Tragic stories of Christian experiences under the Islamic State continued to emerge throughout the month of January. A Christian doctor who forfeited the chance to escape his Syrian village after ISIS had captured it because he wanted to stay and help the sick and needy, both Christian and Muslim, was kidnapped by the Muslim terrorists and ordered to renounce Christ for Muhammad. When he refused, they publicly slaughtered him. Similarly, after ISIS ordered another Christian youth in Syria to embrace Islam, he too refused and was slaughtered for it. His mother — who was prevented from burying her martyred son's body — recalled that when ISIS first invaded their village, he reminded her of Jesus' assertion in the New Testament: "If you deny me before men I will deny you before the Father."
After members of ISIS raided the home of Zarefa, an elderly Christian woman in Iraq, they discovered crucifixes and Christian icons. "They forced me to spit on the Cross," she recalled.
I told them that it was not appropriate, that it was a sin. He said that I must spit. 'Don't you see that I have a gun?' he asked me. I said to myself, 'Oh, the Cross! I am weak, I will spit on you. But Lord, I ask you to take revenge for me. I cannot escape from this.'
According to the report, "The shame is still visible on Zarefa's face when she recounts the memory; her town, Qaraqosh, is liberated now, but she is still recovering from the traumatic two years that are only just behind her."
A Christian widow and her teenage son from the Nineveh plains of Iraq recounted their treatment after ISIS took their village. The boy described how the militants once marched him "by men in orange suits, held at gunpoint by a group of Daesh [ISIS] children."
The children executed them with pleasure... Another time I ran into a big crowd on the street. There was a woman; her hands and feet were tied. The Daesh terrorists drew a circle around her. If she got out of the circle, she would live, but that was impossible because she was tied. While her relatives were crying and begging for a pardon, the Jihadists threw stones at her until she died.
After being made to watch several such execution, the militants told him: "If you do not convert to Islam, we will shoot you as well." The boy, who was 14 at the time, added: "That is when I converted to Islam. From that time on, we concealed that we were Christians." Later, when the jihadis discovered he was wearing a crucifix around his neck, they beat him and sent him to an Islamic "correctional camp" where he was indoctrinated in the Koran for a month.
I was hit whenever I could not answer their questions [about Muslim doctrine] the way they wanted me to, and my mother was stung with long needles because she had not studied anything from the Koran.
After two years under ISIS, they managed to escape. "Yes, I am embarrassed for having had to profess Islam," the boy said.
The rest of the accounts of Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in January 2017 include, but are not limited to, the following:
Muslim Violence against and Slaughter of Christians
Egypt: Over the course of just 10 days in January, four Christians were slaughtered on three separate occasions. On January 3, a Muslim man crept up behind a Christian man, 45, and slit his throat, because he owned a shop that sold alcohol, which the Muslim deemed "contrary to the Sharia [Islamic law] and the religion [Islam]." On January 6, a married Christian couple (husband 62, wife 55) were found slaughtered in their home in Monufia, north Egypt. Their throats were slit and their bodies had multiple stab wounds. Nothing was stolen from their apartments; relatives say it was a hate crime based on their religion. On Friday, January 13, another Christian man, a young surgeon — well-liked by poor Muslim and Christian locals for providing them with free treatment — was found slaughtered in his apartment in Asyut, southern Egypt. He too had stab wounds to his neck, chest, and back.
Philippines: According to a January 12, 2017 report, a former Muslim convert to Christianity was found slaughtered in his home by local Muslims for apostatizing from Islam. During his time as a Muslim, Datu was hostile to Christianity; when he found that a Christian youth was courting his daughter and the couple wanted to marry, he began to hurl stones at the boy's father, a pastor. Later, when even death threats failed to separate the couple — and after securing a large dowry from the Christian family — Datu agreed to the marriage. During the church ceremony, which was conducted by the bridegroom's father, whom Datu used to stone, the Muslim man was struck by what he heard to the point that he converted to Christianity. He then fled to another town to avoid persecution and study the Bible. When he returned home to visit his family, he was found dead, killed by local Muslims for apostatizing from Islam.
