Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. This report was first published by the Gatestone Institute.
The following are among the abuses inflicted on Christians by Muslims throughout the month of March, 2021:
Murder and Mayhem at Churches
Indonesia: On Sunday, Mar. 28, a newly wed Muslim couple launched a suicide attack on Sacred Heart Cathedral in Makassar, during Palm Sunday service. Thanks to security, who prevented the motorcycle-riding couple from entering the building, only the two suicide bombers died in the blast near the building’s entrance; about 20 churchgoers were also injured. The female suicide bomber was four months pregnant. Had the couple managed to enter the cathedral, the blast would likely have massacred dozens of Christian worshippers. The husband suicide bomber was a member of a jihadi cell that had bombed other churches before—including the 2019 Jolo church bombing in the Philippines that left 20 Christians dead and over a hundred injured. He left a suicide note saying he was “ready to die a martyr.” According to one report, “Indonesian supporters of Islamic State (Isis) are calling for more attacks” on Christians and churches following this attack.
Nigeria: On Mar. 30, armed “bandits,” likely Islamic terrorists, attacked St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Benue State; the priest and six others were killed in the raid. According to a statement from the local diocese:
After celebrating Mass and while he [the priest] prepared to leave … to renew his priestly vows alongside his brother priests, there was pandemonium among the internally displaced persons who took refuge in the parish premises. Fr Ferdinand went out to find out the cause of the confusion. He was shot in the head as he tried to take cover after sighting armed gunmen.
The murderers continued shooting at the fleeing Christians and killed six more.
Separately in Nigeria, around mid-March, Muslim riots erupted and Christians and their churches came under assault after Christian schools asserted their right not to enforce the hijab, the Islamic head covering, onto their students. According to a statement by President of Kwara Baptist Conference, Reverend Victor Dada,
Christians who were today at First Baptist Church Surulere, Ilorin on peaceful demonstration with drums and trumpets, came under serious attack by Muslim fundamentalists who mobilized themselves and louts in large numbers to attack us. More than 20 people (including four Pastors) were wounded with three hospitalized. The fundamentalist in the presence of security officials vehemently attempted to burn the church and when repelled, threatened to burn the church either during the day or at night. They doused the church gate with petrol and vandalized the auditorium. They also went ahead to vandalize The Apostolic Church, Eruda, Ilorin, a church without any grant-aided school.
Azerbaijan: According to a Mar. 29 report, over the course of just two weeks, at least three Armenian churches in the Nagorno-Karabakh region were recently vandalized or destroyed by Azerbaijani forces—even though ceasefire was declared in November. Video footage of the desecration of one of these churches appeared in late March. It shows Azerbaijani troops entering the church, laughing, mocking, kicking, and defacing Christian items inside it, including a fresco of the Last Supper. Turkey’s flag appears on the Azeri servicemen’s uniform, further implicating the Erdogan government of involvement. As they approach, one of the Muslim soldiers says, “Let’s now enter their church, where I will perform namaz.” Namaz is a reference to Muslim prayers; when Muslims pray inside non-Muslim temples, they immediately become mosques. In response to this video, Arman Tatoyan, an Armenian human rights activist, issued a statement:
The President of Azerbaijan, and the country’s authorities have been implementing a policy of hatred, enmity, ethnic cleansing and genocide against Armenia, citizens of Armenia and the Armenian people for years. The Turkish authorities have done the same or have openly encouraged the same policy.
By way of example, he said that Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev proudly stated in early March that “the younger generation has grown up with hatred toward the enemy,” meaning Armenians.
Bangladesh: Authorities and about ten Muslim civilians demolished a church that was under construction in a remote and hilly region. According to a local Christian,
Officials said they demolished the Protestant church building because it was being constructed in a forest reserve. But my question is, then why are illegal activities like cutting down trees and lifting stones from rivers not stopped? Can’t we, as a minority, practice our religion properly?
The church under construction was being built with donations from its 160-strong congregation to replace an old and dilapidated structure made of bamboo and straw, which had existed in the same area for years without complaint or reprisals from officials. Discussing the razing of this church, a local Catholic priest said,
We are worried and terrified over the incident. We also have our churches here and the incident is a bad example. We want justice for this incident and hope the government will compensate the Seventh-day Adventists for it.
