Christianity ‘Must be Eliminated’: The Persecution of Christians, April 2023


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Christianity ‘Must be Eliminated’: The Persecution of Christians, April 2023
By Raymond Ibrahim

Originally Published by the Gatestone Institute.

The following are among the murders and abuses inflicted on Christians by Muslims throughout the month of April, 2023:

Generic Muslim Abuses against Christians​

Afghanistan: According to a brief Apr. 3 report, “Taliban puts bounty on Afghan Christians”:

“The Taliban are offering money for Afghans to turn in any Christians they know. And Afghans are desperate, further heightening the security risk [to] Christians.”

Eritrea: Sometime in April, police raided a large group of Christians, mostly college students, as they “gathered to sing and record video clips for social media.” One-hundred-and three of them, “mainly students,” were arrested and sent to prison. According to the Apr. 24 report:

“This latest arrest puts the number of Christian prisoners detained indefinitely without trial in Eritrea to more than 500…. Mai Serwa prison [where the Christians were sent] is notorious for its harsh conditions and mistreatment of inmates, many of whom are political prisoners. According to the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Mai Serwa has a reputation for overcrowding, with prisoners often held in small, cramped cells for extended periods of time. The prison is also known for its use of torture and other forms of mistreatment, including beatings, starvation, and denial of medical care. The Eritrean government detains individuals without charge or trial and has held many in detention for years without access to legal representation or the due process of law.”

Eritrea is roughly half Muslim and half Christian, and, according to Open Doors, one of its main sources of persecution is “Islamic oppression.”

The Muslim Slaughter of Christians​

Democratic Republic of Congo: According to an Apr. 28 report, over the course of ten days, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF, an Islamic terror group connected to ISIS), slaughtered over 80 Christians, and “has vowed to kill more Christians to please Allah.” In a statement, the Vicar of Babwisi Parish, where “dozens of Christians have been killed,” said:

“April has turned out to be a month of bloodshed [which is] ironical of the expectation of having peace after celebrating the death and the resurrection of Christ Jesus. From the 7th to the 18th, the killings of Christians were numerous…. In one night of unfathomable horror … men, women, and children were slaughtered like chicken…. We [also] lost one of our evangelists together with his wife. His name is Emmanuel Kambale. The parish is devastated. In addition, over 30 people were abducted and their whereabouts are unknown.”

Nigeria: The “pure genocide” of Christians, as it has been characterized by several international observers, reached new levels, according to an Apr. 10 report, which found that since 2009, 52,250 Christians in Nigeria “have been butchered or hacked to death.” In just the first 100 days of this year, “no fewer than 1,041 defenseless Christians” were butchered “by Nigeria’s Jihadists … [from] 1st Jan to 10th April 2023.” For an in-depth analysis of the situation — and how both the Nigerian and American governments are contributing to it — click here.

Uganda: Late at night on Apr. 8, Muslims “stabbed to death” another Christian evangelist for leading Muslims to Christ. An engineer, Herbert, 42, was on his way home from work. According to an area pastor:

“Herbert was very effective in evangelistic activities… His acts of supporting and helping preachers were seen in Muslim circles as misleading many Muslims who left Islam and joined Christianity, especially young men and women.”

A witness who was with the pastor described what he saw on the night of the murder:

“I switched on the full lights of my car and saw about five men beside the roadside dressed in Islamic capes and tunic clothes hitting a man who made a loud alarm asking for help, but I feared for my life as one of the attackers was shouting to him about damaging the Islamic religion,”

The eyewitness sped away. On the following morning, Apr. 9, he and the pastor (both unnamed for security reasons) led police to the same location. There they found Herbert’s body, “lying in a pool of blood with deep cuts on his head, back and hands.”

Spain: Official intelligence reports concerning two separate terrorist attacks that occurred on Jan. 25, 2023, when a Muslim man from Morocco wounded a priest and slaughtered a Christian sacristan in Algeciras, were released in April and shed more light on the nature of the crime. It includes the testimony of Father Antonio Rodríguez Lucena, who was wounded in the attack. He said there was no provocation for the attack: “Nobody did anything that could bother him.” The priest also said that the Muslim had told a parishioner that “the Christian faith is negative and must be eliminated,” before he “vehemently” declared that “the only religion to follow is the Islamic religion.”

Reports further reveal that “the attacker took a Bible that was there and started hitting the seating with it,” and that, prior to the attack on the priest, “the faithful who were attending Mass could hear him shouting in Arabic,” before he barged into the church, “carrying a large machete in his hand” and “suddenly attacked the priest causing serious injuries.” The Muslim was dressed in black, and the weapon he used was described as “a large blue machete” or as “a kind of katana,” a curved Japanese sword.

