“You Are Born to Clean Our Houses”: Persecution of Christians, April 2019

On April 25, “the terrified residents of the Christian village of Jifna near Ramallah,” states a report, “were attacked by Muslim gunmen … after a woman from the village submitted a complaint to the police that the son of a prominent, Fatah-affiliated leader had attacked her family.” The gunmen “called on the [Christian] residents to pay jizya—a head tax that was levied throughout history on non-Muslim minorities under Islamic rule.” Pictured: A church in Jifna. (Image source: Soman/Wikimedia Commons)

Slaughter of Christians

Sri Lanka: On Easter Sunday, April 21, Islamic terrorists launched a bombing campaign on Christians; the death toll reached 253, with hundreds more wounded. Eight separate explosions took place, at least two of which were suicide bombings: three targeted churches celebrating Easter Sunday Mass; four targeted hotels frequented by Western tourists possibly in connection with Easter holiday; one blast was in a house, and killed three police officers during a security operation. At least 39 foreigners — including citizens of the United States, Britain, Australia, Japan, Denmark and Portugal — were among the dead.

Most of the fatalities occurred in the three church-bombings. The worst took place in St. Sebastian's, a Catholic church in Negombo; there, over 100 Christian worshippers were murdered. At St. Anthony's Shrine, another Catholic church in Colombo, the nation's capital, at least 52 were murdered; and at the evangelical Zion Church, at least 28 were murdered.

“I don't have words to express my pain,” said a Christian man who survived the bombing at St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo:

“We lost so many people…. The smell of flesh is all around me…. We are a peace-loving community in this small city, we had never hurt anyone, but we don't know from where this amount of hate is coming. This city has become a grave with blood and bodies lying around…. Since the past three years, we don't know why, but we see an extremist's mindset developing among the Muslims. I know many good Muslims, but there are also a lot who hate us, and they have never been so before. It is in these three years that we see a difference.”

“People were in pieces,” recalled Ms. Silviya, 26, concerning the bombing of St. Anthony's Shrine in Colombo. “Blood was everywhere. I closed my son's eyes, took him out, passed him off to a relative and ran back inside to look for my family.”

Nigeria: On Sunday, April 14, Muslim herdsmen slaughtered 17 Christians who had gathered after a baby dedication at a church. The infant's mother was among the slain; the father was left hospitalized in critical condition.

On April 17, 2019, Fulani militants launched an attack on a predominantly Christian village; four people were killed, six were injured; over one hundred homes and food storage barns burned down.

On April 19, Muslim raiders killed 11 Christians returning from Good Friday church service; they also kidnapped and slaughtered a female British aid worker.

On Sunday, April 21, ten boys were killed while taking part in an Easter procession. Emmanuel Ogebe, a Nigerian human rights lawyer remarked in an email, “The Holy Week killings in Nigeria do not grab headlines like Sri Lanka but still Nigeria's Christians are dying the deaths of a 1000 cuts in as many installments!”

The author of a separate April 21 report, a Nigerian Christian, spoke of the nonstop carnage of Christians there:

“In the course of investigating anti-Christian violence throughout Nigeria, I have seen things that drove me to tears. I have entered rooms and houses that were covered with blood. I have seen bodies that were shot and butchered; corpses of pregnant women who had their stomachs ripped opened [sic], the bodies of unborn babies strewn about; homes destroyed; mass graves. In some of these attacks, entire families were killed. In a visit to one state in northern Nigeria, I went to 13 villages that were desolate as a result of herdsmen attacks. In another state, I visited eight churches that were bombed in one day, and in one town I saw the only four Christians who survived a Boko Haram onslaught. They were in hiding after all other Christians fled.”

Another report quotes a local Nigerian pastor's reaction to another church attack in April:

“After that attack, I came to visit the villages in the two-mile area around my church, and it was like a cemetery, as dozens were killed. I have dozens of little children, with no school supplies, no uniforms and no desks, and I need to create a school for them.”

United Kingdom: A court “sentenced a Muslim Iranian asylum seeker to jail,” an April 5 report says, “for stabbing his wife to death, in part for her conversion to Christianity.” Dana Abdullah, 35, stabbed Avan Najmadiein, his estranged wife and 32-year-old mother of four, 50 times with a kitchen knife because she refused to support his asylum application. He was deported from the UK in 2013 for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, had returned illegally, and was now “threaten[ing] to kill his wife because she ‘dishonored' him by converting to Christianity, authorities said.” One detective involved in the case characterized Abdullah as “an arrogant and controlling man,” who “killed Najmadiein because he resented her rejection, her refusal to support his application and her conversion to Christianity.” Abdullah was sentenced to a minimum of 18 years and one month in prison.

