“This Is Not the Country We Were Enjoying Before”: The Persecution of Christians, March 2022
“For the entirety of March 8, social media comment columns were awash with people who, as always, condoned the murder…. Old pictures of Maria were passed around, in which she was still wearing a hijab, and people commented, ‘see, this is what happens when you leave your faith,’…. Lies and slander were spread about her, and men and women threw themselves into a contest to see who could blame her most for her murder.” — medyanews.net, March 10, 2022 – Iraq.
“[M]y father went inside the room and picked up a bottle of acid and began spraying it on us while the group started shouting, ‘Allah Akbar [Allah is the greatest], you deserve death’”… The following day, while all three family members were still hspitalized, Muslim relatives set their home ablaze. — Morning Star News, March 22, 2022 – Uganda.
A few days after a Christian man and a Muslim woman got married—and photos of their wedding in a Catholic church went viral—…the Indonesian Ulema Council the nation’s leading Islamic clerical body, declared that “the marriage of this couple is invalid and cannot be allowed.” According to Islamic law, or sharia, interfaith marriages are permissible only when the man (seen as the head of the woman and future children) is Muslim. The married couple responded by ignoring the clerics. — Union of Catholic Asian News, March 9, 2022 – Indonesia.
“Egyptian authorities have failed not only to protect Coptic Christians from repeated sectarian attacks against their communities, but also to bring those responsible for such violence to justice.” — Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, Amnesty.org, March 30, 2022 – Egypt.
The following are among the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of March, 2022:
The Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Iraq: Family members murdered Eman Sami Maghdid, 20, known as “Maria.” Her “crime” was having embraced Christianity and abandoning the marriage she had been forced into at the age of 12. Her 18-year-old brother and perhaps uncle responded by slaughtering her on Sunday, March 6. Her body “tied with a tape, thrown at the side of the road, with many stab wounds,” was found later, according to a local source:
“[S]he was punished by her family for leaving Islam, specifically for being emancipated and embracing the Christian religion; in short, she was ‘guilty’ of apostasy…. The young woman was well known for her activism, her struggle for women’s rights, which—together with her conversion to Christianity—led her to be condemned by her family….
News of her murder surfaced on International Women’s Day, March 8. Rather than highlight the incident as evidence that much still needs to be done for women’s rights, support for the murderers — and abuse for their victim — was evident throughout Iraq:
“[O]n the evening of March 8th, a radio interview was aired by what is one of the largest broadcasters, K24, where Maria’s brother and murderer was able to explain the motives of his cold-blooded murder for almost 15 minutes uncensored and without criticism—while he was still on the run…
For the entirety of March 8, social media comment columns were awash with people who, as always, condoned the murder. Old pictures of Maria were passed around, in which she was still wearing a hijab, and people commented, ‘see, this is what happens when you leave your faith,’ as many speculated that Maria converted to Christianity. Lies and slander were spread about her, and men and women threw themselves into a contest to see who could blame her most for her murder. By March 9, the brother was found in Kirkuk and detained, but until then, a large part of the Kurdish public managed to assassinate Marias’s character post mortem.”
“John Michael Okero was quoting verses from the Koran about Christ [during an open-air evangelistic meeting] … when a Muslim identified only as Shakuuru grabbed the microphone from him. He and other Muslims started beating Okero as they accused him of blaspheming Allah by saying that he has a Son, misinterpreting the Koran, touching the Koran without ritual cleansing and disrespecting it by placing it under the Bible… They beat him to death with iron bars, stones and sticks and later burned his body to a chant in the Ateso language referring to a thief who steals people from one religion to join a bad religion, the source said. Okero was 43.”
Egypt: On March 1, six Muslim men killed and mutilated three Christian men (two brothers and one of their sons). The Christians were working on their field when the Muslims unexpectedly attacked and killed them, before proceeding to carve their bodies with knives while reportedly singing and dancing. It was later portrayed as a “revenge” killing for the killing of a Muslim ancestor that occurred seventy years ago—decades before the eldest of the slain Christians was even born. According to lawyer Romani Michel,
“This heinous crime cannot be an act of revenge, because the method of killing involves the element of mutilating corpses, which does not happen in typical revenge crimes. Rather, the method shows that it was committed in the same way as ISIS, and therefore the security and prosecution must verify the truth of the motives behind the crime, which has the smell of murder on religious identity.”