Although officials brushed it off as a minor and inconsequential incident, a local human rights activist argued otherwise: “The Forest Department has hurt the religious sentiments of Christians by demolishing the church. We demand a fair investigation and justice for this heinous act. If not, it will be difficult for Christians in the region to practice their religion in the coming days.” Some days later, on Mar. 8, “around 200 Christians formed a human chain and held a silent protest against the demolition of the church.” In a written statement, the protesters said that “Christians in the Chittagong Hill Tracts have been the victims of terrorism and have had their churches destroyed and their homes set on fire.”
Algeria: Because growing numbers of churches have been shut down or denied permits in the North Africa nation, often over minor technicalities, according to a Mar. 30 report, Swiss National Councilor Eric Nussbaumer has called on the Swiss Federal Council to act; he presented “the continued closure of 17 Protestant churches, sealed since November 2017, as evidence of a possible systematic violation of Algerian Christians’ freedom of worship by the government.”
Turkey: One of three Orthodox churches in the Black Sea region, the fourteenth century Hutura Hagios Monastery Church, was violently plundered. In the search for “treasure,” the church’s foundation was dug up, walls were torn down, and a library consisting of seven thousand precious books destroyed.
Separately, callous construction above a historical Catholic Armenian cemetery in Ulus, Ankara, has been visibly desecrating and unearthing the human remains beneath it. Although the Chamber of Architects has requested a halt to the construction, the overseeing ministries have refused and even barred oppositional leaders from entering the site. “The continuation of the construction [of a bank] in spite of this [unearthed human remains] is a great disrespect to the multiculturalism in the Anatolian lands,” the president of the Chamber of Architects Ankara said. “It’s a human rights violation and barbarism. Regardless of their religion and race, pouring concrete and building shops on the graves of the people who lived in the Anatolian region is inhumane.”
Attacks on Christian Women and Girls
Uganda: After a mosque leaders’ wife embraced Christianity, and as a form of “retribution,” the imam ordered the rape of three Christian girls related to a local pastor; he also planned to attack the pastor’s church. “When my husband interrogated me about being a Christian, I refused to answer him,” the wife later explained:
Soon a Christian neighbor told me that my husband was out to kill me, hence I should escape with my children. That particular day in the evening hours, I escaped with my five children. I am thankful that the church received us.
The rapes of the Christian girls—aged 16, 17, and 19—came two days after the imam learned of his wife’s conversion. Before the orgiastic punishment, one of the girls heard one of the Muslims tell his fellow rapists not to harm them, since “we were sent only to bring embarrassment and a warning signal to the church.” The imam also sent a Muslim to the pastor’s Sunday church services to gather logistical information for a future attack. However, when his behavior raised suspicions, and the congregation surrounded and interrogated him, “He pleaded for mercy and revealed that he had been sent on a mission by an imam of Kasese masjid [mosque] to inflict suffering on the Christians for the conversion of his wife to Christianity together with his five children,” a church member said. He also confessed that “Imam Hussein paid a total of 3 million Ugandan shillings (US$815) to 13 teenaged Muslims to attack the church.”
Pakistan: After Shakaina, a 13-year-old Christian girl, disappeared, her parents filed a missing person report with local police; they were reluctant to file it, finally doing so two days later. A few days later, the investigating officer summoned the parents to the police station where he showed them a nikahnama—an Islamic marriage certificate. “He said that Shakaina was now a married Muslim woman and did not want to return to her family,” her father explained. “According to the Nikahnama, her so-called husband’s name is Ali Bashir. We haven’t heard this name before. Shakaina is just a kid. She was kidnapped and taken to Okara, where they forcibly converted her and conducted the fake marriage to give it a religious cover.” Police have since ignored the father’s appeals to see and speak with his daughter:
It’s been over 20 days that our daughter is in the custody of unknown abductors, yet we haven’t been able to see her. We were just handed a photocopy of the Nikahnama and told to approach the court if we wanted to meet her. They also refused to act when we showed them her official birth record, according to which she’s just 13 and five months…. My family’s shattered, and each passing day adds to our misery. Is there no law or justice for poor Christians like us?
“Intercourse with a girl below the age of 16 is statutory rape in Pakistan,” the report clarifies, adding, “but in most cases a falsified conversion certificate and Islamic marriage certificate influence police to pardon kidnappers.” The family’s lawyer said he has even petitioned the Lahore High Court and senior police officers to help produce the girl, with no result:
It is [a] great injustice for the poor family. Their daughter is missing for the last so many days but there’s no information yet about her safety and well-being… Laws barring underage marriage are in place, but police do not apply them in the cases. Moreover, sections related to rape and abduction are also ignored, which enables the perpetrators to obtain bail and walk free from the case. This prejudicial attitude is putting the security of all [religious] minority girls at risk and needs to end immediately.
