|On March 26, medical staff and security guards at Services Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan beat to death a Christian father of four and injured five members of his family, including the pregnant sister he had brought because she was in labor. Pictured: The Department of Surgery at Services Hospital, in 2014. (Image Source: Baitaal/Wikimedia Commons)|
“We Are Bigger than Your Jesus!”
Pakistan: In a Lahore hospital, a throng of Muslim doctors, security guards, and medical staff beat Christian family members — one to death — because they tried to prevent another doctor from beating their pregnant sister. According to Anil Saleem, the pregnant woman’s brother, once they took her to the emergency labor ward at Services Hospital:
“Kiran [the pregnant woman] went to the doctor on duty, Dr. Saira, who was playing with her cell phone while sipping on tea. Dr. Saira told Kiran to wait outside until she finished her tea. We waited for some time, but since Kiran was experiencing severe pain, she again went inside the ward to request for immediate attention.”
The doctor instantly began cursing the pregnant woman for bothering her. “When my sister protested against the rude behavior, the doctor started slapping her, throwing her on the floor.
She asked my sister how dare a Chuhri [a derogatory term for Christians] question her order?” On hearing the commotion, Anil, his brother, brother-in-law and a cousin entered the ward.
Once she saw them, Dr. Saira shouted to the other doctors and security guards to lock the ward’s doors from the inside and “teach these Christians a lesson,” continued Anil: “Around 15 to 20 paramedical staff and security guards and eight to 10 young doctors … lunged at us with iron rods, chairs, leather belts and other things and started beating us.” The men were severely injured.
Anil’s brother, Sunil, died for lack of medical attention: “Most of the doctors fled after the incident, while those who were present paid no attention to our cries to help our dying brother.” Sunil leaves behind a wife and four children, the eldest ten, the youngest barely three months old. Although the assaulted Christian family filed charges with police, no one was arrested. Instead, the police “wanted to take us to the same hospital where we had been subjected to torture and also lost our brother,”
Anil said. “Moreover, we have registered a murder case against the doctors and other staff members, so how could the police even think that the hospital staff will treat us fairly?”
Speaking of this incident, a human rights lawmaker said, “It’s shocking that even doctors, who are supposedly educated and have taken an oath to save lives regardless of caste, color or faith, have resorted to such acts of religious intolerance and violence.” “I am still trying to digest the fact that doctors took the life of an innocent man,” said another rights activist. “What hope can one have for justice to the family if police have been unable to arrest even one of the accused?”
In a separate incident, in a move criticized by Christian activist groups, after “giving them the benefit of doubt,” a court freed 20 Muslims suspected of immolating a Christian couple, says a report, adding:
“Shahzad and Shama were burned alive in a brick kiln by a frenzied lynch mob ─ incited by announcements made from mosques in the area ─ ranging between 400-1,000 people for their alleged role in the desecration of the Holy Quran in Nov 2014…. [T]he woman, a mother of three, was pregnant at the time.”
After a group of Christians tried to rescue two girls who were earlier kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam, Muslims, some armed with assault rifles, rampaged through the Christian town of the would-be rescuers. The Muslims murdered 12 Christians, wounded another 20, and torched Christian property. Many of the slain were members of Pentecostal, Baptist, Assemblies of God and Seventh-day Adventist churches. “The case was reported to the police, and the girls were not rescued, so some Christians decided to rescue the girls, but the Muslims in the town attacked them,” explained a local. “The Muslims did not just attack the Christians that went to rescue the girls, but also went around town attacking Christians they sighted and burned houses belonging to Christians.” Another local said, “This is the practice by Muslims in Kaduna state. They abduct small Christian girls and force them to become Muslims, and when Christians reject this, they attack them ….”
Separately, armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen murdered 20 Christians, including a pastor. According to the report:
“The killings reportedly came in retaliation for an unspecified attack on Fulani families by young men from the predominantly Christian Bachama tribe who have formed militias in response to violence by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram and heavily-armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen.”