Attacks on Churches and Crosses

Italy: A 37-year-old Muslim migrant in Rome was recently arrested for attempted homicide after he stabbed a Christian man in the throat for wearing a crucifix around his neck. “Religious hate” is cited as an “aggravating factor” in the crime.

Days earlier, a separate report noted that “crosses on graves in an Italian cemetery in Pieve di Cento have been covered with black cloth so as not to offend those who may come from another religion,” an apparent reference to Muslim migrants, some of whom have been known to desecrate Christian cemeteries. “The cemetery,” the report adds, “has also installed motorised blackout curtains in a local chapel following renovations to hide Roman Catholic symbols during ceremonies involving other denominations.”

Indonesia: Several crosses in the Bethesda Christian cemetery in Mrican were vandalized, broken and burned in the most populous Muslim nation. The cemetery keeper said that “in the ten years since he has held the job, he has never seen such vandalism.” The report notes that

“the incident joins a long list of cases of intolerance that have taken place in recent months…. In December 2018, some residents in Purbayan removed the upper part of a cross placed on the tomb of Albertus Slamet Sugihardi, after informing his widow, Maria Sutris Winarni, that the cemetery was ‘for the exclusive use of Muslims.' Before that, the Catholic family was forced to hold a private funeral to avoid tensions with the Islamic community. A few weeks later, Christian tombs were vandalised in several cemeteries in Magelang, 30 kilometres north of Yogyakarta, Central Java.”

Germany: While cursing his “pig god,” Muslim migrants beat and repeatedly stabbed a homeless man in Berlin for apparently displaying some Christian symbol. According to the report,

“Arabic-speaking youths were caught on video assaulting and stabbing a homeless Berlin man is speculated in the German press to be an anti-Christian motivated attack…. After physically attacking the victim, one of the men then drew a knife and stabbed him several times, leaving him with severe injuries to the buttocks, thigh, and arm, according to investigators.”

The Arabic words they yelled were translated as “We f*ck your sister, we'll finish you!” and “Your pig-God, we f *ck your pig-God!” The report adds that this “incident is not the first in which a migrant-background Christian has been physically attacked by Arabic-speaking young men for displaying Christian symbols in public in the German capital. Recently, a 39-year-old had been beaten for wearing a necklace with a cross on it.”

Separately in Germany, a migrant man, apparently of Somali origin, entered a church in Munich during Easter Mass and threw dangerous objects at worshippers (variously described as stones or firecrackers) while shouting, “Allahu akbar” (“Allah is the greatest”). Congregants hurled their Easter meal baskets on the ground and rushed out in a panic. Some were injured; children were left in a “state of shock.” Authorities concluded that he was “mentally ill” and therefore not responsible for his actions.

Egypt: After a large Muslim mob beat two Christians, one a Coptic priest, in front of 200 terrified children who had gathered for Bible lessons, authorities responded by arresting the beaten Christian priest and shutting the church in compliance with the wishes of the mob. On the previous day, the mayor had gone to oversee ongoing reconstruction of the church. Angered at what he considered too much of an “add-on,” he accused the church of “treason” and riled local Muslims against it. At that point, according to the report,

“The city council immediately arrived, stopped the work and confiscated building materials, including the cement and the reinforced steel. The next day at 4 p.m., dozens of angry demonstrators tried to enter the church premises but were unable to get through a steel door. Carrying clubs and knives, they started shouting, cursing and pelting the building with rocks, according to Coptic Solidarity. Additional forces arrived, and Father Basilious was struck as he and another priest were escorted off the premises. Parents and church leaders were not able to move the 200 children away from the angry, chanting villagers until security forces dispersed the crowds. Though police witnessed the beating of the priest, no arrests were made. Both Father Basilious and Father Bakhoum were taken for questioning into the evening hours. Police issued an indefinite closure order, pending investigations, and froze all activities of the 10-year-old church, including its daycare and the Sunday School.”

