Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Reprinted from the Gatestone Institute.
The following are some of the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of December, 2019; they are categorized by theme:
The Slaughter of Christians
Nigeria: The Islamic State in West Africa Province released a video of the execution of 11 Christian aid workers on the day after Christmas. The brief video shows one Christian being shot followed by 10 others being beheaded by masked jihadis standing behind the tied hostages. “This message is to the Christians in the world,” a man’s voice narrates over the footage. “Those who you see in front of us are Christians, and we will shed their blood as revenge for the two dignified sheikhs, the caliph of the Muslims, and the spokesman for the Islamic State [who were killed by the U.S.]” Before being slaughtered, the captives reportedly made pleas, including to Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari, to save them. Buhari, who has himself been accused of turning a blind eye to the persecution of Christians in Nigeria—and even abetting it—condemned the executions, adding that “these barbaric killers don’t represent Islam.”
A separate report cited by Fox News found that more than 6,000 Christians have been slaughtered by Islamic terrorists since 2015—a thousand of them in just 2019. According to the report,
They attack rural villages, force villagers off their lands and settle in their place — a strategy that is epitomized by the phrase: “Your land or your blood.” In every village, the message from local people is the same: “Please, please help us! The Fulani are coming. We are not safe in our own homes.”
The nomadic Fulani herdsmen “seek to replace diversity and difference with an Islamist ideology which is imposed with violence on those who refuse to comply,” Baroness Caroline Cox commented. “It is—according to the Nigerian House of Representatives—genocide. Something has to change—urgently. For the longer we tolerate these massacres, the more we embolden the perpetrators. We give them a ‘green light’ to carry on killing.”
Kenya: After armed Muslim militants stopped and stormed a passenger bus near the Somali border on December 6, they proceeded to separate the 56 passengers into Muslim and Christian groups—reportedly by asking them to recite the Islamic shahada (creed); 11 of those who would or could not due to their Christian faith, were paraded out of the bus. “They were told to lie on the ground face down and were shot at close range,” one report said. “The militants then ordered the bus to leave with the rest of the passengers.” The attackers apparently also relied on whether a passenger appeared to be local (meaning likely Muslim) or not (meaning likely Christian). “The majority of the population in this region is Muslim,” Rev. Nicholas Mutua, a Catholic priest, explained. “The non-locals had come from other parts of the country and they would definitely have been Christians.” “One of the Muslim men gave me Somali attire, and when the separation was being done I went to the side of the Muslims, and immediately we were told to get [back] into the bus,” a survivor recalled. “As the locals were getting back into the bus, the non-locals who were left behind were fired upon with gunshots.” Separating Muslims from Christians before slaughtering the latter has long been the modus operandi of Islamic terror groups. In the Garissa University College massacre of 2015, when militants slaughtered nearly 150 people, a survivor explained how the Islamic terrorists burst into a Christian service, seized worshippers, and then “proceeded to the hostels, shooting anybody they came across except their fellows, the Muslims.” Another witness said the gunmen were opening doors and inquiring if the people inside were Muslims or Christians: “If you were a Christian you were shot on the spot. With each blast of the gun I thought I was going to die.”
Burkina Faso: On Sunday, December 1, Islamic terrorists stormed a church during service and opened fire; 14 worshippers were killed and many injured. The gunmen fled on motorbikes following the massacre. Discussing this incident, a separate report offers statistics:
Burkina Faso’s Christian minority used to live in relative peace. Now the violence and persecution of Christians has quadrupled in the last two years and is expected to increase by [another] 60%… Radical Islamic groups such as the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and other local insurgents have pushed nearly half a million people from their homes. Sunday’s attack comes after a Catholic priest was executed in February, five Christians were killed during an attack on a Church service in April, and 13 Christians were killed in a Church arson attack and procession in May. Most recently was on October 26 when unknown gunmen stormed a Christian village and reportedly killed 12 and abducted several others.