According to the report, “Pakistan leads the world in forced marriages, with about 1,000 Christians married against their will to Muslims from November 2019 to October 2020.” Although a parliamentary panel on minorities recommended key legislation to help combat the forced conversion of minority girls, most recently on Feb. 16, the government remains unresponsive. Discussing this, legal activist Asiya Nasir said:
Last month the Senate’s Committee on Religious Affairs rejected a bill seeking protection for minorities against religiously motivated violence, including forced conversions and misuse of the blasphemy law. Such draft legislation has previously also been opposed, which has emboldened perpetrators of this heinous crime, and we are now witnessing a record increase in cases. Enough is enough. It’s time that the political parties realize the consequences of this crucial human rights violation and do something worthwhile to end the sexual exploitation of the minority girls in the name of religion.
Separately in Pakistan, after months of stalking and harassing her, a Muslim man broke into and tried to rape a 27-year-old woman and Christian college professor in her home. According to the mother of Neelam Bibi, the Christian woman in question, “It was about 7:15 p.m. when I left home to get some groceries from the nearest market. My daughter was alone at home when Faisal Busra intruded into the home forcibly.” Once in, the Muslim man dragged her into an inner room and, at gunpoint, tried to rape her. Neelam fiercely resisted and was brutally beaten for it. A male Christian neighbor heard the ruckus, rushed to the house and “intervened before Busra could fulfill his purpose.” Angered at being thwarted, the Muslim would-be rapist exclaimed before leaving: “How dare a Christian refuse me and another one rescue her. They both will have to pay for it.” This incident was the culmination of months of Busra harassing and trying to form a relationship with Neelam. Although she and her family filed a report with police, the latter did nothing to arrest or even confront Busra. The report adds that “Christian women in Pakistan are often viewed as soft targets by criminals. Christian women face multiple layers of discrimination due to their religious and gender identity.”
Egypt: On Mar. 13, a Muslim man harassed and then beat a teenage Christian girl named Marian Rif‘at as she was returning home from church. After she rebuffed and rebuked his advances, he struck her face with a broken bottle; when she ran to her home near the church, the man chased her, broke in, beat her parents and ransacked the house. When the girl’s father filed a complaint with police against the man, the latter responded by filing his own complaint against the girl (though it is unclear what the nature of his complaint was or could possibly be). The man was subsequently arrested for questioning.
Indonesia: According to a Mar. 18 Human Rights Watch report, Muslims are forcing and creating “psychological distress” for Christian and other non-Muslim women to wear the hijab, Islamic covering. Those who resist are being either forced out of their schools and jobs or voluntarily leaving due to the pressure; children are being humiliated and bullied at school. According to a Human Rights Watch representative,
Indonesian regulations and policies have long forced discriminatory dress codes on women and girls in schools and government offices that violate their right to freedom from coercion to adopt a religious belief. Indonesia’s national, provincial, and local governments should immediately end these discriminatory practices and let women and girls wear what they choose without sacrificing their right to education or work.
Attacks on Christian Blasphemers and Evangelists
Pakistan: On Mar. 10, a court “changed a sentence of life imprisonment to the death penalty for a Christian convicted of sending a blasphemous text message in 2011.” Filed by a senior lawyer, such petitions are “seen often as a service to Islam and as jihad or holy war against blasphemers,” according to the report. The change comes after a group of fanatical Muslims stormed the court and “told the judge that capital punishment was the only sentence for blaspheming against Islam’s prophet,” and that the Christian blasphemer “must be executed without delay,” said a local source. In 2013 Sajjad Masih Gill, 36, was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined (the equivalent of US $2,000) for sending what was deemed a controversial text message to a Muslim man in December 2011. Over the following years, radicals threatened and attacked his relatives and Christian lawyers whenever they visited him in prison. The senior Muslim lawyer who filed the petition for a death sentence said, according to the report, that the “court had accepted the prosecution’s argument that capital punishment was the only possible sentence for blasphemy and that life imprisonment was ‘repugnant’ to the injunctions of Islam.” The report adds that “orthodox Muslims demand to make capital punishment the only penalty for blasphemy. They argue life imprisonment as an alternative punishment violates Islamic ethos and Shariat regulations.” The courts seem to be increasingly complying: “I am defending a death-row couple,” both Christians, one of whom is paralyzed, a lawyer said in a Mar. 19 report, “but their appeal against the conviction has been delayed by the high court on one pretext or the other for the past six years.” Moreover, according to statistics from the Lahore-based Centre for Social Justice, “the highest number of blasphemy accused (200) was reported last year.”