After this first attack, the Muslim went to another nearby church, where he slaughtered Diego Valencia, a sacristan. After a few initial swings with his blade, eyewitnesses were quoted as saying, the Christian tried to flee, but was chased and knocked down by the Muslim, who then “gripped the katana with both hands” and “raising his gaze to the sky and shouting a few words in Arabic, among which was heard ‘Allah,’ dealt him one last fatal blow.”

Pakistan: On Apr. 1, Muslims shot and murdered a Christian man. Kashif Maseeh was on his way home from work when a group of motorcyclists “opened fire and killed him on the spot.” According to the report:

“Police officials say Saturday’s deadly attack was the second incident of target killing of minorities in the last 24 hours…. A day earlier, a Sikh shopkeeper was gunned down in Peshawar in a similar manner. There have been no responsibility claims for the attacks.”

After describing the killings as acts “of miscreants to derail interfaith harmony,” one local official “urged them [police] to ensure the protection of minority communities in the province….”

Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom: Apostates, Blasphemers, and Evangelists​

Libya: According to an Apr. 18 report:

“Last week Libya’s Internal Security Agency launched a campaign in the city of Tripoli to arrest Libyan citizens and foreigners accused of apostasy from Islam and preaching Christianity. The security agency did not specify the number of those arrested and refrained from publishing their names, stating only their initials. The agency released a video of six Libyans — including a girl — as well as a Pakistani and two Americans with their faces blocked out in which they confess to the charges.”

The two Americans worked at an international school in Tripoli specializing in teaching the English language. Libya’s Internal Security Agency accused the two Americans, and the wife of one of them, of “secretly turning the school into a center for preaching the Christian religion” and “seducing Libyans in various ways” to deviate from Islam. In its official press release, the agency stated that,

“It is keen to monitor suspicious activities and appeals that threaten the Islamic identity of our society, including the crime of apostasy and incitement to it…. Attacking our true religion [by, in this case, talking about Christianity] is no different from acts of extremism and terrorism…”

The Christian population of Libya is estimated to be 0.5% of the nation’s otherwise Muslim population. During the year between October 2021 and September 2022, the report says that:

“200 Christians were subjected to physical and psychological violence… 19 Christians were kidnapped, and another 15 were arrested. Eight Christian installations, including churches, were attacked either directly or in their environs…. Political Islam replaces the laws or interprets them differently so that they restrict the practice of other religions. It also works to change the culture of society — which puts it under great pressure — so that it becomes more radical and extreme, not only toward other religions but also toward other Islamic sects.”

Pakistan: On Apr. 23, a Christian man who had earlier converted to Islam to marry a Muslim woman, was publicly “beaten and insulted,” after it was learned that he was still a Christian. In a video clip of the incident, “an irate Muslim man named Muhammad” can be heard shouting abuses and beating a kneeling Christian man with his hands tied behind his back. The Apr. 27 report adds:

“Converting from Islam is not a crime in Pakistan, but local authorities have taken no action against any of the men who tied the Christian up and beat him publicly. A large mob of Muslims watched unflinching[ly] as the perpetrator of the beating to the Christian hit his back [multiple times] with a chapple (sandal) as forcefully as possible.

According to an insider:

“Sikander William (25 yrs) eloped … with a Muslim woman who was also 25 yrs old three months ago. To get married he ostensibly converted to Islam; then he returned home a month later. At some point he openly acknowledged he was still a Christian and local Muslims found out. On 23rd April a number of Muslims ambushed [him] while he was walking home on his road. A man named Muhammed Ismail coordinated the attack, oversaw Sikander being tied up and began physically and verbally abusing him.”

For pressing charges against the culprits, “the family of Mr. William are facing severe threats from the whole of the local Muslim community and police are taking little interest in developing their case, despite strong evidence.”

In a separate incident, police arrested two illiterate cleaners—a Christian widow and a Muslim gardener—on the accusation that they had intentionally burned pages from the Koran, thereby committing “blasphemy.” According to attorney Javed Sahotra, the two employees, Mussarat Bibi, 46, and Muhammad Sarmad, were cleaning the storeroom of a girls’ school:

“Both workers were told to clean the storeroom that was filled with paper and other scrapped items. It has been alleged that they gathered the wasted paper and other scrap in a corner of the school and set them on fire. Some students later noticed that the burnt items also contained holy pages.”