Although the military said it was suicide, a young Christian conscript “was in fact killed by his commanding officer,” says a report. Matthew Samir Habib, 22, was pronounced dead on March 14. The military told his father, Samir, that Matthew had shot himself — apparently twice. According to a relative:
“Matthew told us many times before that the colonel in his military unit, Ayman Mohamad Ahmed El Kabeer, was always persecuting and insulting him because of his religious identity. Matthew, however, was patient and endured it all. His friends from the same unit told us that there had been a quarrel between Colonel El Kabeer and him on the day of the incident, when he had objected to something the colonel said.”
Habib is the latest of about nine Christian soldiers to be murdered in recent times by Muslim officers and soldiers on account of their faith.
A few days after gunmen shot Samir Younis, 28, a Christian father of two, four other men broke into the house of Hisham al-Maskouny, a Christian doctor, and stabbed him to death on March 10. When his wife and her mother tried to intervene, they too were slaughtered. Although the home was looted, local Christians say they were targeted because of their religious identity. Discussing these murders, Father Biyos Qasha said, “This means that there is no place for Christians. We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time.” Others in Baghdad voiced the same sentiment: “As a Christian, life is good so long as you don’t have enemies,” said one resident. “(Also you shouldn’t) bring attention to yourself… I feel depressed because of what happened for Hisham and his family, even (though) it is something that has happened so often since 2003, but it still makes me sad.”
Orphans whose Christian parents are killed for their faith are growing in number and in need of care, said the pastor of an underground church.
“Last year we lost a Christian family killed by the Al Shabaab, and the number of children rose from 30 to 35. The Al Shabaab are now hunting down the children in Mogadishu, and we have moved the care center to a bit safer location…. The children look devastated and malnourished, so we as a secret church do appeal to our brothers and sisters in the free world to consider extending a hand to these persecuted children.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
A report briefly notes that on March 6, a man in his forties opened fire on the Saint Maria Catholic Church in Trabzon. It was just the latest in several attacks on the church. Less than a month earlier, a makeshift bomb was thrown at the church’s garden; in 2016 Muslims crying “Allahu Akbar” vandalized the church, using sledgehammers among other objects; in 2011 the church was targeted and threatened for its visible cross, and in 2006 its priest was slaughtered during an armed attack.
Less than a month after a radicalized student stormed a church and started hacking at its worshippers and statues with a machete, six unknown persons firebombed St. Zechariah Church shortly after midnight on March 8. According to the report:
“…a group of six vandals blew a hole through the wall of the church, consecrated just last March 4 by Msgr. Sudarso. The strangers then destroyed a statue of the Virgin and stacked some chairs setting them on fire. The noise woke the faithful who live nearby. They rushed to extinguish the flames, while the thugs fled from the place of worship.”
On March 8, around 15 armed Muslims, led by local strongman Muhammad Sharif, stormed the King Jesus Church during Sunday service; they terrorized and beat the worshippers and injured at least seven. According to the pastor:
“Some of our church elders were trying to install a flex signboard in connection with the upcoming Easter festival on the wall in front of the church but they were stopped by Sharif’s sons. Sharif is a local tough who has previously grabbed a piece of the Christian cemetery in our colony and built a cattle shed on the graves…. Suspicions also arose when these Muslim youths started hanging out near the church during service timings and began teasing our girls.”
Things came to a head when Sharif’s sons accosted some elders for trying to post a Christian sign on church property. “The elders tried to reason with the youths,” said the pastor, “but it seems that the Muslims intentionally wanted to pick a fight with us. The Muslims snatched the church’s sign and tore it into pieces.” When “one of our church elders told the Muslims that they had desecrated biblical verses inscribed on the flex sign,” they retorted “We are bigger than your Jesus.” It was then that the Muslim youth stormed the church compound and beat the worshippers.