Germany: A court heard how a 27-year-old Muslim intruder named Abubaker broke into the Heilbronn home of a 70-year-old Christian woman described as a "devout Catholic" and "regular churchgoer." He tied her up, abused her, placed a cross in her hands, and strangled her to death. Then he wrote "a series of Arabic and religious messages around the house" — including "It's payback time" in English — before stealing some items and fleeing the scene. The defendant — described as a "strict Muslim" — is of Pakistani descent and grew up in Saudi Arabia. Although his DNA was found on the scene of the murder as well as an imprint of the sole of his red shoes and fibers from his jacket, Abubaker insisted the charges against him were a "lie" and that he was being "framed by a religious conspiracy."
France: Apparently, the slaughter of Fr. Jacques Hamel, when Muslim terrorists marched into his church during morning mass and slit his throat, was just the spectacular tip of an iceberg of Muslim persecution of Christians in France. A new study reveals that "Islamist extremist attacks on Christians in France intensified in 2016, with the country experiencing a 38 percent rise in faith-related incidents. Attacks rose from 273 in 2015 to 376 in 2016," the majority occurring during the last Christmas season. "Many of the attacks took place in churches and other places of worship. One church had its wall vandalised by blasphemous graffiti. A Jesus Christ figure at a Catholic memorial in Fournes-en-Weppes was likewise attacked by the Islamist militants." In response to these hate crimes, growing numbers of clergymen are going as far as to accuse Muslim terrorists of demonic possession. Concerning the murder of Fr. Hamel, right before the Muslim assailant slit his throat, the priest reportedly shouted, "Be gone, Satan!", and during his memorial service, Archbishop Dominique Lebrun called on those "who are tormented by diabolical violence, you who are drawn to kill by a demonic, murderous madness, [to] pray to God to free you from the devil's grip."
Nigeria: On Saturday, January 7 a group of Muslim herdsmen invaded a predominantly Christian village, where they killed six police officers and four civilians, and destroyed houses and a police truck. According to the report"
The Fulani are the largest nomadic people group in the world and are known for the high level of importance they assign to their cattle. They are predominantly Muslim and often carry out attacks in Nigeria in the name of Islam. However, Nigeria has refused to recognize them as a terrorist group.
Separately, because hundreds of Christians have been slaughtered by Muslim Fulani in recent weeks and months, the Christian Association of Nigeria designated Sunday, January 8, "as a national day of mourning for Christians killed by Muslim Fulani terrorists in southern Kaduna State," said a report. It described the killings as ethnic and religious cleansing by "Islamic fundamentalists disguising as Fulani herdsmen." This contradicts Nigerian President Buhari, a Muslim, who attributes Fulani violence against Christians to "poverty, injustice and the lack of job opportunities." Other analysts, especially in the West, cite climate change and desertification as factors. Christian leaders said Buhari's minimizing of the Fulani attacks "speaks volumes over perceived official endorsement of the dastardly and ungodly acts".
Uganda: On January 15, a Muslim mob consisting of nearly 100 men attacked a Christian church during a prayer meeting. They locked the congregation in, beat several male members with clubs and sticks, tied them up, and then raped 15 women. "Previously," notes the report, "Muslims had only thrown stones at the roof of the church building to disrupt church services of the 500-member congregation." During the attack, a Christian heard a Muslim yell, "Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity." Since two weeks after the attack, the pastor and eight other Christians remain missing.
Pakistan: Muhammad Din and three other Muslim men broke into a Christian household while the man of the house was out working and gang-raped his wife; while doing so they also demanded that she and her family to abandon their home, which is adjacent to the home of Muhammad Din. Before leaving, they set fire to the house; the Christian couples' four children managed to escape the flames, but the rape victim's elderly father could not get out in time and suffered burns. When they rushed the elderly "infidel" to a hospital, treatment was denied him. Since then, the 70-year-old "father of [the] victim of gang rape knocked [on] every door for justice to lodge report against Muslim rapists but due to their influence and contact in government none was ready to register case against them."
