Unidentified women react to the sight of dead bodies in Dogo Nahwa, Nigeria, Monday, March 8, 2010. More than 200 people, most of them Christians, were slaughtered on Sunday in central Nigeria, according to residents, aid groups and journalists. The local government gave a figure more than twice that amount, but offered no casualty list or other information to substantiate it. (AP Photos/Jon Gambrell)
Sexual Assaults on and Forced Conversion of Christian Women
Bangladesh: Two Muslims brutally raped a married Christian mother. On the evening of February 5, the 43-year-old woman was at home alone (her husband worked nights and her son was studying at a distant school). Two men broke in and attacked her. According to the woman:
«With their faces covered, they looked like thieves, but instead they wanted sex and started beating me up. As I tried to disentangle myself, I recognised Mohammed Alam’s face [a neighbor]. They kept beating me; I was scared and helpless. I asked for some water and they gave me a glass mixed with a sleeping pill that made me unconscious for three days.»
When her husband returned home from work on «the next morning he found the door open and his wife on the floor, undressed and unconscious.» He proceeded to file a complaint at the local police station against his neighbor, Mohammad Alam, and his accomplice. Mohammad was arrested, though his friend remains on the run. «Alam thought that since we were very weak Christians we would not raise our voices,» his victim explained. Her husband said that, although their Muslim neighbors initially «showed their solidarity and denounced the attack,» once he filed the complaint, all these same «local Muslims sided with Alam, claiming he could not have done it… His brothers also offered me money to withdraw the complaint, but I told them that I want punishment for the attackers.»
Pakistan: After Arooj Karamat, a 23-year-old Christian girl applied for the position of math instructor in a school adjacent to a mosque in Islamabad, the Muslims around her began to harass and insult her—to the point of threatening her with rape and death if she did not convert to Islam. Initially Arooj’s female Muslim colleagues began to discuss religion around her; she assiduously refused to respond, even when they made comments «about Christianity [that] were hateful and derogatory.» Before long, those same teachers began to pressure her to convert to Islam. In a February 16 interview, Arooj gave her story, which culminated with an attempted violent abduction. After explaining how she did not want to take the job, as it was so close to a mosque, the 23-year-old explained(grammar slightly adjusted for readability):
«I started facing religious criticism from my co-workers who talked bad about Christianity. There were three female teachers and one male teacher; he taught Quran (religious studies) to students. One day on July 20, 2020 that man named Muhammad Abdul Basit offered me to convert to Islam and be a Muslim if I want to go to heaven and if I want to live a peaceful life; he was a kind of extremist person, he belongs to some religious group who spread Islam… I refused to accept Islam; then he started cursing me, speaking bad things about Christianity and then threatening me that he will rape me and kill me for denying Islam.»
She resigned the same day, told her family everything, and her father and younger brother always stayed near her whenever they ventured outdoors. Four days later, the family was out shopping. When Arooj and her mother stepped out of the store, as they were walking towards the waiting male members of the family, they passed by a mosque. From it, Muhammad Abdul Basit came running out; at the same time, a big pickup truck pulled up behind the Christian women. Arooj continues:
«[F]our men with black turbans on the head and white gowns with long beard came out with guns and a rope in their hands; they covered us from all sides; I started screaming for help and they pushed away my mother and one of them hit my mother with a gun and broke her arm; others were grabbing my arms and legs while Muhammad Abdul Basit was trying to tie my hands with rope and forcing me towards car; I was shouting for help and my mother was laying on road injured, screaming and shouting for help; people on the road gathered around us to see what is going on and my brother and father also came there to see what was happening; when they saw us they both fought with them to protect us; my brother and father grabbed my legs and arms out of the car; then those men beat my father and brother—they beat my father so bad and injured him badly while Muhammad Abdul Basit was hitting me with slaps on my head and face, and those four men took out big guns and loaded them; they were about to shoot me but the public had gathered by them; it was a big crowd there so they could not shoot me at that time and went away but were threatening us loudly that they will come back to kill me.»
