Worldwide Persecution of Christians Continues
Worldwide Persecution of Christians Continues
Nigeria: The jihad on Christians continued in the West Africa nation without letup. In what police described as a "brutal assault," suspected Muslims raped and slaughtered Uwaila Vera Omozuwa, a 22-year-old Christian girl studying inside Redeemed Christian Church of God in Benin City. "We are all devastated by her death," a spokesman of the church said, before explaining: "She [had] decided to do some private studies during the lockdown because the church was peaceful. She's been taking the key from the parish pastor and returning it after her studies." The slain girl's mother described what happened after she heard of the attack:
"I ran [to the church] but before I got there, they took her to a private hospital and when I saw my daughter, I cried. They raped her; the dress she was wearing that morning was white. The white had turned to red; all her body was full of blood.... My daughter was very kind and very intelligent and disciplined. We had just celebrated her admission to university."
In a separate incident, Muslim Fulani herdsmen entered a Christian-owned store and shot to death its owner and four other Christians. They did not steal anything from the store or from the victims' bodies. Despite the presence of armed security, the terrorists were able to fire their weapons for a full ten minutes, before leaving without a trace. In response, Ibrahim Agu Iliya, a Christian, assembled and led a team of unarmed civilians to apprehend them. He said,
"These Muslim Fulani herdsmen have been attacking our communities because we are Christians. Their desire is to take over our lands, force us to become Muslims, and if we decline, they kill us... The government's inability to stop these Muslim Fulani herdsmen is because the government is being controlled by Fulani political leaders headed by Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's president, who's also a Fulani man."
Sunday Samuel — who witnessed and survived the attack, and whose 42-year-old slain sister Asabe Samuel owned the store — agreed:
"I strongly believe that some of these security personnel who are Muslims are conniving with these armed men to attack our people. These killings of Christians here are just too much of a pressure on us, and the sad reality is that our people have made representations to the government at both the state and federal levels and nothing has been done."
In another massacre on June 3 — just after a May terror attack in the same region, where "more than 30 corpses of slain Christians still lay in nearby villages" — Muslim Fulani herdsmen shot or hacked to death with machetes nine Christians, most of them church-attending women and children; a three-year-old was seriously wounded. Seven other Christians were kidnapped at gun point.
Burkina Faso: "Christians were among those targeted and killed," a June 5 report found, after "armed jihadists launched three separate attacks ... that left at least 58 dead," including children. Dozens were also injured. A "contact reported that it was clear from the testimony of a survivor that the militants were targeting Christians and humanitarians taking food to an internally displaced people camp, where many mainly-Christian villagers had taken refuge after fleeing prior jihadi violence." Intended victims who the terrorists discovered were Muslim were spared. A survivor recalled how the driver of his truck had cried "forgive, forgive, we are also followers of the prophet Muhammad!" That call had caused one of the terrorists to turn to the others and say, "They have the same religion with us," prompting an end to the attack on the vehicle. "Jihadi attacks on Christians in the African nation have been on the rise," the report added; "Last December, at least 14 people were killed when gunmen stormed a Protestant church service... Last April, gunmen killed a Protestant pastor and five other Christians who were leaving a worship service."
"Mali has been in chaos since 2012, when al Qaeda-linked jihadists seized the northern two-thirds of the country. French forces intervened the following year to drive them back, but the militants have since regrouped and expanded their operations into neighbouring countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger."
A separate report elaborated:
"Mali suffered its worst year of extremist violence in seven years in 2019. Jihadi militants carried out murderous attacks in the north and central area, laying waste to Christian villages and causing hundreds to flee with only the clothes on their backs. In one of the worst attacks, in June 2019, at least 100 men, women and children were slaughtered in Sobame Da, a mainly-Christian village in the Mopti region of central Mali."