The school conducted an investigation and determined that the two employees had not burned the Koranic pages intentionally (under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, intent must be proven). Nonetheless, several teachers and students protested, and, on Apr. 19:

“a local Muslim named Kashif Nadeem called a police helpline and accused the Christian woman of committing blasphemy by burning koranic pages at the girls’ school. Nadeem named only the Christian woman, but police found the gardener was also involved in setting the pages on fire.”

Lawyer Sahotra continues,

“The complainant also gathered a mob outside the school and started protesting against the incident. Even though the school principal and other teachers told the police that Mussarat and Sarmad had not burned the pages intentionally, as both were illiterate, the police arrested them to avoid unrest by the protesters.”

Both workers were and sent to jail and charged under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, which states:

“Whoever willfully defiles, damages or desecrates a copy of the Koran or of an extract therefrom or uses it in any derogatory manner or for any unlawful purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for life.”

According to the Christian woman’s lawyer, Lazar Allah Rakha,

“Mussarat is innocent as she had no knowledge that the scrap material she and the gardener were destroying contained holy pages…. It is unfortunate that despite knowing the fact that both workers were illiterate and had not committed the act intentionally, the police still arrested and charged them with blasphemy.”

Malaysia: Selangor, the most populous state of the Muslim majority nation, “has issued a fatwa banning Muslims from entering churches and other non-Muslim places of worship.” A report from Apr. 7 adds that “Islam is Malaysia’s state religion. The constitution also allows some restrictions on the proselytisation of Muslims.” Some Muslims criticized the fatwa, including for suggesting that Muslim faith is so weak as to be shaken by entering a church. Speaking in a video posted on social media, Syed Saddiq, a politician, said:

“How do we want our children to live in a harmonious society when they cannot understand the religion and culture of their own peers? What is the need to gatekeep Muslims in Selangor? Don’t tell me that if you entered a church your faith would waver. Every other person of a different religion here hears the [Islamic] call to prayer five times a day [and their faith doesn’t waver].”

Discussing this development, a spokesperson for an Open Doors partner charity in Malaysia said,

“It is alarming to see the rise in incidents like this, giving more and more control to the Islamic authority and restricting the rights of the minorities.”

Sweden: On Apr. 22, Muslims disturbed a public Christian gathering in Gothenburg. According to the report, a “group of youths” surrounded the Christian evangelists and repeatedly chanted “Allahu Akbar” — which denotes “Allah is the greatest” and connotes jihad (video here). One of the preachers said that “They have done this several times. There is probably a connection between their holiday [Ramadan] and their actions.” According to several Muslim clerics, “Ramadan is a Month of Jihad,” to quote the title of one recent Arabic article — a time to “prepare for martyrdom and self-sacrifice.”

Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches​

Pakistan: On Sunday, Apr. 16, an armed Muslim mob stormed and opened fire on a church. The assault on the Voice of Jesus Church in Khokhar town, Islamabad, occurred during evening worship. The mob, which reportedly consisted of about 40 men, also hurled bricks at the church. According to the report:

“The outer wall of the church carried three bullet marks while the gates and windows were damaged. The area houses nine churches and fear has gripped the local Christians.”

The church’s pastor, Younas Masih, said that the attack came after his son and brother stood up for his young daughter, who was being followed and harassed by a group of Muslims. The report adds that “Christian women in the neighborhood are often harassed by groups of men while on their way for prayers.” Discussing this incident, Shahzad Sohatra, president of the Islamabad-based Christian Awakening Movement Pakistan, said:

“Our church has been desecrated. We shall fight for the honor of our daughters. The morality of our society has collapsed. They don’t care about the sensitivities of other religions. We are not left alone even during [the Islamic holy month of] Ramadan.”

Uganda: On Apr. 7, Muslims bombed a church during Good Friday evening service. The explosion damaged portions of the Pentecostal church building and several parked vehicles. According to a local:

“While members were praying, there was a loud explosion of fire that caught part of the front church with the petrol explosion while the faithful were conducting a night prayer meeting.”

Church security managed to apprehend one of six suspects and hand him to police:

“The police interrogated Bwambale, 28, who confessed that he carried out a jihad activity for jannah [paradise] in this holy month of Ramadan as a way of serving Allah and that he will reward him in paradise.”