Nigeria: Based on the diary of Naomi Adamu—one of the many schoolgirls abducted by Islamic militants of Boko Haram in 2014 to much international attention (before it was revealed that they were overwhelmingly Christian)—some of what they went through is becoming known. According to a Feb. 20 report:
«Adamu wrote on the days when it was safe, after compulsory lessons on the Qur’an and foraging for meagre rations from the forest. The small act of rebellion gave her strength. When her Boko Haram minders told her she would be killed if she did not convert, marry a fighter and bear his children, she refused and was beaten with the butt of a rifle… [She and others who refused to comply] were condemned to backbreaking labour as ‘slaves.’ …. ‘I became the leader of our girls because I was the eldest among them and I was the most stubborn. Boko Haram wanted me to convert as an example because they knew the other girls listened to me – they beat me and bullied me and threatened to kill me, but I told them even if the heaven and earth come together I will not marry.’ … Soon, some of the hostages were openly insubordinate, refusing orders and being beaten repeatedly. They began quietly singing hymns when their guards were distracted. Then the singing got louder. A small group of the most defiant students was separated. Adamu, their leader, was dubbed ‘the chief infidel’ by furious Boko Haram leaders. ‘When they realised we don’t wear hijab like the other girls they beat us and said they would cut off our heads. They made us wear hijab and pray but we decided together to fake the ceremony. We mouthed Christian prayers and told each other the story of Job,’ said Adamu. Once again the students were told they would be killed if they did not submit and convert. Again the small group of rebels refused. ‘At a certain point we had seen so many bodies, we were no longer afraid to die.'»
Slaughter of Christians
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): On Sunday, February 14—St. Valentine’s Day—Islamic terrorists of the Allied Democratic Forces killed 13 civilians in the Christian majority nation, and burned down a Catholic church during a raid. In the subsequent firefight, three soldiers and four terrorists were killed. The Allied Democratic Forces, which is connected to the Islamic State, had killed about 850 people in 2020. Discussing this and other attacks on DRC’s Christians, Illia Djadi, a human rights activist acquainted with the region, said:
«These predominantly Christian communities are attacked by an Islamic extremist group with a clear Islamic expansionist agenda. We need to pay attention to these events because what is happening in eastern DRC, the killing of innocent civilians on an almost daily basis, is an underreported tragedy.»
Nigeria: A Muslim colonel stole weapons from an armory and then blamed the 12 soldiers on duty for the theft. Six of those 12 soldiers—all Christians—were then executed on January 25. According to lawyer Emeka Umeagbalasi:
«The government of today detests Christianity… This administration is running on ethnic agenda against the Igbo [Christian] population…. This has never been a practice in the Army. Things got changed the moment this present administration [of Muhammadu Buhari] came to power. Things are happening before that didn’t happen. It’s not only about these six soldiers…. Nigeria is becoming like Somalia and Rwanda. That was exactly how it started, with the government taking sides and backing the members of a particular ethnic group. That’s the situation. Even in the security forces, Christians are being targeted.»
The Feb. 4 report elaborates:
«Many Nigerians now believe the Army fights for Islam, not Nigeria… In the country’s predominately Christian south, people call it ‘Boko Haram’s Army.’ Muslims hold all the most important leadership positions. The Army’s lack of action to protect Christians comes directly from its leaders in government… When troops go into areas controlled by radical Islamists to defend Nigerian Christians, the government orders them to retreat. Then, Islamist rebels shoot them in the back.»
As for those Christians killed «illegally» by Muslim terrorists in Nigeria, some of the more notable follow:
Attacks on Churches
Kenya: According to a February 3 report, Muslims torched five separate churchesbetween January 20 and January 24. «A majority of the church members were afraid to attend services [in or near the ruins] in the aftermath of the burning of the churches, fearing that the arsonists might follow them right into their homes, risking the lives of their families,» a local source said. As took place in France when vandals used human excrement to draw a cross on the Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in 2019, so these Kenyan arsonists also «committed the heinous acts of scooping human feces onto the buildings,» the source added.
Sudan: The ninth church to be torched in Muslim-majority Sudan in two years took place, according to a report on February 17. «In every city or village where Muslims live, they should not allow anything that belongs to infidels such as church buildings to be there,» one Muslim wrote on social media. Another insisted that wherever Muslims allow the existence of a church, that place becomes «disgraced.» In the words of the Rev. Kuwa Shamal of the Sudanese Church of Christ, «They targeted the church because they do not want to see any sign of the cross in the area.»
Authorities also apprehended, beat, and threatened a Christian leader because he had spoken out against the burning of this latest church. On February 14, masked men, believed to be national security personnel, seized Osama Saeed Kodi, chairman of the Christian Youth Union, and handcuffed and blindfolded him. «We will kill you if you continue with Christian activities in Tambul,» they warned him before they released him. Later Kodi said, «I have been brutally beaten by national security personnel on my chest and on my right leg. I am still in pain as a result of this beating. I thank all those who stood with me during the detention. I shall continue to defend the right of the church despite all these obstacles.»