Cameroon: In just the first half of December, Islamic militants “began an onslaught of attacks on Cameroonian Christians that left 7 dead and 21 captive to the terrorist group.” According to the report:
On December 1, gunmen opened fire at a funeral in Mayo Sava district, in the far north of Cameroon. Four were killed and three were wounded. In another attack on the same day, militants ransacked homes and looted them of food and basic necessities. The next night, three more people were murdered and another was injured in another looting of Zangola village. A few days later on December 5, militants methodically searched for children and young adults and kidnapped them. In the middle of the night they came and stole nine girls and twelve boys from their homes, ranging from 12 to 21 years old. Four of the captives managed to escape. While en-route to their base, the Boko Haram militants attacked Tahert village where one girl was injured and a motorbike was stolen. Nearly 300 people have been killed in Cameroon in 2019 by Islamic militants, with 80% being civilians.
Pakistan: Naveed Masih, a 24-year-old Christian man was found hanging from a tree, dead, because he had earlier prevented Muslim men from harassing and pressuring a married Christian mother to convert to Islam. Due to this, “a mob of 20 individuals attacked Naveed’s house,” the report says. “The mob beat Naveed and damaged many of the family’s belongings. The mob further threatened Naveed to not interfere with their efforts to convert the Christian woman.” Two months later, he was lured to a supposed parley. When he arrived at the meeting point, “he was brutally tortured and he was hanged from a tree as a result of protecting a Christian woman’s faith,” his father, Herbert, recalled: “Carrying your son’s dead body in your arms is heartbreaking and unbearable. It almost ended my life when I had to shoulder my son’s funeral…. My family is still under threats to withdraw the case against the culprits. However, I have nothing to lose now.”
In a separate but similar incident in Pakistan, after sexually abusing him, two Muslim men killed Daud (“David”) Masih, a Christian teenager, on December 14 in a factory. According to a local Christian activist, “Daud and his elder brother started working at the embroidery factory during the night shift about three months ago. They were additional breadwinners for the family as the mother is sick and their father is a day laborer.” Weeks before the murder, Masih had complained about the “unethical behavior from his Muslim co-workers.” Because the owner of the factory did not seem to care or intervene, Masih stopped going to work, until the owner assured him of protection. He was abused and killed on the same day he returned to work; one of his murderers is allegedly the brother of the owner. Last reported, the individuals accused of the crime have not been arrested and were pressuring and trying to bribe the victim’s family to drop the case: “Although I am a poor Christian woman, I want justice for my son and punishment for those who killed Daud,” his mother said. “I will never go for compensation or reconciliation, as my son was killed brutally.”
Attacks on Churches
Philippines: During Sunday Mass on the evening of December 22, Islamic terrorists detonated a bomb just outside Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato, a city on the island of Mindanao. Twenty-two people were injured in the explosion, 12 of whom were soldiers patrolling the church as part of security measures adopted during the Christmas holidays. Parish priest Zaldy Robles, who called it “a cowardly act on the eve of the Christmas celebrations,” said “casualties would have been unimaginable” had the bomb reached the inside of the church. In 2009, a similar bomb attack on the same cathedral in Mindanao killed five people and injured 34. Most of the Philippines’ Muslim minority live in Mindanao, which has been a hotbed of terrorism in recent years. Among other attacks, “Islamic State-affiliated terrorists were blamed for twin suicide bombings at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu Province on Jan. 27 , which killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 100. Jolo is a small island off the coast of Mindanao.”
Iraq: The Catholic Church of Divine Wisdom in Baghdad, built in 1929, was invaded on the day after Christmas in what was described by one report as a “hostile takeover attempt”: “Details remain scarce. Security footage of the invasion show that an Islamic leader was present amongst the invaders, who attempted to open the gate and remove the cross.” Later reports revealed that the church had been “marked for demolition by the authorities, together with some surrounding buildings, as part of a redevelopment programme in the city,” but that “local residents say the project is driven by commercial and political forces, and does not take into account the significance of the church for the community.”
Indonesia: Several reports appearing around Christmas indicated the difficulties churches experience during the holiday season. In “Aceh Christians forced to celebrate Christmas in a tent,” the BBC reported on December 23 that:
Christians in the Indonesian province of Aceh are preparing to celebrate Christmas in makeshift tents in the jungle. Their churches were destroyed four years ago by Islamic vigilante groups and the police. Indonesia – the world’s largest Muslim population – has a pluralist constitution that is meant to protect the rights of followers of all the major faiths. But Church leaders in Singkil Aceh say the local authorities are stopping them from rebuilding….