Separately, on New Year's Eve, an armed Muslim mob attacked a Christian neighborhood, described as a "mission compound," in Sukkur; 10 Christians were injured. According to the report, "the attackers had tortured the elderly, women, children and men alike." Some of the assailants wore police uniforms. The reason behind the attack is apparently that the Muslims want to evict them from their homes and seize the land for themselves.
Somalia: A report makes clear why the Horn of Africa is now considered the second worst nation in which to be a Christian:
[T]he mere suspicion [that a Somali has become Christian] leads to a rushed public beheading. Christians cannot raise their children according to their faith and would face severe problems if they attempted to celebrate Christian holidays. In a nutshell, to survive in the country Christians must pretend not to be Christians.
One international law analyst said that "killing Christian converts in Somalia has become very common" and "implied that the converts in North Korea are better off, even though the latter is the world's top Christian persecutor."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Germany: Muslim vandals devastated a Christian parish in the town of Brühl and wrote Islamic slogans on the walls. According to the report, "the vandals left a 'picture of devastation' [according to police statements], destroying glass panes, breaking doors and writing 'Islamist' slogans on the walls." Despite the Islamic nature of the slogans, police said they "do not assume" they are relevant to the motive for the attack.
Nigeria: According to the Christian Association of Nigeria, 900 Christian churches have been destroyed in 12 northern states that adopted Islamic law, in the early 2000s. In January, the government of one of those sharia-compliant states, Jigawa State, ordered two churches — the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the Lord's Chosen Church — both of which had been operating for more than 25 years, to be bulldozed to the ground; 800 Christians were left without a place to worship. Because authorities did not give church leaders any notice, they were unable to save Bibles, valuables, and other personal possessions. According to the report, "Christians in Jigawa State are suffering increasing persecution and discrimination from their Muslim counterparts and local leaders," many of whom are "hell-bent on enforcing restrictive laws on Christians. These church demolitions are just one example in the bigger picture of systemic persecution in these regions."
Iraq: At least 100 places of worship, mostly Christian, with a few Yazidi temples, have been vandalized or completely demolished in the territories of Mosul and Nineveh Province since June 2014, when the Islamic State captured them, said a report. Locals told how ISIS set fire to the Church of the Immaculate Conception and beheaded its statues: "The jihadists used the church as a shooting range and the mannequins [statues] as targets. The mannequins are completely riddled [with bullets]." St George's Syriac Catholic Church was transformed into an improvised bomb factory; hundreds of bombs and grenades were found there, battle plans were written on church walls, and chemicals were found in the building together with instructions on how to mix them into explosives.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom: No to Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Evangelization
Uganda: At a New Year's celebration, Muslim relatives of Sandra, a 24-year-old former Muslim woman who put her faith in Christ at a Christmas service, coerced her into taking poison. From her hospital bed, she shared her story:
I had great peace when the pastor prayed for me to take Jesus as my savior.... I later shared my testimony with my brother, who outrightly accused me of being an infidel and an outcast from the family and the Muslim community. I felt great pain inside me because of the insults.
On the following day, Sunday, January 1, her immediate family and a few other relatives gathered together for a meal in the predominantly Muslim village. At one point, a paternal uncle read to her a Bible verse and suggested it meant God would protect her from harm, including illness from ingesting poison.
He said, 'Do you believe that Issa [Jesus] is able to protect you from poison as written in the Bible?' and I answered 'Yes'.... Immediately I was forced to take the poison to confirm my faith in the Bible, at around midnight. I could not deny the Bible, so I took the rat poison.... I started having severe stomach pains together with vomiting and cried for help. I was taken away from the homestead to a nearby bush. I was tied with a rope to a tree and left to die.
