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‘Innocent People… Indicted and Sentenced to Death’: The Persecution of Christians, January 2023

‘Innocent People… Indicted and Sentenced to Death’: The Persecution of Christians, January 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 January 2023:

The Muslim Slaughter of Christians

Democratic Republic of Congo: On Sunday, Jan. 15, Muslim terrorists bombed a Pentecostal church during a baptismal ceremony. At least 14 Christians were blown to pieces — the Islamic State, which claimed the attack, said 20 — and 63 were seriously wounded. From their hospital beds, survivors recalled that black day:

“People were just flying in the air and falling down lifeless — it was a painful Sunday, everyone inside was trying to get his or her way out, but some couldn’t because their legs had gone off. The bomb killed children and their parents. I… suffered some pain all over my body, but thank God I survived … Bibles were in pieces and there was blood all over, and when I checked around me I was in a pool of blood…. [I]n a hospital bed … I saw my fellow church members covered with blood, while others were crying… in pain … This was done… to instill fear in the hearts of Christians of attending church services within the province.”

Nigeria: The ignored genocide of Christians continued non-stop. Muslims slaughtered roughly 60 Christians, raided churches, and kidnapped women and children (based on several reports from January 2023: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). During one of these raids on a church, on Sunday, Jan. 15, Muslims terrorists burned a Catholic priest, Fr. Isaac Achi, alive. They also shot and wounded his assistant priest. Discussing another massacre of Christians, on Jan. 19, a clergyman said,

“The images of the attack are horrifying not even ISIS is capable of such brutality. After killing, these guys decapitated some and took the parts away as proof to whoever is the sponsor.”

Such brutality is not uncommon. In another recent attack on a Christian village, Muslims cut off the breast of a Christian woman.

Spain: On Jan. 25, a Muslim man screaming “Allahu akbar,” slaughtered a Christian sacristan and stabbed a 74-year-old priest. The report details:

“A North African man armed with a machete has killed one person and injured four others in attacks on several churches in Algeciras. The attack took place around 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday [Jan. 25] and is being investigated by the National Court as a case of terrorism. According to legal sources cited by Efe, the attacker shouted ‘Allah!’ …The deceased is Diego Valencia, sacristan of the church of La Palma. The images show his body covered by a thermal blanket in the Plaza Alta in Algeciras. In addition, one of the injured is Antonio Rodríguez , parish priest … has been stabbed and has undergone surgery at the hospital… Antonio Rodríguez, 74, was celebrating the seven o’clock Eucharist at that moment.”

Uganda: On Jan. 2, a group of Muslims slaughtered a Christian man after a theological debate that ended with 13 Muslims converting to Christianity. Ahamada Mafabi, a 37-year-old married father of four, was returning home after the debate, when Muslims ambushed him and slit his throat. Speaking of the preceding debate, the slain Christian’s pastor, who was also present, said:

“Muslims responded openly to receiving Christ. There were shouts from the Muslims demanding that Mafabi leave the grounds of the meeting, saying, ‘Mafabi, stop your blasphemous utterance of equating Issa [Jesus] to God, calling him the Son of God.'”

Seeing that Mafabi was under threat, the pastor sent two men to escort him home. Discussing what happened afterwards, one of his escorts said they saw two motorcycles coming behind them, carrying four men: “As they bypassed us, they shouted the Islamic slogan, ‘Allah Akbar’ and then hit our motorcycle down with a metal object.” Before he and the other escort fled for their lives, they saw how “The attackers overpowered him and cut his neck with a long Somali knife”:

“Mafabi had left Islam to put his faith in Christ in December 2020 after several visits with the pastor… Initially the pastor housed him to protect him from Islamists upset with his conversion, and later his church rented a house for him elsewhere. Knowledgeable in both Islam and Christianity, Mafabi helped the pastor begin Christian-Muslim debates in mid-2021, and in one year more than 100 Muslims put their faith in Christ… Mafabi faced severe Islamist hostility, escaping four assassination attempts, and the pastor also received threatening text messages. One such message, he said, read, ‘Stop taking our members to your church. Let this be known to you that your church and your life is [sic] at risk.'”

Pakistan: On Jan. 11, a group of Muslim men murdered a struggling Christian guava farmer, after he told them to stop trespassing on his farm and stealing his fruit.

“Around 2pm three Muslim men entered the farm and began destroying guava fruit on the farm. The culprits Usama, Intizar and Muhammad Awais began plucking, tasting and throwing away unwanted fruit while they digested the best produce. They also began trampling on fruit they did not like, laughing and joking as they left their destruction in the well kept guava orchard. The three men were known to the Christian family because they had undertaken such theft and vandalism before; they were from wealthy Muslim families and looked down on Christians and often treated them harshly.”

