as the fire had already burnt down a part of the church completely.” Although the attack was registered as a criminal act of theft, Nigeria, which is roughly half Muslim, has witnessed the bombing and burning of hundreds of churches in recent years.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
Iran: Authorities continued attacking converts to Christianity, including by arresting four Christians and raiding their homes. Their Bibles and other Christian paraphernalia were also confiscated. Mohabat News says it had “obtained confirmed reports of them being beaten in prison and threatened that if they don’t renounce their faith in Christ and turn away from their Christian faith they will be forced to leave the country or be beaten to death.”
Uganda: A Muslim father beat his son and forced him to flee the family home after he learned that the 20-year-old had converted to Christianity. When the father, who had noticed that Magale Hamidu had long stopped going to mosque and had been seen in Christian company, he pressed his son to confess. When his son remained silent, “his father began beating him with a stick,”; before long “other family members picked up sticks and joined in. Hamidu’s screams … alerted neighbors who managed to pull the bleeding young man away” and rushed him to a hospital. After the attack, a neighbor said the unrepentant father told him, “I will rest only after getting rid of Hamidu—he has become a big embarrassment to my family.” Pastor Kisense, who took the outcast son in, said he was reluctant to press charges, as “it would trigger Islamist attacks on him or his church…” The pastor has already been receiving threatening messages from area Muslims, including: “We are aware that several of our Muslim members are being accommodated by your church, and if you continue housing them, then be informed that your church and life has been marked, and expect something serious to happen soon.”
Indonesia: An open-air Christian prayer service was canceled due to pressure—and threats—from Muslim groups claiming that the public event was a “plot to convert Muslims to Christianity.” “For the sake of interreligious harmony,” the Reformed Evangelical Church of Indonesia responded in a statement, “and to avoid acts of intolerance, the committee decided to call off the national prayer service to mark 500 years of Reformation.” A few months earlier, a Christmas service was also stopped by Muslim rioters.
Sudan: Approximately one million Christians have no access to Bibles in the Muslim majority nation. “They need Bibles, they need materials,” a senior church leader said. “It’s very difficult for them to get them now. The government is denying their right to know their own belief and study their own religion.” A separate report says that a shipment of Arabic language Bibles intercepted in a port has been held by authorities for at least two years:
“The detained shipments were destined for Sudan’s capital, Khartoum…. At present the Bible Society in Sudan does not have a single copy of an Arabic Bible available in Khartoum. Other shipments of Bibles at Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, have also been detained over the past two years.”
United Kingdom: Another Christian who fled to the West from the Islamic world in search of religious freedom was attacked and beaten senseless by Muslim men angered by the crucifix hanging from his car’s rearview mirror. Tajamal Amar awoke five hours later in a hospital with a broken nose and several lacerations to his head. According to the report,
“Mr Amar, remembers being stared at by a group of Muslim men who seemed to be taking offence at the cross in his vehicle… After this Mr Amar is not very clear on what happened but he seems to have been hit on top of the head and then suffered further violence as he lay on the floor unconscious.”
Later, Amar said:
Several times local Pakistani people in Derby have taken offence from the fact that I am Christian, when they first find out many stop talking to me. My wife and I have often been shunned. On the day of my attack the visible display of a cross in my car and two poppies just below the front bonnet, triggered the violence against me. I know this, because for a few days before the attack the same men glared at me after they notice[d] my Christian paraphernalia. I fled from Pakistan to escape violence such as this, but more and more the same violence is coming into Britain. Freedom of religion should be the right of any British citizen but today I feel unsafe, even then nothing will stop me going to church.
Pakistani Abuse of Christians
Three Muslim men kidnapped a 12-year-old Christian girl, gang-raped, and sadistically tortured her, burning her body with cigarettes. When her mother went the same day to the police, they refused to start a criminal investigation or even to file a complaint. While explaining that things are bad for Christian minorities in general, one human rights activist Shahid Anwar added:
“things are twice as bad [for females]. First, because she belongs to a religious minority. Secondly, because she is a woman. What is more, when minors go to police to file complaints, they are not treated the same way as other [Muslim] citizens, and their complaints are not taken seriously… In Pakistan, [Christian] girls are often taken, raped and converted by force. The competent authorities did not take any action.”
In another incident, Christian activists accused authorities “of failing to protect a 17-year-old Christian girl who for years has been sexually harassed and stalked by a Muslim man who threatened to throw acid on her,” according to a report. She “has been heckled since 2013 by a man 10 years her senior who is trying to get her to marry him.” He has apparently been “accosting her daily on her way to school…. [T]he chance of meeting with him filled her with fear and dread, so much so that often she would stay at home and cry her day away having lost all hope.” On such days, “the man would also sit outside her house and yell her name.” The girl eventually “stopped attending school and did not leave her home for an entire year, becoming seriously ill and depressed.” At one point, the Muslim man “even pulled a dagger and chased away a police officer who wanted to talk to him about the case.” In general, however, “police have failed to deal with the man despite his threats, including one instance in which he threatened to throw acid on Iqbal.” According to a human rights group:
“It’s sad to hear how this Christian girl has lost her ambitions and dreams of a brighter future, because fear of an impending and looming attack has left her so disheveled. Samina should have the freedom to live as she wants and this man should be punished. He has left her without an education and has destroyed a promising career.”
Finally, as part of a plan to continue avoiding paying rent—and possibly to expropriate their property— Muhammad Arshad, a Muslim tenant falsely accused the Christian family renting to him of kidnapping a newborn Muslim girl. The false accusation led to the arrest and “excruciating torture” of the family’s three sons at the hands of police. According to the report:
“It has been forty days that the three Christians have been detained. What is more, the police are also intimidating and abuse female members of the Christian family. The victims claim that Muhammad Arshad had fabricated a false case against them in order to avoid payment of rent due from past seven months.”
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.