Buried Alive: Persecution of Christians
Gatestone Editor's note: The publication of this report marks the tenth anniversary of the "Persecution of Christians" monthly series, which Gatestone began to publish a decade ago, starting with the month of August 2011.
Afghanistan: According to an August 17 report,
since the U.S. military withdrew.
"[T]he Taliban are going door-to-door in Afghanistan, executing Christians on the spot.... Taliban militants are even pulling people off public transport and killing them on the spot if they're Christians... [They are even] demand[ing] people's phones, and if they find a downloaded Bible on your device, they will kill you immediately. It's incredibly dangerous right now for Afghans to have anything Christian on their phones. The Taliban have spies and informants everywhere."
Egypt: On August 9, a 15-year-old Christian girl disappeared off the streets of Cairo and her mobile phone shut down. A few days later, online Arabic websites reported that the underage girl had been happily returned to her family — a posting that turned out to be false. In fact, Randa's father and uncle were enquiring about her at the police station the same day this false rumor began. A family friend responded by posting on social media: "People, Randa has not been returned. Please stop promoting false rumors. Randa must be returned! Please copy and paste." According to a 2020 report, this is just one of at least 500 abductions and "disappearances" of Christian girls over the last decade:
"The rampant trafficking of Coptic [Christian] women and girls is a direct violation of their most basic rights to safety, freedom of movement, and freedom of conscience and belief. The crimes committed against these women must be urgently addressed by the Egyptian government, ending impunity for kidnappers, their accomplices, and police who refuse to perform their duties. Women who disappear and are never recovered must live an unimaginable nightmare. The large majority of these women are never reunited with their families or friends because police response in Egypt is dismissive and corrupt. There are countless families who report that police have either been complicit in the kidnapping or at the very least bribed into silence. If there is any hope for Coptic women in Egypt to have a merely 'primitive' level of equality, these incidents of trafficking must cease, and the perpetrators must be held accountable by the judiciary."
Death to Muslim Converts to Christianity in Uganda
A number of murders and violent outbursts against Muslim converts to Christianity occurred in Uganda throughout August:
Muslims murdered a man for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity by burying him alive. Saban Sajabi, 32, was an itinerant mosque preacher until 2015, when he converted to Christianity. Family threats prompted him to leave his wife and child and flee the village. He established a new life over the following year, married a Christian woman and had children. Threats continued, however, including via text messaging. According to one from 2016, "If anything happens to you, be informed that we shall not help you, especially at this time of COVID-19. Our advice is for you to return to Islam, the religion of the family." Then, in mid-July, he received a call from a relative saying his beloved uncle who had led him to Christ was sick and dying. "Without wasting time, we left Jinja immediately, leaving behind our children," his wife said. It all turned out to be a ruse. Hired men ambushed the couple in a deserted place: "They started beating my husband and then dragged him to a nearby anthill, dug into it and pushed his head inside, and he breathed his last." During the assault, one of the assailants covered her mouth and said he would slaughter her if she continued crying for help, adding:
"What you have witnessed happening to your husband today is for the disobedience of your husband not heeding the advice given by the family that he should return to Islam, since Islam cannot tolerate infidels."
According to report, "Police have taken no action regarding the killing."
Separately, on Sunday, August 15, a Muslim father slaughtered his own son for converting to Christianity and then refusing to recant. Earlier, in 2019, Tabiruka Tefiiro put his faith in Christ, which prompted his father to expel him from the family home. Tabiruka went to another city and found a job and new residence. All through 2020, however, Tabiruka's mother pleaded with her son to return and reconcile with his father. He finally agreed and when he returned on Aug. 14, his father called for a family meeting to question Tabiruka on whether he would return to Islam. "I am mature enough to join any religion that I feel like because I am above 18 years old," Tabiruka told his father during the meeting, according to the victim's sister, who was present: "I want to confirm that I am saved by the grace of God. I can't renounce my Christian faith now or in the future." On the following day, his father attacked him with a knife and hoe; when Tabiruka fled to a neighboring home, the father "forcefully entered the house and removed him back to the homestead, where he tied him up and started beating him with the hoe," confirmed another relative, on condition of anonymity: "He fell down unconscious. He then hanged him up." The wailing of Tabiruka's mother eventually drew neighbors out. "When I arrived at Kawona's house with other neighbors, we found the father outside the house," a local leader said. "He told us that he had killed his son who had disgraced the Islamic religion by becoming a Christian."
In another occurrence, a Muslim father beat and forced his daughter to ingest poison because she left Islam. Earlier, Hajira Namusobya, 34, was being routinely beaten and tortured by her Muslim husband: "I tried to commit suicide by hanging myself with a rope," she recalled, "but I failed because my furious husband was following and monitoring my actions." During this time, she secretly began to attend a church, converted to Christianity, and eventually managed to get a divorce, which required that she relinquish her four children, which, according to Muslim law, remained with the father. Getting on with her new life, she met and married a Christian man. Sometime later, she went back to her village to visit her parents: "When I reached Pallisa, I was welcomed by my parents, not knowing that my parents were angry about me for leaving a Muslim man and getting married to a Christian man," she said. Her father, an observant Muslim who had performed the Hajj and traveled to Mecca, eventually began to inquire about her new faith and husband:
"I told him everything, how I left the furious husband who almost took away my life and got married to a Christian man who is friendly and treats me as a wife. My dad in a loud voice replied that that is impossible and it's blasphemous to leave a Muslim for a Christian man, saying, 'More so, you are a daughter of a Haji.'"