Separately, authorities on the Indonesian island of Sumatra banned Christians from celebrating Christmas in private homes. According to Sudarto, the director of an intercommunity initiative, “They did not get permission from the local government since the Christmas celebration and worship were held at the house of one of the Christians who had been involved. The local government argued that the situation was not conducive.” He added that the ban on Christians to celebrate Christmas and the New Year “has been going on for a long time [since 1985], so far they have been quietly worshiping at the home of one of the worshipers, but they have applied for permission several times. Yet the permit to celebrate Christmas was never granted. The house where they performed worship services was once burned down in early 2000 due to resistance from residents.”
Discussing yet another incident, the Jakarta Post reported on Christmas Day that “Christians in Jambi city, Jambi, still struggle to find joy on the eve of the holy day since the authorities sealed a number of local churches in the city…. Several Christians in the region were aghast when they were welcomed by a notice plastered on the closed front doors of the Assemblies of God Church (GSJA) informing them the church was sealed on Dec. 24, instead of the customary Christmas prayers and services.” This church is among three churches in the area to be closed down by the Jambi city administration following protests by local Muslim residents who cited the lack of building permits. “This is the second Christmas celebration to feel depressing for us,” said its pastor Jonathan Klaise on Christmas Eve. “It’s a difficult situation. We have no other choice but to cope with it… We can only hope that we will soon be able to pray in our church.”
Attacks on Muslim Converts (“Apostates”) to Christianity
Uganda: A Muslim man with three wives abandoned one of them and their three children on learning that she had converted to Christianity. Problems began for Florence Namuyiga, 27, when she took her eldest son, aged 7, to the church that she had been secretly attending following her conversion last May. “That evening, while back at home, my son began singing some of the Christian songs that were sung in the church,” she explained. “My husband began questioning me where the son picked such kinds of songs, but I kept quiet. He then turned to our son, who narrated what he saw in church of both men and women worshipping together in one big hall. Thereafter we went to bed with no communication with my husband.” Then, on November 29, her husband, Abudalah Nsubuga, 34, insisted she to go to Friday mosque prayers. “I refused,” she said. “He started beating me up with sticks, blows and kicks. When I fell down, he left me and went to the mosque. I began bleeding with serious injury on my left arm. That evening he did not come to the house but slept in the house of one of my co-wives.” On the next day,
He arrived [home] and pronounced [ritual Islamic] words of divorce and threatened to kill me if I remained in the homestead… There and then I left the homestead, leaving all my belongings behind…. I have been supporting my three children by washing peoples’ clothing around the village. Indeed life is quite difficult for me and the children. I have realized that following Jesus is not easy. Sometimes I spend sleepless nights thinking on my future and that of my small kids, especially their school fees.
Iran: On December 20, Mohammad Moghiseh, the head of Tehran Revolutionary Court, sentenced nine Muslim apostates to a total of 45 years in prison. “These Christian converts have objected to the verdict issued by the Tehran Revolutionary Court and are awaiting final appeal,” the report states. The day before sentencing, on December 19, the US Treasury Department accused Mohammad Moghiseh and another Revolutionary judge of violating justice and abusing the rights of religious minorities and others.
General Abuse of and Discrimination against Christians
Tajikistan: A Christian pastor who was sentenced to three years in prison on the charge of “singing extremist songs in church and so inciting religious hatred,” was released on December 18, 2020, after serving two-and-a-half years. In 2017, authorities had raided the Good News of Grace Protestant Church in Khujand. Many of the congregation were beat, lost their jobs, and faced other forms of repercussions in the wake of the raid on their church. Pastor Bakhrom Kholmatov, a 43-year-old married father of three, was then sentenced on the aforementioned charges. According to the report,
Officials claimed that Christian songs found on his computer and the book More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell are “extremist materials.” They alleged that religious “experts” recognised the songs Praise God, O Unbelieving Country, Army of Christ and Our Battle is Not Against Blood and Flesh as “extremist and calling people to overthrow the government.”
“I’d like to express my huge gratitude to all the people who supported and prayed for me, my family and my church,” Kholmatov said in a statement. “All these three years I felt your prayers, they helped me to stand, they helped my precious wife and children, they helped the members of my church who were left without a pastor, then kicked by the authorities out of our building.”