“Some of them whipped out their weapons and opened fire on the church members, who ran to save themselves. I immediately telephoned the police and headed out to try and defuse the situation. However, I was also beaten up, my service robe torn and my mobile phone smashed to the ground. I think we were fortunate that none of us suffered a fatal bullet injury during the clash.”
In a separate incident, on Sunday, March 18, an armed Muslim mob attacked another Christian church for having a banner related to Easter hanging outside the building. Seven Christians were left needing medical attention. According to the pastor:
“I was conducting a worship service when [a group of men, including a government official], equipped with firearms, barged into the church. As soon as they entered, [two of them] forcibly took down gospel verses written on banners, while shouting abusive words, tore them into pieces and then denigrated them by throwing them down.”
Finally, on the pretext of a land dispute, a Muslim mob beat five Christians for trying to build a wall to protect their church. According to the pastor of Pakistan Gospel Assemblies Church:
“Our church elder, George Masih, who was 70, was overseeing masons and laborers who were constructing the wall. We were praying [inside the church] when we heard shouting and yelling, and, when we rushed outside, we saw about 20 men, armed with clubs and axes, [who] were beating Masih and others… Then our women tried to intervene but they too were beaten and their clothes were torn.”
Three more churches were shut down. First, local authorities in Oran closed two churches “amidst growing pressure on Christians in the Maghreb country,” says a March 1 report. “The two churches … were sealed off by police on Tuesday, 27 February.” A separate report from March 22 says that the “village church in Azagher, near the town of Akbou, was forced to stop all activities on 2 March. The church had been running for over six years….. The church is the fourth forced to close in the past four months.” Commenting on this uptick of church closures, an advocacy group said that they were part of a “coordinated campaign of intensified action against churches by the governing authorities.”
In a different event, two Christian brothers were fined $900 each for transporting more than 50 Bibles in their car. The brothers said the Bibles were for church use but authorities insisted that they were meant for evangelizing.
Muslims blocked the legalization of yet another church, this time in the village of al-Tout. According to the report:
“The small 10-year old church of the Holy Virgin, which serves some 400 Coptic villagers, was built as a village house in the midst of a collection of some 70 Copts’ houses, and was used for worship even though it had never been licensed as a church. This was a very common situation in Egypt: Copts resorted to worshipping in unlicensed churches owing to the dire need of the growing population and the near-impossibility of obtaining license to build a church.”
Then a celebrated law dedicated to easing restrictions on churches passed in 2016, and the al-Toud church was among the very first churches to be inspected by a committee for approval. But then “village Muslims got wind of the matter,” says the report.
“Egged on by calls broadcast through mosque microphones in the village, thousands of them held angry demonstrations against there being a church in the village. Screaming ‘Allahu Akbar’ (‘Allah is the Greatest’) and angry slogans against the church, they attacked the Copts’ houses with stones and rushed to hastily build a wall blocking access to the street leading to the church and, in the process, placing the Copts’ homes under siege. When the committee members arrived, they were forced away under the pretext that there was no church in that place.”
If any measure of peace between Muslims and Christians is to prevail, no church can exist in the village, local Muslims said, adding, “The only houses of worship that can ever be built in this village are Muslim places of worship for Allah.”
A separate report offers more general information, including why the “decision to legalize 53 churches did little to impress Egypt’s Christian minority. One of the reasons is that they are just a fraction of the unlicensed churches in Egypt…” Also, reason, according to a human rights activist:
“The Christians are afraid to pray at hundreds of churches … because they know that the prayers will incite the radicals and cause bloodshed. There is total frustration among Christians because of the failure of the government to legalize the churches.”