One local Christian woman said, “The hardest emotion in that incident is the kids lived the incident in the reality. They saw the extremists attacking the church and how they injured the priests. This incident will hurt them psychologically in the future.” “This is a very hard situation,” said another. “You can see kids praying in tears because of their feelings of fear … that is very painful for us as Christians personally. I don't trust in the government promises, but we have to continue praying for [a] reopening [of] the church.”

United States of America: South Carolina's Midway Presbyterian Church was vandalized, an act that included having its 125 year old windows shattered. Spray-painted in black on the church's side were: “SUBMIT TO GOD THRU ISLAM” and “MUHAMMED IS HIS PROPHET.” “It was very disturbing because we feel like this was an individual act and we don't hold any religious group responsible for it,” said Bob Harrell, a church leader. “We think it most likely was some misguided young people.”

Attacks on Muslim Converts to Christianity

Kyrgyzstan: Three Muslim men nearly beat to death a former Muslim man because he converted to Christianity. After they broke into the home of Eldos, in his 20s,

“They shouted at him that he was a kaffir (a derogatory term for a non-Muslim) and that he had betrayed Islam (the classic Islamic view of Muslims who leave Islam). Then they tried to force him to say the shahada (the Islamic creed), which is considered conversion or re-conversion to Islam, but Eldos bravely refused. They then repeatedly kicked him in the head as he lay helpless on the floor, fracturing his jaw and smashing his teeth and leaving him semi-conscious. They then threatened that they would come back to kill him if he did not leave the village by the morning.”

Eldos reported the incident to local authorities—only to find them siding with his attackers. He “was held captive for ten hours in a prosecutor's office in the capital Bishkek by the lawyer of his attackers. The lawyer tried to force Eldos to drop the charges against the three men who viciously attacked him.” Among the threats made during his ordeal, the defense lawyer told Eldos, was, “We are going to lock you in prison and you are going to beg me for your life.” Eldos and his uncle, also a convert to Christianity, fled the Muslim-majority nation two days later.

Uganda: A former Muslim imam and secret convert to Christianity, Sheikh Hassan Podo, 28, explained what happened to him after an informer told his family that he had been missing mosque prayers and was seen entering a church: “my brothers immediately began surrounding me, with sticks. It was difficult to escape [from the family house]. They began shouting, beating and insulting me as an ‘infidel' and enemy of the Islamic religion.” A local heard “a loud cry emanating from Podo's homestead, raising a big concern from the neighbors who arrived at the scene of attack and helped Podo to escape. He bled as he fled for his life. Later he was found in a pool of blood a kilometer away from the homestead, unconscious.” His wife and two children managed to escape to a nearby Christian neighbor. Podo was rushed to a clinic, where he was treated for wounds to his head and body; two days later he was discharged to a pastor's home. According to the pastor, Podo's father has since assembled a group of Muslims from different mosques “to hunt for the life of his son, declaring a fatwa and disowning him, and giving his land to the brothers for bringing blasphemy into the family.”

Kenya: Charles Ndingi Mudasir, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2014, shared some of what transpired once his Muslim father learned of his apostasy:

“One Sunday morning, [my father] followed behind me and saw me enter the church. That evening, he called two imams and my uncles. All of them descended on me with blows, slaps, and whips, calling me a kafir (infidel)…. They forced me to repeat the shahada [several times]. They continued to beat me mercilessly. My furious father hit me in the head and I fainted. When I woke up, I found myself locked in a dark room and with a lot of pain. Back in my mind, I knew that I was still a Christian and if I died I would go to heaven. I was released after two days. Life was never the same again. I was not allowed to leave the compound on Sundays.”

Then, “in 2015, my father arranged a trip for me and my uncle, Mohamed, to Qatar. We were to be there for a month and come back,” continued Charles. While at the airport with his uncle, Charles asked his brother why he was weeping:

“My brother, who is still a Muslim, had compassion for me. He [told me of] the plan my father had devised; to have me beheaded in Qatar because I had refused to convert back to Islam. I acted very fast, escaped from my uncle at the airport and rushed back to the church.”