Pakistan: On June 4, Muslim neighbors attacked a Christian family for purchasing a home in what they claimed was a "Muslim neighborhood." Despite five medical operations, the father, Nadeem Joseph — who along with his mother-in-law was shot — succumbed to his wounds and died in a hospital on June 29. Prior to the attack, the Christian family's Muslim neighbors had regularly harassed them — including by damaging their home, riding loud motorcycles in front of it, and calling them "chooras," a derogatory term meaning "unclean Christians." Before he died, Joseph had made a video from his hospital bed:
"I am feeling scared even in the hospital," he said. "I fear [for] my life and my family['s].... A month ago, I purchased a house in TV Colony. I still have to make the final payments to the seller, but Salman Khan, a Muslim in the neighborhood, has started harassing my family."
After asking him to leave the neighborhood, because it was "meant for Muslim residents only," Khan exclaimed: "How dare a Christian family live amid Muslims?... Christians and Jews are the opponents of Muslims. Therefore, you cannot stay in this house." It was then that Khan opened fire on Joseph and his family; he was shot twice in the stomach, and his mother-in-law in the shoulder.
In a separate incident, police killed a man after he cited his Christian faith as reason not to falsify his testimony, as they were urging him to do. On June 22, police broke into the home of Waqar Masih. According to the Christian:
"Arif Jutt, a policeman, along with his others illegally barged into my house. They searched for my father [Younis] and threw him down from his bed. They beat my father with their guns and continuously kicked him in stomach. My father could not survive the torture and breathed his last immediately."
Police were trying to get Younas to recant his eyewitness testimony against a Muslim family accused of murder. When beating him did not yield results, they tried to bribe him. "I am a Christian and I will never cheat and get bribed," Younis had responded. "My father's deep commitment to his faith made the policemen aggressive," Waqar continued. "During the attack, one of the officers shouted, 'We will teach him a lesson for insulting us!'"
Sudan: On June 6 in Omdurman, a number of mosque leaders called on the faithful to rid their "Muslim area" of South Sudanese Christians, prompting Muslims to rise up against and beat — and in one instance, kill — Christians. According to the report, "The mosque leaders told those at the evening prayer that the South Sudanese were infidels, criminals and brewers of alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam." In one of the attacks to follow, "three young Muslim men with rods, sticks and rifles subsequently beat two Christians." According to a source,
"The attack left one of the two Christians [an 18-year-old] in critical condition after sustaining injuries on his head. The Muslims who consider the area Muslim territory were shouting, 'They [South Sudanese Christians] must leave this place by force.'"
Later, "mobs of young Muslim men" set fire to 16 makeshift shelters of plastic sheeting that had sheltered South Sudanese Christians. The Christians fled but only after 10, including one woman, were injured in the assault. Afterwards, she said, "Muslim men have long harassed Christian women... This issue is disturbing us, and it is not acceptable — but what can we do, oh God?"
Later, on June 20, near the capital of Khartoum, "young Muslim men shouting the jihadist slogan 'Allah Akbar ['Allah is the greatest']' stabbed a [35-year-old] Christian to death in a street assault on him... Mariel Bang is survived by his wife and four children ranging in age from 1 to 4 years old." Four other Christians — three of whom were women — traveling with Bang were also beaten; one was left in critical condition. "We will burn this place," one of the assailants was heard to say.
Mozambique: "It was fierce, cruel and lasted three days," a nun said of a jihadi raid on the town of Macomia that began on May 28 and lasted for three days. She and the other Teresian Carmelite Sisters of Saint Joseph, who have served Macomia for 16 years, had temporarily fled their school and boarding house. "Even though the danger had by no means receded," they returned on June 4, said Sister Blanca Nubia Castaño, because they were hoping, "at the very least to be able to visit (our) employees and their families and help them and give them new courage":
"As a result of this barbarism, the town center was completely destroyed, the majority of the administrative infrastructure was damaged and the commercial and shopping center was reduced to ashes.... We still don't know the number of civilian victims or those of the security forces. On June 3, people slowly began to return to their homes, some of which had been burned, while others had been looted.... Our mission was saved because it is situated in the hills, close to a military base."