The report adds that, “although the population of the Christian minority is estimated at 9 million … there are only 6,000 churches in the country. Many Christians must travel long distances to reach a church.” And although the majority of Christians live in the more rural parts of southern Egypt, about 150 villages there “do not have access to a church at all and most of Egypt’s churches are concentrated in Cairo, Giza province and Alexandria.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom and Dignity
Two Christians were publicly flogged in front of a mosque for playing a children’s game said to violate Islamic law. According to the report:
“The game [unspecified] is seen by authorities in the conservative Muslim province [of Banda Aceh] as ‘gambling’ and therefore it violates Islamic Sharia law. Some 300 people jeered and held up their mobile phones to record when Dahlan Silitonga, 61, and Tjia Nyuk Hwa, 45, were flogged six and seven times respectively. The pair had been arrested along with a third man for playing a game at a children’s entertainment complex that lets users exchange coins for prizes or vouchers, including cash. They were among five people—including a couple whipped two dozen times each for showing affection in public—receiving between six and 24 lashes with a rattan stick.”
After kidnapping 110 school girls in Dapchi, the Islamic jihadi organization, Boko Haram, ended up releasing them all, except for one Christian girl, Liya, because she refused to convert to Islam. According to her father, “they said she is a Christian and that is why they cannot release her. They said if she wants to be released” she must “become a Muslim and she said she will never become a Muslim.” After all the other girls were released and returned to their parents, he described the mood in Dapchi as one of “jubilation,” whereas “I am very sad but I am also jubilating too because my daughter did not denounce Christ.”
Magdy Farag Samir, 49, a Christian teacher, was arrested on March 14 and charged with “contempt for religion” — more colloquially known as the blasphemy law — three months after he administered a multiple choice test revolving around prophet Muhammad. This outraged some Muslim students and parents. “Many Copts are being charged with contempt of religion and jailed for nothing…because the revolution dropped the Muslim Brotherhood but left their ideology unchanged,” explained a local human rights activist in the context of this case. “Egypt’s law of contempt of religion only applies to one side — Islam. Crimes of contempt in Egypt only refer to contempt of Islam.”
A Muslim family attacked a male family member with boiling oil for becoming Christian. A week earlier, on Sunday March 4, Gobera Bashir, 27, had accompanied a friend to church in a different village; during service he accepted Christ and a pastor gave him a Bible, adding, “Be cautious when reading the Bible, since your family is a Muslim family.” Four days later his young sister walked into his room while he was reading the Bible. “Why are you reading the Bible? You know our family only reads the Koran,” she said. He replied that he was merely trying to gain knowledge, but word soon spread that he was in possession of a Bible. On March 10, around 9:30 pm, a group of people began knocking on the door of his home. When he refused to answer, they broke in. “As they entered the house, they found me in the sitting room and began tying my arms and legs with robes and shouting, ‘Shame! Shame! You are bringing a bad omen to the family with your bad Christian religion. Our family is a Muslim family.'”
Although the men were masked, he determined that some, including his uncle, were related to him. “There and then,” continues Gobera “one of them poured a hot liquid from a thermos flask on me, and then they dragged me out of the house” to a nearby swamp. “As they pulled me, I felt a lot of pain and screamed for help as one of the attackers blocked my mouth, and there I lost consciousness. I only gained consciousness around midnight.” A nearby Christian family took him in. He received medical treatment at a health center for four days. Burns covered 40% of his body. Most were on his legs and buttocks, caused when his persecutors forced him to sit on the scorching oil.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a statement on March 24 saying that it “is disappointed to find inflammatory content in Saudi textbooks that was previously thought to have been removed.” A study conducted by the commission “uncovered content promoting violence and hatred toward religious minorities and others.”
“While the Saudi government has been engaged in textbook reform for the last 15 years, the presence of these passages makes clear how little progress has been made and highlights an immediate need for the Saudi government to more seriously address this issue, as well as the exportation of these textbooks internationally, as a part of its ambitious reform process.”
Previous studies have found that Saudi school textbooks regularly dehumanize non-Muslims, Christians and Jews chief among them.
Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute 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 Muslim extremists is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.