Later, “while surfing in a cyber café in Mombasa [with] my childhood friend, some people blindfolded and whisked me into a waiting car,” says Charles:

“I was taken round and round by the men, [who were] praising Allah that they had found me. Finally, I was taken to a mosque and uncovered….. I was later moved to another house and locked inside a small dark room. I was given seven days to repent and re-Islamize. Every day, I was given a blue pill with very little water. My captors told me that my father had sent that pill to help me remove unbelief from my thick head. Yes, my father again. My heart sank deeper…. On the eighth day, I was told that they would take me to the mosque to either be killed or [to be dropped off after] injecting me with poison. I knew my end had just arrived. I said my final prayer for deliverance from the claws of the enemy or a gracious welcome to the heavenly presence of God. The Lord answered my prayer, and my captors asked me where I wanted to go. I told them that I wanted to go to the South Coast.”

He was again blindfolded, shoved into the car, driven to the South Coast, and dumped near the Word of Life Mombasa.

General Discrimination and Persecution

Palestinian Authority: On April 25, “the terrified residents of the Christian village of Jifna near Ramallah,” states a report, “were attacked by Muslim gunmen … after a woman from the village submitted a complaint to the police that the son of a prominent, Fatah-affiliated leader had attacked her family. In response, dozens of Fatah gunmen came to the village, fired hundreds of bullets in the air, threw petrol bombs while shouting curses, and caused severe damage to public property. It was a miracle that there were no dead or wounded.” The “rioters,” the report continues, “called on the [Christian] residents to pay jizya—a head tax that was levied throughout history on non-Muslim minorities under Islamic rule. The most recent victims of the jizya were the Christian communities of Iraq and Syria under ISIS rule.” Moreover, as often happens when Muslims attack Christians in Islamic nations, “Despite the [Christian] residents' cries for help … the PA police did not intervene during the hours of mayhem. They have not arrested any suspects.”

Malaysia: After moving to a Muslim village, Slamet Sumiarto, a Catholic artist and his family “were expelled from a village because they are not Muslim.” Sumiarto made a video about the situation:

“I just moved here to Pleret and brought all my stuff and paintings to Karet. Today I am very sad to know that I do not have the ‘right' to stay and live here simply because I am not a Muslim and my whole family is Catholic. From an emotional point of view, I am really exhausted from this unexpected experience. My poor wife, my children and I hope to soon find a good solution to this problem so that I could stay here, in this rented house in Pleret.”

Although some local officials tried to get involved after seeing his video, in the end, Sumiarto and his family chose prudence and moved.

Pakistan: On account of his Christian identity, Muslims attacked and beat Kenneth Johnson, a 27-year-old Christian, after he tried to open a small grocery store. According to Johnson, a poor agricultural laborer who takes care of three children,

“It took about a year for me to save and arrange the required funds to establish a grocery store. However, Christians in this Islamic society are not allowed to initiate a business. I had customers in my shop when Fiaz Khattak led an armed group of about a dozen Muslim [sic]. They attacked my shop, damaged the stuff, thrashed me, passed derogatory remarks against Christians and Christianity. However, I managed to escape from the scene and protected myself from major injuries.”

The Muslims made remarks to Johnson such as, “How dare you, a Christian, initiate a business of a grocery store in the village. You are born to clean the roads and our houses, not to do businesses.” Johnson continues:

“The police did not reach the scene on time when we called the helpline. Instead of a legal course of action, the police officer referred the case to the community leader. However, the community leader is even more helpless in front of an influential Muslim, therefore, I have not got any relief. It is very hard for Christians to uplift themselves. They are deprived and discouraged at different levels and face discrimination. Muslims often resist to provide opportunities to Christians. Rather, they create hurdles to keep them at lower positions.”

Egypt: On April 16, parliament approved the final draft of Egypt's proposed amendments to the 2014 Constitution. Although the Sisi government had emphasized that these constitutional changes would help ensure the rights of Christians, the final language has disappointed many Copts. According to Article 244—the only article that mentions Christians—”the state shall guarantee that youth, Christians, the physically challenged and Egyptian expatriates are fairly represented in line with laws regulating this aspect (adequate representation).” Aside from likening Christians to the handicapped and minors, “the language is in itself problematic, as the population of Christians is considered a state secret and thus it is impossible to ascertain what fair representation looks like for believers,” notes one report.

“Most Egyptian Christians live in the Minya Governorate, where they are believed to represent nearly 50% of the population. The proposed constitutional changes also ignore other challenges Christians face, such as being treated as second-class citizens and difficulties at getting new churches approved.”

Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

About this Series

While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.

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Author: Raymond Ibrahim

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