He proceeded to command her to renounce Christianity and her Christian husband and return to Islam and her Muslim husband. When she refused to agree, "He slapped me and brought out his secret stick and Doom mosquito repellant and beat me badly, then forced me to take mosquito Doom. It was too terrible." Due to the loud cries and ruckus, a neighbor came to her rescue and took her to a nearby hospital, where she remained unconscious for three days.
Finally, while shouting jihadist slogans, a Muslim man tried to slaughter his sister after he learned that she had converted to Christianity. Harriet Nanzala had managed to keep her faith secret for two decades, when her brother became suspicious on August 6: "My brother found me reading the Bible and began questioning me, whether I had converted to Christianity," she said. "I kept quiet, and he left, shaking his head in disbelief." Over the next day he continued pressuring her for an answer, but she remained silent. Suddenly, in the morning of August 8, he appeared at Harriet's home. While brandishing a knife and long spear, her brother began crying "Allahu Akbar [Allah is the Greatest]." "He began destroying part of the door," Harriet said. continued: "I started running away to save my life. My brother followed me as I continued shouting for help, but unfortunately he hit me with the sharp knife on my leg." A photo indicates that he made a deep gash in her ankle. The commotion prompted neighbors and later the police to appear at the scene. As her brother was hauled away, he continued making threats and shouting, "After my release, I will kill Harriet for renouncing Islam, the religion of Allah."
The following are among the abuses inflicted on Christians by Muslims throughout the month of August 2021:
The Sexual Abuse of Christian Women and Girls
Pakistan: Three Muslim gunmen forcibly abducted 16-year-old Muqadas, a Christian, from her family home and seriously injured her grandmother who tried to stop them. According to the report, "The whole incident was seen by a village of witnesses who ran out of their homes to see what was causing loud shrill screaming...." As usual, police initially refused to register the crime until three days later and after much pressure, including from a foreign human rights association.
"Even then, police visited the family home of the abductor Mohammed Azim Malik and failed to locate him or the missing child and instead of placing Mr. Malik on a wanted list, [they] allowed time for Mr. Malik to beat Muqadas into submission [and then to escape]."
Instead of offering to help locate them, the Muslim wife of the rapist, when approached by some local Christian women, proceeded to say that her husband had "done a good deed." According to one of these Christian women:
"I have heard from women in the village that [Muhammad's] wife is not ashamed of her husband's cruel act. She has turned our Christian women away abruptly and has said she is proud of Mr. Malik as he has converted a 'dirty Christian girl.' She has told women of our community that his actions have ensured 'the whole [Muslim] family a place in heaven.' It breaks my heart to hear how little the Muslim community think of us Christians, [when] we have done them no harm."
Discussing the abduction, Juliet Chowdhry, of the British Pakistani Christian Association, said:
"The nature of this attack—which involved a daylight raid on a Christian home before witnesses, by men equipped with guns—is simply horrific. It not only illustrates new levels of impunity that have increased boldness for such crimes, but I also fear the inculcation of hardliner ideologies in Pakistani mosques is creating a disheartening acceptance of such crime by the country's majority.... This child's dilemma is faced by hundreds of Christian girls every year. It is heart-breaking that police have been investigating for more than two weeks and do not yet have an inkling of where Muqadas and Mr. Malik are.... Every day she is not found is a chance for her to be lost forever to her abductor.
In a separate incident in Pakistan, Chashman, a 14-year-old Christian girl, disappeared after school. Her family frantically searched for her in the streets and made repeated visits to local police who also initially refused to file a missing person case. "After much pleading, our application was converted into an FIR [First Information Report, No. 622/21], but the police remained indifferent to the issue," the girl's father, Gulzar Masih, said. The following day, images of an Islamic conversion letter and affidavit supposedly signed by the underage girl and witnessed by a sheikh known for his "radical" tendencies, were anonymously texted to the family. The documents indicated that she had willingly converted to Islam and married a Muslim named Muhammad Usman. "We requested the police to at least recover Chashman and ask her under what circumstances she had left her home, but they are not listening to us," Masih continued. "They say she has changed her faith and married of her own will, so there's nothing they can do. But my daughter is only 14—she's just a child..." According to the report, "Chashman's abduction adds to the growing list of underage Christian girls who have been forcibly converted and married to their Muslim abductors, particularly in Punjab and Sindh provinces."
In a final incident, after sexually harassing a Christian sanitation worker, a Muslim supervisor threatened to file blasphemy charges — which carry a maximum death penalty — against her unless she withdraws her complaints against him. According to the August 31 report:
"Salima Rani Bibi, a 50-year-old Catholic sweeper ... was allegedly groped and had clothes torn off by supervisor Ajmal Khan Dukki in front of other employees on July 22 after she repeatedly refused his demands for sex... Dukki routinely sexually harassed Rani Bibi, a mother of six girls, and made lewd remarks to her in front of other Christian workers."