Iran: “The Iranian regime has begun cracking down on evangelical Christians in Iran in the run-up to Christmas,” Al Arabiya reported on December 15. “Security officials routinely arrest Christian citizens during the Christmas season, according to the 2019 US Commission for International Religious Freedom report, which found the regime arrested 114 Christians during the first week of December in 2018.” Dabrina Tamraz, who experienced persecution as a Christian before she managed to flee the Islamic republic nine years ago, shed light on the plight of Christians by recounting her own experiences: “Christmas celebrations make it easier for Iranian authorities to arrest a group of Christians at one time,” said the escapee who currently resides in Europe. During a family Christmas gathering in Tehran in 2014, “My brother opened the door only to be confronted with about 30 plain clothes officers who pushed their way in. They separated men from women and conducted strip body searches. Three people, including my father, were arrested and charged with acting against national security and conducting evangelism.” The report adds that “The Iranian government considers evangelism—the sharing of the Christian faith—a criminal act.”
As another example of the persecution and discrimination Christians routinely experience around Christmas, the annual Armenian Christian market at Tehran’s Ararat Club, which was supposed to be held between Christmas Eve and the New Year, was canceled by officials. According to that report,
In a situation where the economy is declining and the business market is sluggish due to the policies of the Islamic Republic … this cancellation for preventing ‘Christian propaganda’ is an irrational decision. The cancellation of the market, which is a clear sign of discrimination and inequality, has received widespread criticism in the Armenian community… Every year on the eve of Christmas, pressure on the Iranian Christian community by various government agencies is increasing, including arresting Christian activists, obstructing the business of Christian sellers, even those who sell Christmas decorations!… Christian compatriots are subject to double discrimination, whether in the labor market, employment, job position or in violating their right to run private businesses.
Pakistan: “A 14-year-old Christian girl from Zia Colony, Karachi, was kidnapped, forcibly converted and married off to a Muslim man,” Asia Times reported on December 3. “Our daughters are insecure and abused in this country,” the mother of Huma Younus, explained. “They are not safe anywhere. We leave them at schools or home but they are kidnapped, raped, humiliated, and forced to convert to Islam.” The eighth grade student was seen by neighbors being forcefully dragged into a car by three armed men. “She was kidnapped by Abdul Jabar, a Muslim,” her father said. After the girl’s family went to police, Jabar sent documents to the family over WhatsApp: “He asked us not to be worried for Huma as she is now his wife and has entered into Islam”; however, “the religious conversion documents are fake,” said the mother, noting that the date of the document of the 14-year-old’s alleged conversion is the same date of her abduction. “My daughter’s life is in danger. She could be tortured or killed. I beg the authorities to recover my daughter as soon as possible.” “Christian girls are being abused and forcefully converted,” Fr. Saleh Diego, Director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Karachi, said while discussing this latest incident:
The kidnappers are misusing religion for their motives and spoiling the lives of hundreds of young girls from the marginalized Christian community….Huma must be recovered with no further delay. This unethical and illegal practice must also be stopped and the kidnappers of Huma and other girls must be brought to justice and punished for their crimes.
To date, police and courts have largely been unresponsive. “Abducting for the purpose of forced conversion and marriage is a major issue in Pakistan,” Asia Times concludes. “Most of the victims are Christian and Hindu girls and young women, forced to wed against their will to much older Muslim men.”
United Nations: According to a December 4 CBN News report, “Christian Syrian refugees … have been blocked from getting help from the United Nations Refugee Agency … by Muslim UN officials in Jordan.” One of the refugees, Hasan, a Syrian convert to Christianity, explained that Muslim UN camp officials “knew that we were Muslims and became Christians and they dealt with us with persecution and mockery. They didn’t let us into the office. They ignored our request.” “Hasan and his family are now in hiding,” the report adds, “afraid that they will be arrested by Jordanian police, or even killed. Converting to Christianity is a serious crime in Jordan.” Timothy, another Jordanian Muslim convert to Christianity, confirmed: “All of the United Nations officials [apparently in Jordan], most of them, 99 percent, they are Muslims, and they were treating us as enemies.” Addressing this issue, Paul Diamond, a British human rights lawyer, elaborated:
You have this absurd situation where the scheme is set up to help Syrian refugees and the people most in need, Christians who have been “genocided,” they can’t even get into the U.N. camps to get the food. If you enter and say I am a Christian or convert, the Muslim U.N. guards will block you [from] getting in and laugh at you and mock you and even threaten you…. [saying] “You shouldn’t have converted. You’re an idiot for converting. You get what you get,” words to that effect.