Other factors—”the village of the perpetrators turned into celebrations with drums and flutes to celebrate the killing,” even as the triumphant murderers chanted “Allahu Akbar”— further suggest that religious hostility played at least some role in the gruesome slaying.
Separately, also in Egypt, a Muslim man stabbed a Christian man seven times with a knife, after the Christian tried to save his son from their neighbor, a Muslim, who was holding the teenager against his will. Earlier in the day, the man, Mahmoud Abdel Rahman, had asked Thomas, his 17-year-old Christian neighbor, to bring him medicine because he was ill. When the youth entered Mahmoud’s premises, the Muslim lunged at him and tried to stab him. Thomas managed to escape to Mahmoud’s balcony, where he locked himself in. From there, the teenager’s father, Magdy Fathy Shehata, heard Thomas’s cries for help, and rushed to his Muslim neighbor’s home. On entering, Mahmoud ambushed and began to stab him, while calling the Christian and his son infidels (kuffar), and crying “Allahu Akbar!” Magdy was taken to a hospital in critical condition. Quoting a local source, the March 24 report says that Mahmoud had long targeted Christian “infidels,” including by playing “Koran recitations through loudspeakers” and “mistreating and insulting Christians.”
Germany: A Muslim migrant from Somalia living in a homeless shelter stabbed to death and beheaded a fellow resident, in part due to his Christian background. During his trial, defense lawyers argued that the accused suffered from mental problems:
“Two therapists reported several conversations with the accused. He had told different versions of the crime… The accused had told of voices in his head and of statues standing behind him and staring at him. He was also afraid that the Christian faith [of his victim] would be inserted to him like a hard drive.”
Democratic Republic of Congo: In a raid that began on Sunday, March 13 and continued into the next day, members of the Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamic terror organization pledged to the Islamic State, butchered 52 people in the predominantly Christian nation.
Nigeria: Some of the accounts of terrorization and slaughter that Christians experienced in the month of March include:
On Sunday, March 20, an Islamic goup of more than 100 Fulani terrorists invaded a Christian village where they slaughtered 32 Christians and torched 200 homes. Many local residents were interviewed during the aftermath. “My mum’s family houses were all razed down, and one of my cousins was burnt to death in their house,” a resident, Violet Peter, said. “We haven’t been able to reach some of our [other] relatives. Lord please, this is too much for us.” Flora Kundi, another local, expressed similar sentiments: “This is too much for us, my colleague has been killed.” “I’ve never experienced what I did last night,” another area resident, Favour Gimbiya, said. “We could hear the gunshots very close to us. This is not the country we were enjoying before. Our children can’t go to school today; we don’t know our fate anymore.” “Is this a war declared against Christians?” was all that Florence Tachio, another local, could say.
On March 3, Islamic terrorists slaughtered three Christians and abducted four others. “I have always heard of kidnapping but never knew it would come right at my doorstep,” a survivor said. “I am now a victim as my Dad, Funom Bage, 57, and elder brother, James Bage, 30, were killed right in our house.”
On March 8, Muslim terrorists killed a church security guard during their abduction of the Rev. Joseph Akeke of St. John’s Catholic Church. Another man was killed in the Christian majority region as the murderers shot sporadically while making their getaway. A woman and two children were also kidnapped. In a different region, a young female Christian student at the University of Jos was also abducted the same day.
Between March 26 and 27, Muslim Fulani raided six villages and abducted 45 Christians, one of whom was a priest, the Rev. Leo Raphael Ozigi of Mary’s Catholic Church. “Activities of Fulani herdsmen and terrorist elements here in Niger state have placed so much pressure on Christians, as entire Christian communities … are in disarray,” another pastor said in response.
On March 17, Muslim Fulani herdsmen kidnapped 46 Christians, including many children, during a raid in Kaduna state. “The herdsmen terrorists invaded our village, while the Christian villagers were sleeping,” an area resident said. “They trooped into our village in large numbers and began shooting indiscriminately at anyone on sight…. Please be in prayer for these Christians being held captive in an unknown location at the moment.”