Her desperate cries awoke a Christian neighbor who came to the scene, saw her condition, and rushed her to a local hospital where, last reported, she was in stable condition.
Separately, six Muslims ambushed and beat a church leader after a sheikh, who had been dispatched to assassinate the pastor and destroy his church, ended up converting to Christianity instead.
Algeria: Samir Chamek, a 34-year-old Christian man, was sentenced to one year in prison after a court found him "guilty of insulting Islam and its prophet over items he posted on his Facebook page." The sentencing follows a year-long legal battle. Judicial police were presented with pictures and comments on Chamek's Facebook page, which were described as "accusing the prophet Muhammad of terrorism and murder and comparing the prophet to Hitler, mentioning the persecution and massacre of the Jews."
Pakistan: As happens every month, several Christians were falsely accused of blasphemy by Muslims looking to "settle the score":
An evangelical Christian was arrested on charges of blasphemy and faces the death penalty. According to a complaint by a Muslim, Haji Nadeem, Shahbaz Babu desecrated the Koran by writing his name on some pages, tearing them up and then scattering them on the street in front of a mosque. Although the Muslim admits he did not see the accused in the act, Babu — whom human rights activists say is "completely illiterate" — was nonetheless arrested. In a nation where the mere accusation that an infidel insulted Islam could get the non-Muslim killed by the mob, executed by the state or simply imprisoned, Babu's defenders wonder at the notion that he "is supposed to have desecrated the Qurʾān in secret, but then left the evidence for everyone to see." Others say that he was disliked by the mosque because several members had stopped attending it and listening to the evangelist who is popular in his region.
An imam in Lambanwali accused an elderly Christian of writing and sending to him a series of "derogatory letters" in which he defamed the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Once the blasphemy accusation was made, police promptly stormed the Christian's home in the night and arrested his entire family. Although the man denies the accusation — correctly pointing out that in Pakistan only someone with a death-wish would do what he is accused of doing — he "is likely to face an imprisonment of 10 years while there are assumptions that Section 295-C might be invoked in order to aggravate the punishment to death penalty," said the report.
A blasphemy case was registered against Shaan Taseer — son of Salman Taseer, a human rights activist and defender of persecuted Christians who was assassinated by Muslims — for saying "Merry Christmas."
Five Christian-rights activists were known for their public opposition to the country's blasphemy laws; all went missing the same week.
Iran: "The Iranian government strives to limit the exposure of the majority Muslim Farsi-speaking Iranians to Christianity by banning them from attending church services, especially during the Christmas season," said a report on the conditions of Christians in the Shia-majority nation.
Such restrictions are in place to slow down the spread of Christianity in the country. In recent years, all churches were strictly banned from holding Farsi Bible study sessions and refrained from any form of evangelistic activities. The official figure for the number of Christians in Iran is 200,000 individuals and only those officially recognized as Christians are allowed to celebrate Christmas in official churches. All others, including Farsi-speaking Christians are not allowed in churches.
Indonesia: A court decided to bar media coverage on the trial of the Chinese-Christian Governor of Jakartaka, known as Ahok. He is charged with insulting Islam and desecrating the Koran. The blasphemy controversy erupted when a video appeared online of Ahok saying that many Muslims misunderstand Koran 5:51 — which commands Muslims not to befriend Jews and Christians. That a Christian would dare try to distort the Koran's call for hostility against Christians and Jews in order to boost his chances at reelection was deemed blasphemous enough to prompt mass riots and calls for his death in Indonesia.
In the same manner, less than one month after Yulius Suharto, a Christian man, was hired to be the sub-district chief of Pajangan, he was fired and relocated to a mostly non-Muslim region, "following a massive lobbying campaign launched on social media by Islamic extremist groups and radical Muslims who targeted him because he is Catholic.... Most officials welcomed the decision to remove the official because he was not Muslim."