Nigeria: Suspected Muslim arsonists set Holy Family Catholic Church ablaze on Sunday, February 21. On learning that «armed bandits» were approaching their village, according to a report from the same day, Christian locals fled. On finding no one to victimize, «the armed bandits set ablaze the place of worship and the two houses.» Another report noted:
«While the gunmen in this particular incident remain unknown, Kaduna State has experienced countless attacks at the hands of Islamic terrorist groups, led by Fulani militants and Boko Haram. Christian communities are targeted, and thousands of believers have been kidnapped, tortured and killed with nowhere to turn for safety. While the government denies religious motives behind these attacks, the frequent burning of churches and targeting of believers shows that a hatred of Christianity plays a key role in violence throughout the Middle Belt.»
Algeria: Although all mosques were given permission to reopen on February 15, churches were denied the same permission. According to a press release from the Prime Minister’s office, «all mosques on the national territory are opened, in strict compliance with health measures and protocols for the prevention and protection against the spread of the Coronavirus, in particular the preventive support system put in place for mosques.» As one report states, however:
«Churches were notably omitted from the press release, despite the fact that the same social distancing and health protocols could apply to churches, just the same as mosques. Churches in Algeria were already facing pressure prior to the pandemic as nine churches were closed in 2019. None of the 2019 closed churches were reopened, primarily due to the claim that they were unregistered or unregulated by the state. Now, new health regulations indicate that churches may continue to be disadvantaged and so far have not been awarded the same benefits as other religious buildings of worship.»
Attacks on Converts to Christianity
Uganda: A Muslim husband splashed acid onto his wife after suspecting she had converted In «the middle of the prayers, my husband walked out and began calling Muslims and mentioning that infidels were at his house,» said Janati Kyoleka, a 25-year-old mother of three—aged 5, 2, and 5 months. She had secretly converted in December and her husband had just seen a Christian couple praying with her.
«When my friends saw the Muslims approaching the homestead, they took off…. My husband began questioning me whether I had embraced Christianity. I kept quiet. He started beating me with sticks, and my 5-month-old began crying, and before the arrival of the neighbors, my husband had already poured acid on me, and I lost all consciousness.»
She awoke in a hospital bed, with acid burns over the right side of her body, from breast to thigh, including her genitalia. «I know my marriage with my husband is over,» Kyoleka reflected. «I am grateful to God that my children are with me.» A local church couple have since taken her children and her in: «The responsibility of taking care of Kyoleka and her three children is not easy, but God will give us sufficient grace and providence,» a member of the Christian family said.
Iran: Four converts to Christianity, arrested on the charge of «acting against national security by forming a house Church,» were sentenced to a combined total of 35 years in prison. By forming and meeting in a house church, they were further accused of «widespread association with missionary groups, as well as evangelical Christian groups outside the country.» According to the Feb. 3 report:
«Judge Moghiseh – who has earned the nickname the ‘Judge of Death’ for his harsh treatment of prisoners of conscience – reportedly spoke ‘obscenely’ to the Christians and would not listen to their defence, only citing the report of the intelligence agent.»
Apparently deeming his sentencing too lenient, the «Judge of Death» further informed the Christian prisoners of conscience that «your actions are worthy of death.»
Malta: In an apparent attempt to kill the apostate and please Allah, a Muslim man stabbed a former Muslim who had converted to Christianity. Simar Halil Hannan, 26, seemingly with the help of an accomplice, stabbed Lamir Mohmmad, 29, in the neck. The men are originally from Syria. During the court hearing, testimony was offered that «In Syria there was a practice whereby if they kill an apostate, they are assured passage to Heaven in the afterlife.» Although prosecution insisted that his client «was now living in terror of the men,» which «led to a heated exchange with the court,» according to the Feb. 12 report, the accused were granted bail.
Somaliland: On Jan. 25, a Christian couple and their newborn baby were arrested. The next day, police searched and seized from their home incriminating evidence of Christianity. In Somaliland, promoting any religion other than Islam is banned. The same day, the police arrested Aster, an Ethiopian (and therefore likely Christian) woman who had been living with them. On Jan. 31, they were all presented before a judge who informed them that they «are suspected of spreading Christianity.» The prosecutor has 45 days from the date of arrest to complete his investigation and gather evidence, at which point they will be judged. As last reported, they remain incarcerated and denied access to their lawyer. Similarly, a few months earlier, on October 5, 2020, a Somaliland police colonel announced that a husband and wife were also arrested for being «apostates and evangelists spreading Christianity.» Police reportedly entered the couple’s house after being alerted by «suspicious activities.» On finding Christian materials inside their home, police apprehended and hauled the couple, who have three children, away. During the same conference, the police colonel repeated that «whoever dares to spread Christianity in this region should be fully aware that they won’t escape the hand of the law enforcement officers and that the spread of Christianity will not be allowed and is considered blasphemy.» He also encouraged citizens to report on those they suspected of being Christian, a policy that may explain how this latest couple came to be arrested.