Muslim Attacks on Apostates and Blasphemers
Uganda: Muslim relatives of a family consisting of a husband (38), wife (32), and daughter (13) who had recently converted to Christianity sprayed them with acid. Two weeks earlier, Muslims learned that the family had embraced Christ, and on March 8, called them together. “During the meeting,” said Juma Waiswa, the father, “we were asked about our salvation, and we affirmed to them that we had believed in Jesus and converted to Christianity. They told us to renounce Jesus, but we stood by the newly founded faith in Jesus.”
“When we refused to recant our faith in Jesus, my father, Arajabu, recited some koranic verses, and after that they forcefully started beating us with sticks as prescribed in the Koran, claiming that we were apostates. As this was not enough, my father went inside the room and picked up a bottle of acid and began spraying it on us while the group started shouting, ‘Allah Akbar [Allah is the greatest], you deserve death,’ and then disowned us… [A]s we were fleeing for our lives, we started feeling some serious itching that continued till the pain intensified. A nearby Christian neighbor called the pastor, who arrived immediately and took us to hospital in Mbale, but our daughter was seriously affected and was referred to a hospital in Jinja.”
The following day, while all three family members were still hospitalized, Muslim relatives set their home ablaze. Last reported, the “three are still undergoing hospital treatment.”
Separately, also in Uganda, Muslims beat a former mosque leader for converting to Christianity. Soon after Swaleh Mulongo stopped appearing at the mosque, the new mosque leader, on learning of his defection from Islam, organized a manhunt. They eventually located the church he attends and, on March 13, intercepted him. According to Mulongo,
“It was around 8 a.m. when four Muslims stopped me and began asking me so many questions regarding Christianity, but I did not respond. Then the men started beating me up with blows and sticks, but thank God when they saw some people approaching, they fled away.”
With deep and serious wounds to his head and back, and a broken wrist, he was rushed to a hospital. Not content, his assailants continued until they had located the home of the pastor who had led Mulongo to Christ and slaughtered his goats and chickens. They also left a letter:
“We know you are a deceiver, and that you converted our imam to Christianity. We shall soon get hold of you, which will be a big regret to your family and the entire church.”
Pakistan: On March 16, authorities arrested, beat, and tortured a Christian man, Fansan Shahid, 54, into confessing that he had made “blasphemous” remarks about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, on Facebook. Before the torture he had rejected the accusation. Officials raided his home shortly after midnight, before hauling him away to extract a confession. According to his wife, Safia:
“When my husband opened the gate, over a dozen policemen rushed inside and started beating him up. My two children and I screamed and cried as they tortured Shahid and searched the rooms.”
The arrest came soon after an Islamic cleric had registered a complaint against Shahid. The blasphemous remarks he allegedly made were posted by a cell phone he had lost back in 2019, his wife said:
“We believe that the lost phone was misused by someone to post the blasphemous comment, because my husband did not use a passcode for its security, and his Facebook account was also logged in.”
A legal representative remarked:
“Shahid has been charged under Sections 295-C, which calls for a mandatory death sentence for blaspheming Muhammad, and 295-A, which mandates up to 10 years in prison for ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outreach religious feelings.’”
Because virtually every Christian in Pakistan is cognizant of these blasphemy related penalties, Shahid “would never post such comments as he was fully aware of the consequences,” his wife said, and often reminded their children “to refrain from discussing religion with Muslims.”
A separate report that appeared on March 15, a day before Shahid’s arrest, seems to confirm his wife’s claims. In an attempt to forestall discrimination and persecution against them, not only are Christian families careful not to offend Muslims, but they are going as far as to deny their Christian identities and pretend to be Muslims. One young Christian boy interviewed said that, while he is proud of being a Christian, “because of my faith, I often face challenges.” Although he used to wear a cross necklace, he has since stopped wearing it as it had exposed him for abuse. According to another interviewed Christian woman aged 40,
“I changed my name because I faced discrimination by the instructors of Islamiyat classes in school. I have started to wear a hijab so people can’t find out more about me. My life has become much easier.”