"Since the end of 2017," according to the report, "violence in the region has claimed the more than 1100 lives" and "caused the displacement of some 200,000 people."
Attacks on Apostates
Indonesia: On June 17, Cutfitri (or Zulfitri) Handayani, a woman who converted from Islam to Christianity, uploaded an impassioned video recording (with English subtitles) describing her ordeals at the hands of her family, while regularly asking, "Is it wrong to have another religion? Is Christianity wrong?" Her Muslim family and that of her ex-husband, among other abuses, took custody of her two young sons, and falsely claimed that she had been kidnapped. During her pleas, which were interrupted by uncontrollable weeping, she begged her sister to "please leave [at least] one of my children, don't take them both.... How can you, my own family, seize my own children—are you happy at my condition, suffering without my children?" She said that her sister would eventually surrender the young children to their father, who, Handayani hinted, is engaged in illegal activities. "I beg you sister, reveal the truth, don't slander [innocent] people." She revealed that she was told that for her children to be returned to her, she would first have to "return to Islam." She replied, "even if it means I be murdered, I will never return there, because my faith belongs here, in Christianity!"
Uganda: Muslims beat a Muslim convert to Christianity and his wife for refusing to recant, and torched their home. Marijan Olupot, formerly an Islamic sheikh, had secretly embraced Christianity on Christmas Day 2019. Soon after, in May, he confessed his conversion to his two wives. One joined him, the other refused. When she reported the matter to a local Muslim leader, he publicized the apostasy among the local Muslim population. Accordingly, on June 8, around 11:30 pm, Muslim villagers surrounded and the convert's home and torched it. He, his wife, and three children — 10, 12, and 14 — barely managed to escape from the rear door. "Unfortunately as we were fleeing in the night, the attackers managed to get hold of my wife and beat her with sticks, injuring her left hand and back and the right leg, but thank God my Christian neighbors rescued her, " he said:
"As we were fleeing, I heard one of the Muslims, named Hamuza, calling out that the house should be completed destroyed [at which point the house was set on fire].... We need prayers at this trying moment, as the Muslims are out to kill me. My other wife is scheming for my death."
In a separate incident, Muslims "beat a Christian convert with sticks and burned his home for refusing to renounce Christ," a June 22 report noted. According to the 27-year-old apostate from Islam, he refused to open his door after Muslims in the area came knocking at night. "They destroyed the door and made entry, but I escaped through the rear door. They followed me and got hold of me and began beating me up. Neighbors came when I screamed for help." After a neighbor took him to a hospital, while he was being treated, the same Muslims "returned to his house and set it on fire," he said.
General Abuse of Christians
Pakistan: A Christian man and his family were enslaved and abused "for their Christian faith," a human rights activist disclosed in a June 24 report. Earlier, in 2015, Bashir Masih, a Christian man, had agreed to be Ali Babar Waraich's servant for an advance sum equivalent to $2,397 USD. After five years of labor, not only did his Muslim "master" refuse to release Bashir and his family from their indentured servitude, but it was revealed that he had been abusing them. According to Dr. Riaz Aasi, who is closely acquainted with this case,
"During Waraich's custody, Bashir and his wife were beaten and abused for their Christian faith. However, Bashir [was] never hesitant to proclaim and practice his faith.... As a result of continuous years of abuse, Bashir's legs have twisted, and he can't walk without support. Bashir has never been provided with medical aid for his legs.... Christian victims of bounded [sic] labor are voiceless. They are extremely pressurized and threatened in the villages by landlords, resulting in the loss of their courage to speak against injustice. They prefer to suffer rather than raising their voices for justice. Therefore, victims in most cases keep silent to protect their families. Bashir went through the same experience."