Attacks on Christian «Blasphemers»
Pakistan: Haroon Ayub and Salamat Mansha, two Christian men, both aged around 26, were arrested and are being charged with blasphemy—which carries the death penalty—because Muslims lied and told police that they were proselytizing. They were accused of saying that the Muslim prophet Muhammad had «strayed» from the truth, and other words that amounted to «acts of terrorism.» On February 13, the day of the incident, a group of Muslims had come across the two Christians reading the Bible in a park. The Muslims began questioning them both, and asked them for any Christian literature that might help them understand their religion. The Christians gave them a booklet titled «Water of Life,» and the Muslims left. Haroon then returned home, while Mansha stayed in the park. «A few minutes later,» to quote from their defense lawyer, «the Muslim youths returned to the spot where Mansha was present and attacked him, claiming that he and Haroon had blasphemed against their prophet.»
«They also summoned the park’s security and lied to them that the two Christians were evangelizing to Muslims in the park and had used derogatory words for the Koran and the prophet [Muhammad]…. Mansha was taken into custody from the spot, while we have managed to obtain pre-arrest bail for Haroon Masih till Feb. 24. Haroon and Mansha were not preaching to the Muslims as alleged in First Information Report [FIR] No. 61/21. In fact, they were reading the Bible and discussing it amongst themselves when a group of Muslim boys, including Ahmed [who filed the police complaint], overheard them and objected to their Bible study.»
Algeria: A 43-year-old married Christian father of four was sentenced to five years in prison for reposting a cartoon of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, on his Facebook account—three years ago, in 2018. To his surprise, on January 20 of this year, authorities appeared at his door concerning that cartoon, and ordered him to appear at court. According to the February 1 report, «After questioning him about a caricature of Muhammad recorded on his Facebook account with a screenshot by agents from Algeria’s cybercrime unit in 2018, the prosecutor requested he be punished with five years in prison under Article 144 of the penal code against insulting Muhammad.» The judge complied, sentencing him to five years imprisonment and the payment of a 100,000 dinar fine (equivalent to about USD 750). «It is a tragedy for us and for his family,» local Pastor Seighir said:
«When a member of the Body of Christ is sick, the whole body feels the pain. Brother Hamid was naive in accepting this cartoon on his Facebook account. That this story goes back three years and only now it’s resurfacing – it’s hard to digest.»
The pastor added that the accused’s wife and four children—aged 6, 4, 3, and 3 months—are especially «dejected and dismayed, especially since one of the children is seriously ill.» Article 144 bis of the Algerian penal code states:
«Whoever insults Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him) or the rest of the prophets, or ridiculed the basics of the religion or any of the Islamic rituals either in writing, drawing, expression or any other method. The General Prosecution shall initiate the litigation procedures spontaneously.»
In 2016 and 2017, two other Christians were also sentenced to prison for blaspheming against Muhammad.
Generic Attacks on Christians
Indonesia: On Feb. 8, authorities publicly flogged two Christian men for drinking alcohol and gambling in Aceh, which enforces Islamic law, or Sharia. A masked man administered 40 lashes with a stick on each of their backs.
Ghana: An armed gang attacked an all-night Christian prayer service around 2 am on Feb. 6. Three Christians—one only 2-years-old—were injured after one of the assailants opened fire; the rest of the congregation fled and hid. «All three victims sustained minor gunshot wounds on their legs,» one of the congregants added. Discussing this incident, another report offers context:
«Ghana has historically been a safe country for Christians, with over 70 percent of the population claiming to follow Christ. While Muslims and Christians have generally lived peacefully amongst each other, fears of religious tensions have increased, especially towards the northern Burkina Faso boarder. Though it is unclear if this attack was religiously motivated or just a random act of crime, attacks on churches is a bad sign for the freedom of religion in a region where Islamic radicalism and attacks on Christians is growing rapidly.»
Sudan: According to a Feb. 22 report, on the day that the only Christian program on Sudanese television first aired, outraged Muslims urged authorities to remove it. «Christians and Jews are not only infidels, but they are cursed by Allah,» Muzemil Fakhiri, a popular imam complained in an online video: «Now Sudan TV is openly broadcasting infidel programs instead of playing Islamic programs. Yes, Christians are infidels!»
Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again and Sword and Scimitar, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location. It includes incidents that take place during, or are reported on, any given month.