Hearing them, Alladitta, the 55-year-old Christian farmer and his son, “walked across to the loud, loutish men and asked them not to waste away his fruits, explaining they were owned by him, and that the fruit was not ripe anyway as it was winter season.” The Muslims “became enraged” and verbally abused the farmer. “You’re a Choora (filthy Christian)!” cried Intizar. “How dare you prohibit us from taking fruit from this farm! Grab him and kill him.” Usama then pulled out a pistol and shot Alladitta in the chest. He died soon thereafter. “The men then ran away laughing and destroying more fruit as they exited the crime scene,” while shouting, “you Christian chura [filthy sweepers] have no chance of justice, we can kill you any time we want!”

Burkina Faso: On Jan. 2, unidentified gunmen assassinated a Catholic priest in the Muslim majority nation. Father Jacques Yaro Zerbo, 67, had been a caring priest since 1986. According to one human rights activist, “The situation facing Christians in Burkina Faso is now similar to Nigeria.”

Sudan: On Jan. 23, Muslims shot dead Ibrahim Kandr, a Sudanese-American pastor, and four other Christians. Another four Christians were seriously wounded. The attack occurred around 3 a.m., after the Christians, who had been traveling, settled in for the night in the city of Kadugli:

“Islamic extremists who have been terrorizing people in the area since 2011 monitor movements in and out of town and likely saw the ministry team arrive for the night.”

Blasphemy Accusations in Pakistan

After a Muslim, Muhammad Imran, filed a complaint against a Christian man, police arrested and beat the Christian on “charges of defiling Islam and hurting the feelings of Muslims, by sharing offensive content about the Prophet Mohammed online,” according to a Jan. 14 report:

“The accusations stem from a video posted on social media showing the accused with blasphemous tattoos; however, his family claims that he is innocent, saying that he is illiterate, unable to understand the meaning of the Arabic words tattooed on him.”

Now Ishtiaq Saleem, a 31 year-old married father, and formerly a sanitation worker — a job usually reserved for “unclean” Christians — is facing a lengthy prison sentence, or possibly execution. Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency’s Cybercrime unit alleges that Saleem,

“with criminal intentions and ulterior motives illegally and unauthorizedly created/developed and further uploaded/transmitted/disseminated as well as publicly projected/displayed Holy and Sacred name of The Almighty, The Holy Prophet, The Holy Wives of The Prophet and The Holy Companions and Family of the Prophet on private parts of the human necked [sic] body along with sacrilegious/loathsome narration/speech using WhatsApp and Facebook.”

Although Saleem was arrested on Nov. 29, 2022, his family, members of the Anglican Church of Pakistan, did not go public until now, from fear. His wife insists that he is a victim of a “conspiracy,” due to his Christian faith. “We have a two-year-old son,” she added. “The family is living in constant fear and trauma.” According to the report:

“[In Pakistan,] blasphemy is misused to settle personal disputes and social issues are given a confessional twist in order to claim that religion has been defamed…. Those who use spurious motives to accuse and stir hatred are not prosecuted, while innocent people who comment on social media end up being indicted and sentenced to death. In Pakistan, blasphemy has become a pretext for lynchings and extrajudicial killings. Islamic extremists have weaponised the aforementioned legislation [on blasphemy] to strike against religious minorities without legal due process, Christians and Hindus, but Muslims too, avenging in the name of Islam any alleged offence to the Qurʾān or the Prophet Mohammad. Blasphemy accusations have become a quick way to exact appalling revenge and settling scores.”

In a separate incident, on Jan. 7, a Muslim man threatened to accuse his Christian coworker, a Catholic widow, of blasphemy, if she did not do what he said, which was against company policy. According to Samina Mushtaq, a security official with Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, Muhammad Salim, a Muslim official, demanded she allow an unauthorized vehicle into the parking area of the cargo terminal at Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport:

“Salim threatened to accuse me of blasphemy when I refused to surrender to his illegal demand. He said he would call clerics and cut me up.”

She wisely recorded Salim’s threats as proof of her innocence and shared them with her employers, who temporarily suspended Salim while they conducted an inquiry.

“I don’t know what would have become of me had I not recorded Salim’s threats on my phone and shared the video on social media. This is not the first time I’ve faced challenges at my workplace due to my Christian faith, but when Salim openly threatened to entrap me in a blasphemy case when I was only doing my job, I have become very fearful about the security of my family.”

Hate for and Violence against Christians

Israel: On Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2022, a group of Palestinian “youths” assaulted a Coptic Christian church in Jaffa. After hurling stones and empty glass bottles at St. Anthony’s Church, they stormed it and savagely beat Fr. Michael Mansour, its priest. While loudly cursing Christianity and personally insulting the elderly clergyman, they pepper sprayed him. The same Muslim “youths” then proceeded to curse and hurl stones at a Latin church in the vicinity. Discussing this incident in a later interview, Fr. Michael, who has lived and been serving his Coptic flock in Jaffa for some four decades, said that he had felt “dizzy and short of breath” after being pepper-sprayed, and had collapsed, but thankfully recovered. He prayed for peace and calm to be restored, and asked that God may shed his grace on his assailants. During the assault, no property was stolen from the church or Fr. Michael’s adjoining home, thus suggesting it was a hate crime. In a statement, Fr. Constantine Nassar, the head of the Orthodox community of Jaffa, said:

“We strongly condemn this barbaric and tribalistic act and call on the responsible authorities to arrest and bring the perpetrators to trial as soon as possible, thereby making an example of them to others.”