In another incident, a Christian teenager was sexually assaulted by his Muslim employer in early June. The boy's father and brother were then beaten for trying to seek justice for him. Saim Masih, 13, began working for Muhammad Tauseef to pay off his father's loan from the Muslim (equivalent to $2,128 USD). After a year's worth of work, Saim's father argued that the debt had been paid and that his son's salary would need to be raised if Muhammad wanted the youth to continue working for him. The Muslim "got irritated and rejected the demand," a human rights activist said. He beat the father while calling him "a 'choora,' a term used to denote Pakistani Christians as untouchable." He then, to quote his older brother, Saqar, "began beating and sexually assaulting" the 13-year-old boy. When Saqar went to police to register a complaint against Muhammad, however, the "police refused the application and abused Saqar." He "was then pressurized to withdraw the application, but he refused." As a result, on June 5, the older brother went "missing for about 30 hours. When he was found, his body was covered with multiple injuries." Masked men also threatened the father and other family members to drop the complaint. "To date," concluded the June 19 report, "local police have done little to protect Saim or his family. This is likely due to the religious bias faced by Christians in Pakistan."
Finally, in a June 14 report, Hannah Chowdhry, a Pakistani human rights activist, offered more details concerning a church attack that occurred on May 9, when a Muslim mob, trying "to take advantage "of the coronavirus lockdown ... attempted to break into the church in a bid to illegally wrestle the property from its rightful owners." She continued:
"There were two mafia gang members who brought five or six other men with them with guns and pistols.... They broke down the outer wall of the church. There was a cemented cross as well that they broke down and threw on the floor and they tried to break into the church.... Although the people are terrified about what has happened, they have started up services in the church again .... This happens on a regular basis and we just have to make people aware of what is happening around the world.... It's devastating that this is still happening even during the pandemic."
Another rights activist added that authorities should — but rarely do — take action against people grabbing land; this "creates fear in local congregations and takes away their freedom to practice their faith."
Iraq: On June 2, "suspicious fires" consumed more than 240 acres of mostly Christian land in the Nineveh district. The fires severely damaged "the livelihoods of those who are attempting to rebuild their lives following displacement from the Islamic State (ISIS)."
In addition, according to a report, Turkish airstrikes ostensibly targeting members of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) "impacted [several] villages" which are "home to Christian communities":
"Hundreds of Christian families who fled Mosul and the Nineveh Plains during the 2014 ISIS attacks now live in Zakho, one of the areas targeted by Turkey's raids. Many of these Christians have been displaced once again."
Syria: In areas liberated by Syrian government forces and their Iranian-backed Hezbollah allies, Christians are once again protected and safe. But in the parts of the country still dominated by Western-backed 'rebels', they remain in constant fear. According to a June 17 report, an Aramean Christian woman "became terrified" when she discovered that two Kurdish militiamen had dug a tunnel that ended up in the backyard of her house. "Aramean Christians across Northeast Syria have been complaining more than once about this military strategy that is being employed by the PYD/YPG [People's Kurdish Protection Unit's] Kurds." The brothers of the woman, "a respected deaconess in one of the local churches in Qamishli," met with local Kurdish leaders in an effort to "get them to close the hole and find another tunnel exit."
"After the request was approved, one of the Kurdish representatives in Qamishli frightened the family, telling them: 'These are our houses. In ten years, none of you will be left here and then your homes will be ours anyway.' This latest case has shocked the vulnerable Aramean woman who is afraid to stay at home alone and can't sleep peacefully. The Arameans, who in the last years have been living under the Kurdish yoke in occupied Northeast Syria, have frequently been victims of the YPG's scare tactics, intimidations, threats, oppression and (lethal) violence."
Commenting on these Kurdish tunnels that often presage the confiscation of Christian properties, a representative of the World Council of Arameans, said,
"Everyone knows about it, but nobody knows whether or not a tunnel has been dug under their own house.... YPG Kurds target the native Arameans and their ancestral lands so that the latter will be turned into war zones from which the defenseless Christians will inevitably want to flee."