Muslim Contempt for and Discrimination against Christians
Pakistan: Back in 2013, after Muslims accused a Christian man living in Joseph Colony of blasphemy against Muhammad, approximately 3,000 Muslims descended on the predominantly Christian neighborhood in Lahore. During the attack they set fire to more than 150 Christian homes, shops, and two churches, and displaced hundreds of Christians. In January 2017, an anti-terrorism court acquitted all 115 ringleaders of the attacks, leaving many Christians, including the victims, bereft of justice. One Christian leader said:
It's a sheer disappointment. The message is clear for us. Those who attack minorities and openly preach hate can go scot-free. Perhaps the pictures and video footages clearly showing faces was not enough evidence.
Egypt: Prosecutors in Minya province dropped a case against ringleaders of a Muslim mob that stripped naked and paraded a 70-year-old Christian woman in the streets, before plundering and then torching the homes of seven Christian families. Eihab Ramzy, the lawyer of the victim said, "It's a calamity" and pointed out that "preliminary investigations heard testimonies supporting her account from family members and policemen at the scene." Meanwhile, the elderly woman, Souad Thabet, and her family are unable to return to their home due to ongoing Muslim threats. According to Thabet:
The government is allowing the oppressors to walk free on the streets... This is our village that we were born and raised in.... How can we be the victims and not be able to return to our village and homes? I feel let down for a second time. I feel that nobody is standing by our side.
Kyrgyzstan: In late 2016, approximately 70 people were involved with a mob that dug up the body of a Christian twice and reburied it elsewhere without informing the family. They did so because the deceased "had been a practicing Christian in a village that was overwhelmingly Muslim, and local religious leaders restricted the cemetery to Muslims." In response, only three of the 70 went to trial for their actions and they all received suspended jail sentences.
Bangladesh: Although police manage to rescue some non-Muslim children from the notorious child-trafficking rings that proliferate in the Muslim-majority nation — four were rescued in January — the fate of many more children remains grim. According to the report:
Over the past seven years, the Bangladeshi police has rescued 72 children from a crime ring led by religious fanatics... [T]he group targets underprivileged indigenous communities most of whose members are Christians, Hindus or Buddhists. The religious extremists belonging to these crime ring[s] entice parents with prospects of a better future for their children, which then end up in [Islamic] madrasas around the country to be forcefully converted to Islam.... The forced religious conversion of young children adds yet another facet to the already severe marginalization of ethnic and religious minorities in Southeast Bangladesh.
Germany: Thanks to dishonest Muslim translators, immigration officials are rejecting asylum applications from Muslim converts to Christianity from Iran and Afghanistan, during what one pastor characterized as "kangaroo court" hearings. Rev. Gottfried Martens accused the "almost exclusively Muslim translators" who "mocked and laughed at" Christian asylum seekers of deliberately mistranslating their responses to disqualify their applications.
He also referred to attacks on Christian asylum seekers by radical Muslims, and criticised the Catholic Church and the Protestant EKD Church, which had opposed housing Christian and Muslim refugees separately because doing so might suggest religions could not coexist peacefully.
A spokesman for the disqualified Christians said:
These Christians have either fled from their home countries because of their newfound faith and the persecution they had to face because of it, or have come to believe in Jesus Christ after fleeing to Germany. Sending them back to their countries of origin is completely irresponsible in view of the situation for Christian converts in places like Iran or Afghanistan, because it is truly a matter of life and death.
United Kingdom: After Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth of St. Mary's Cathedral invited Muslims to recite the Koran during an Epiphany service, Madinah Javed, a law student from Glasgow went beyond reciting the passage in the service sheet to include verses that explicitly denied Jesus was God's son — a cardinal Christian doctrine that Islam rejects. Regardless, Holdsworth posted a video of the reading on Facebook and described it as "wonderful event." This prompted outrage from some Christians who emphatically called on Holdsworth to resign. The video was removed and police, who later issued the following statement, were called: "Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate crime and encourages all communities to continue working together to ensure no one feels threatened or marginalized."