Algeria: A pastor and another Christian were convicted and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison each, and a stiff fine of 500,000 Algerian dinars (US$3,745), for previously running a Christian book store from their church in Oran. The court ruling, which was slipped under their church door, says that they are guilty of “distributing publications or any other propaganda undermining the faith of a Muslim.” Pastor Rachid Seighir and the Muslim governor of Oran have been embroiled in legal fights over the bookstore since 2008; although the governor forcibly closed it in 2017, local courts have since declared the church’s right to have and operate a book store, though the governor has refused to comply and reopen it. According to the report,
Algeria’s 2006 law regulating non-Muslim worship, known as Law 03/06, criminalizes the publishing or distributing of any materials ‘which aim to undermine the faith of a Muslim.’ Punishment can range from two to five years in prison and fines of 500,000 to 1 million Algerian dinars (US$3,745 to US$7,490).
Algeria is becoming less tolerant of religious minorities. Two months before these two Christians were convicted of “undermining the faith of a Muslim,” another Christian was sentenced to five years imprisonment for reposting a cartoon of Muhammad on his Facebook account three years ago.
General Slaughter of Christians
Mozambique: On Mar. 24, scores of people were massacred or forced to flee during an Islamic terror attack near a major gas plant in the Cabo Delgado province. The number of casualties remains unknown; a local source said the area was covered with bodies, “with heads and without.” Among the native corpses were 12 Western people who were “tied up and beheaded here” said an official. The Islamic State later boasted of “killing at least 55 people, including Christians, Mozambique soldiers, state nationals and ‘crusaders.’” (Although Mozambique is Christian majority, nearly 20 percent of the population is Muslim, though the terrorists dismiss them as apostates worthy of the same fate.) Hundreds fled into the bush on foot: “We have many children here,” said a survivor who walked three days without food and water. “Many children are dying in the bush … People have been captured and others have died.” According to a separate report, published on Mar. 16, a few days before this latest massacre, correspondents in Mozambique were “sickened to our core” listening to mothers recount the fate of their children, some as young as 11, at the hands of the Muslim terrorists: “That night, our village was attacked, and houses were burned,” one mother recalled. “When it all started, I was at home with my four children. We tried to escape to the woods, but they took my eldest son and beheaded him. We couldn’t do anything because we would be killed too.” Such accounts are all too common. According to a Mar. 30 report,
More than 2,500 people are estimated to have been killed and 700,000 displaced since 2017 when militant Islamists began a brutal campaign to establish an Islamist caliphate in Cabo Delgado province. In one of the worst attacks last year, the jihadists turned a village football pitch into an execution ground where they beheaded more than 50 people in three days of savage violence.
Nigeria: During a raid on his village, machete-swinging Muslim Fulani herdsmen ambushed and hacked a Christian man to death. According to a statement from the village, “The Fulani have continued attacking and killing our people without any form of provocation…” Bitrus Chollom, 36, is survived by his wife Esther and their four children, aged 5, 8, 10, and 12.
Generic Hate for and Attacks on Christians
Turkey: In response to a question being asked to random passersby on the street by staff for a YouTube channel—“If you could get away with one thing, what would you do?”—a woman said on video: “What would I do? Behead 20 Armenians.” She then looked directly at the camera, and smiled while nodding her head. She later said she was Azerbaijani, a Muslim people who, with the aid of jihadi mercenaries funded by Turkey, have been slaughtering Christian during their recent appropriation of ancient Armenian territory.
Malaysia: Many Muslims were outraged on Mar. 10, after the nation’s highest court ruled that Christians can also use the Arabic word “Allah” to refer to their God—as Arabic speaking Christians regularly do. As part of the uproar, one Muslim woman “dressed in a dun-colored hijab” made and “uploaded a 12-minute hate-filled rant pledging to ‘destroy’ Christians if they dared use the word ‘Allah’ to mean God.” The video quickly garnered over 650,000 views and 8,000 shares (before being taken down) A criminal investigator confirmed that “police had identified several statements [in the video] that challenged the High Court ruling that had elements to incite racial and religious hatred.”