Indonesia: On Apr. 1, local officials shut down and sealed off a church building in West Java Province, two weeks after a Muslim mob had invaded the church during worship and insisted that it be dissolved. During that Mar. 19 confrontation, church leaders had refused to submit to demands that they shut down, though now that officials have sided with the Muslim complainants, it has little choice in the matter. Officials cited the church’s failure to obtain a permit of approval — which the report says are “almost impossible to obtain in [Muslim-majority] Indonesia” — but according to Krisdian Saragih, a leading Christian of the Elders Council, the building was closed without due process of law:

“It was a saddening event for us, all the congregation, because it took place right before Easter Holy Week. The church sealing is also unfair because it was made without prior official notice to us as the building owner. It was made in our absence; no congregation member or church elders were present…. The government should tell us what requirements we should fulfill; we are of course willing to deal with the locals around our church. We want to be part of the local community. We really want to know what they expect from us.”

The report adds:

“The church had never had any conflict with area residents until the disruption of the church service on March 19… Requirements for obtaining permission to build houses of worship in Indonesia are onerous and hamper the establishment of such buildings for Christians and other faiths, rights advocates say. Indonesia’s Joint Ministerial Decree of 2006 (SKB) makes requirements for obtaining permits nearly impossible for most new churches. Even when small, new churches are able to meet the requirement of obtaining 90 signatures of approval from congregation members and 60 from area households of different religions, they are often met with delays or lack of response from officials. Well-organized radical Muslims secretly mobilize outside people to intimidate and pressure members of minority faiths.”

Egypt: On Apr. 13, an Arabic language report documented the difficulties that the nation’s Christians continue to experience in their attempts to reopen many of their governmentally-closed churches, including one that has been sealed up for more than two decades, since 2002. Most of these are the only churches in their respective regions—meaning local Christians are denied a place to worship, even though one is readily available. For many years now, Christian leadership has been formally petitioning the Minister of Interior to reopen these churches, to no avail. The report concludes by saying:

“Copts are hoping that there will be a breakthrough regarding these churches that have been closed for years, and an end to their suffering, allowing them their right to practice religious ceremonies [worship, baptisms, weddings, funerals, etc.] that have been suspended due to security reasons.”

The reason all of these churches are closed — “security reasons” — is a reference to a well-known pattern: whenever local Muslims do not want a church near them — which they show by rioting and committing acts of violence — authorities respond, not by punishing the rioters and defending the church’s right to exist, but by shutting down the church on the claim that it poses a “security threat.”

In December, 2022, for instance, Muslims attacked a church and its congregants after authorities had given them permission to fix the church’s roof, which had collapsed and hurt several worshippers. On the following day, the Muslim governor responded to the violence by rescinding the church’s permit to fix its crumbling roof, forcing Christians to hold Christmas mass in the rain.

Separately, on Apr. 29, the Church of the Virgin in Assyut was consumed by flames. According to an official statement:

“The fire occurred around 4 a.m. and completely consumed the church and its appurtenances, as it was built of wood, as well as the ancient church, which consists of walls and a wooden ceiling.”

Before any professional investigations or forensic analysis were performed, the fire was immediately and officially attributed to a “leaky gas bottle.” Considering, however, that one thousand Coptic churches have been intentionally bombed or set on fire in Egypt since the 1970s, discounting arson completely is naïve. Moreover, “accidental” fires in churches are becoming commonplace. The most lethal one occurred in August 2022, when at least 41 Christians — 18 of whom were children — were killed in the flames. Minutes after the fire broke out, officials also attributed it to faulty wires. Arson was, without any real investigation, ruled out.

There have been many other such examples — indeed, a total of 10 other Coptic churches “caught fire” in just that same month (August 2022). Most recently, on Feb. 19, 2023, a fire broke out in and “devoured” a church in the Giza Governorate. It was blamed on a small candle left on a votary stand. However, images from surveillance cameras clearly show that “the candle ignited suddenly and in an unusual way.”

Even if all of these fires are truly accidental, products of leaky gas bottles and faulty wires, the government of Egypt and its discriminatory practices against Christianity are still largely to blame. Severe restrictions, based on sharia stipulations, have made it next to impossible for Christians not only to build but to repair churches. As even the New York Times once reported:

“The Copts have long complained about being the victims of discrimination on the basis of their religion. One aspect of that discrimination are government restrictions on the construction, renovation and repair of churches in the largely Muslim country. These restrictions have left many of the buildings in disrepair and made them fire hazards.”

Raymond Ibrahim, author of Defenders of the West, Sword and Scimitar, Crucified Again, and The Al Qaeda Reader, is the Distinguished Senior Shillman Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and the Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.