Although the few Arabic language sources reporting on this incident portrayed it as an aberration that does not represent Muslim-Christian relations in the Holy Land, the Muslim persecution of that region’s Christians and their holy places has, in fact, been growing (as documented here).

United Kingdom: A Muslim man on trial for financially supporting the Islamic State in Syria told the judge:

“May Allah destroy you, may Allah destroy you. We will meet on judgment day. You are a Catholic and you will end up in hell.”

Earlier, a court heard how Tarek Namouz, 42, a Muslim barber shop owner in London and recipient of thousands of pounds in taxpayer-funded Covid grants, had on seven separate occasions sent £25,000 to Islamic State fighters in Syria. The court also heard that he had said:

“I want to burn Christianity … we have incinerators and holocausts like Hitler, a lesson from history…. I swear to Allah we will cause chaos and kill the non-believers…. Whoever is not happy, a bullet in their head, I don’t want a single person alive who would oppose Sharia.”

Egypt: “Unknown persons” vandalized a beloved Christian icon belonging to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary, in Durunka, Asyut Governorate. The large icon depicts the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. As part of their tourism efforts, Egyptian officials had asked the monastery — built atop a spot frequented by the Holy Family when they fled to Egypt during Christ’s youth — to bring the icon out to the entrance of the road about a mile away from the monastery. As a Dec. 25, 2022 report details:

“For the first time this year, travelers to Egypt can follow what is believed to be the trail that the Holy Family followed in this foreign land, thanks to the completion of a long-anticipated project by Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. The project, which connects twenty-five locations [including the monastery in Durunka] connected to the Holy Family’s journey through the country, had been under development since 2013 and launched in May 2022, when the final sites of the trail were opened for the public.”

Despite such “ecumenical” efforts, on Jan. 9, the monastery’s monks discovered that the large icon had been defaced with black spray paint smeared over the faces of the Holy Family. Another, less valuable icon also at the entrance was similarly vandalized. Monastery officials immediately removed the icon back into the monastery, where they have reportedly managed to restore it. The desecration of Christian icons is common throughout the Muslim world, and has been spreading abroad, as well. In one instance in Greece — where 2,339 incidents of church desecrations have been recorded since migrants first flooded the nation in 2015 — Muslims videotaped one of their own, topless and dancing to rap music, utterly desecrating a small church and smashing its icons.

Separately, on Jan. 9, Egypt’s Court of Cassation—the highest court of appeals — closed the door on the possibility of justice for Soad Thabet, a now 76-year-old Christian grandmother who was stripped naked and publicly abused by a group of Muslim men nearly seven years ago. According to one report:

“Not only will the men who assaulted Thabet not be held accountable, but Thabet is facing litigation that could see her have to compensate the three men who assaulted her.”

Earlier, on May 20, 2016, in the village of al-Karm, Minya governorate, some 300 Muslim men descended on the Christian woman’s home, stripped her naked, and then beat, spat on her and dragged her through the streets by her hair — to jeers, whistles, and triumphant shouts of “Allahu Akbar.” Her “crime” was that her son had been accused of being romantically involved with a Muslim woman. Several Christian homes in the village were also looted and torched, in keeping with Islamic law, or sharia, which prescribes the collective punishment of non-Muslim “infidels.”

In fact, just one day before Thabet was denied justice, on Jan. 8, a Muslim mob rose up against and severely punished the Christian minorities of Ashrouba village, in Minya, after an individual fight between a Muslim tuk-tuk driver who crashed into a car driven by a Christian. According to the report,

“A street fight ensued, which quickly escalated into collective punishment of the village Copts by a Muslim mob. The mob attacked Copts’ homes, looted their shops, and even threw stones at the village’s church of the Apostles. A number of Copts were injured and moved to hospital.”

Iraq: During a Dec. 30, 2022 interview, Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, the Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon, discussed the continuing plight of Christians in post-ISIS Iraq, including how he remains a “second class citizen.”

“Some things violate the rights of the Christians to the core. The conversion of minors to Islam is one example. How can such a thing be possible today?… This cannot happen in any other country. In addition, the shari’a and some Muslim practices are imposed on everybody. This is unacceptable. If you want to fast during Ramadan, do it, but you do not have the right to force others to fast. What is this fasting worth if it is not real? There are other things. The old laws and the constitution…I’ve said before that there are Christians who were forced to convert to Islam by ISIS or Al-Qaeda. They converted under death threats. So they proclaimed the shahada but have no understanding of Islam. They did not teach them anything in order to persuade them to become Muslims…. Why? The constitution talks about freedom of conscience, but it is just on paper. This mentality and these practices — all this inherited tradition—must end. The world has become a global village. Just look at the Muslims abroad. When I visit abroad and meet with heads of state, I see that the Muslims there have the same rights as the Christians and atheists. Here, however, I am treated as a second-class citizen.”

Original Article

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