The experiences of her husband, the only Christian worker at a cement factory, confirmed her decision: “I was always discriminated against because of my faith,” he said, “and some of the Muslim employees used to harass me and make slogans to tease me. I resigned from the job in 2012.” He too now dresses like a Muslim. The couple have given their three children Muslim names and instructed them never to talk about religion. “My mother suggested I cover myself in school and college like other Muslim girls,” another young Christian girl that was interviewed said.
“Since then my life has been free of discrimination and harassment, as no one in my class knows I am a Christian. I take Islamic Studies classes with them and pretend to be a Muslim.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Pakistan: A Muslim man named Muhammed Bilal Saleem climbed atop a large cross on church property, wrapped himself around the cross and started swinging his body violently in an attempt to bring it down—all while chanting Koran verses, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” and generally threatening Christians (video here). Two other Muslim men accompanying him insulted local Christian men while ogling and making crude sexual gestures to Christian girls. According to the March 19 report, Muhammad was so “intent to tip the cross over,” and “in such a religious frenzy” that “he was risking his life to do so.” Not only did his attempt fail—the cross did not come down—but he hurt himself while jumping to the ground. In response,
“Church members and other Christian people rushed to his rescue and, in a country known for its religious fundamentalism, they showed a real example of love. Instead of beating the man or lynching him, which many Muslims would do for much lighter religious offence[s], the Christian community placed the man on a charpai [bed] and brought him water.”
Sudan: Angry Muslims, evidently upset by the presence of a church, locked it up and shut it down. In response, authorities arrested and questioned the church’s leaders. One evangelist of the Sudanese Church of Christ, Dalman Hassan, after his release, said that “the Muslims accused church members of hostility toward Islam by holding gatherings on Fridays, the Muslim day of mosque prayer.” Or, in the words of one of the charges brought to officials, “They [Christians meeting in church] cause chaos and disrespect others’ religion.” Another church member said that “hardline Muslims also charged the church with providing food to [Muslim] children to win them to Christianity…”
Egypt: On March 30, Amnesty International issued a report calling on Egyptian authorities to “immediately release nine Coptic Christians who were arbitrarily detained after peacefully protesting against the authorities’ refusal to rebuild a church that had burned down over five years ago…” Discussing that incident, Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Research and Advocacy Director, elaborated:
“The Egyptian authorities have for years ignored calls to rebuild the church, leaving around 800 Coptic Christians without a place to worship in their village. Now, in their shameful efforts to silence these calls, they are arbitrarily detaining villagers, criminalizing peaceful protests, and slapping ludicrous charges on those who dare to speak out…. Coptic Christians in Egypt should be afforded the right to collectively practise their religion. For too long, their religious freedom has been undermined by discriminatory laws and practices, which place undue restrictions on the construction and renovation of churches and grant unbridled power to governors and security forces to make decisions over church repairs…. The right to freedom of religion should never be restricted on discriminatory grounds, including people’s faith, economic status or location. The Egyptian authorities must immediately repeal the country’s discriminatory church law and replace it with one that ensures the right to freedom of religion for all without imposing additional conditions and barriers on religious minorities…. Egyptian authorities have failed not only to protect Coptic Christians from repeated sectarian attacks against their communities, but also to bring those responsible for such violence to justice.”
Generic Discrimination against Christians
Egypt: In an attempt to demonstrate Egypt’s advancement concerning women, the nation’s discriminatory views on non-Muslims were equally displayed. On March 3, 98 female judges took the legal oath in preparation for assuming judicial roles in Egypt’s State Council. This is considered a major and unprecedented development; since its inception 75 years earlier, not a single woman had sat on the podium of the State Council court—and now 98 will. And yet, not one of them is a Christian—despite the fact that Christian Copts, Egypt’s most native inhabitants, account for more than ten percent of the nation’s population, suggesting that 10 of the 98 should have, for proper representation, been Christians.
Indonesia: A few days after a Christian man and a Muslim woman got married—and photos of their wedding in a Catholic church went viral—on March 9, the Indonesian Ulema Council the nation’s leading Islamic clerical body, declared that “the marriage of this couple is invalid and cannot be allowed.” According to Islamic law, or sharia, interfaith marriages are permissible only when the man (seen as the head of the woman and future children) is Muslim. The married couple responded by ignoring the clerics.
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