After she filed her complaint,
"Dukki and other senior officials started intimidating her by stopping her salary and going as far as threatening her with abduction of her daughters, four of whom are minors.... This incident happened in front of a large number of employees, but even though all of Rani Bibi's Christian colleagues are willing to testify in her favor, the court has been adjourning the hearing on one pretext or the other."
The report goes on to suggest that such treatment is standard:
"Most sanitation workers in Pakistan are Christian.... Christian sanitation workers are routinely called derogatory terms such as Choora ... and face sexual harassment, discrimination, nonpayment of salaries, irregular work contracts and extortion by senior officers.... Muslim sweepers use their influence in registering daily attendance but hardly show up, whereas the salaries of Christian sanitation workers are usually delayed.... Social security law guarantees compensation for those who die on duty, but the families of Christian sanitation workers are not paid the full amount. Christian workers, particularly women, also have to face harassment by Muslim supervisors... They know that these poor workers cannot do anything against them, hence the harassment is continuing unabated in almost all cities of Punjab and Sindh provinces.... The manner in which Rani Bibi has been denied justice shows how the majority population treats the most vulnerable segment of society.
Last reported, "Rani Bibi has been forced to go into hiding along with her children due to mounting pressure on her to withdraw the harassment case."
The General Slaughter of Christians
South Sudan: On August 16, a jihadist group ambushed nine Christian nuns traveling by minibus. They murdered two of them — Sister Mary Daniel Abut and Sister Regina Roba — in "cold blood," according to the report. Discussing this incident, a local Christian said:
"Islam is now invading South Sudan. They're saying South Sudan is a strategic place and... the gate[way] to Africa [so that] Islam can go to all of Africa. [Islamic leaders] are mobilizing money from different Islamic countries and they're sending them to South Sudan."
Democratic Republic of Congo: The Allied Democratic Forces, an Islamic terror organization with ties to ISIS, launched several devastating raids throughout the month of August in the Christian-majority (94%) nation. On August 3, the jihadists abducted and later "knifed to death" 16 people; around Aug. 20, they butchered another 18 civilians; and on August 28, 19 Christians were "burned and hacked to death" by the jihadist rebels.
General Abuse of Christians
Syria: The nation's ancient Christian community has been reduced by approximately 66% since the rise and subsequent persecution at the hands of the Islamic State in that nation. According to an August 9 report:
"About two-thirds of Syria's Christians have fled the country in the past decade... Christians made up eight to ten percent of Syria's population before the start of the civil war in 2011. Today that number has decreased to three percent."
Lebanon: Muslim supporters of Hezbollah threatened the Maronite Church patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rai, with death after he criticized the terrorist organization. On August 8, two days after Hezbollah launched 19 rockets into Israel, Cardinal Rai said it was unacceptable for "a party [Hezbollah] to make decisions on war" without the two-thirds quorum required by Lebanon's constitution. Immediately, according to an August 13 report, "Supporters of Hezbollah responded by threatening the cardinal's life with social media posts that pictured Cardinal Rai with a noose around his neck." In one post, someone from southern Beirut wrote in Arabic: "You don't think we know how to hang?" In response, Defence of Christians, a Lebanese human rights group, said:
"The patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church, Patriarch Rai, is just calling for peace. He is not making a political statement. If Hezbollah and Israel go to war, Lebanese civilians will suffer. Hezbollah should not be firing rockets from civilian population centers in Lebanon. The Lebanese people are not human shields."
Egypt: The discrimination Christians regularly face in their country was even apparent during the recent Olympics. Egypt's delegation to the 2020 Olympics included only one Christian out of 141 athletes, all Muslim. According to the report,
[T]he point is crystal clear: Copts, the indigenous Christians who comprise 10-15% of Egypt's population, are represented by less than ONE PERCENT of the country's delegation to the 2020 Olympics. Worse still is that this is not new: Hardly any Copts took part in Egypt's delegations to the 2016 (Rio) or 2012 (London) Olympics.... [T]he exclusion of Coptic athletes actually reflects the reality of entrenched, deep rooted, systematic and systemic discrimination practiced against the Copts in Egypt."
Although the international human rights organization, Coptic Solidarity (CS), has raised this issue several times with the International Olympic Committee, according to CS, they "have yet to demonstrate a clear willingness to speak out and implement consequences which could help end this discrimination." This, CS notes, is ironic, considering that the International Olympic Committee's motto is "to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."
Australia: Isaac El Matari, a 22-year-old Muslim man who was earlier arrested for terrorist activities and ISIS connections, confessed during his court hearing, according to an August 31 report, that he "had plans to target Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral and the American embassy for terror attacks."
Indonesia: On August 6, a two-month-old Christian baby died, in part because hospitals were not as attentive as they could have been. Afterwards, authorities banned the parents from burying their child in a nearby cemetery, on the argument that the graveyard was reserved for Muslims only. The parents had to bury their dead baby far away, in a cemetery open to Christians.
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. 1