Gunmen kill at least 28 Coptic Christians in central Egypt

By Heba Farouk
The Washington Post
May 26, 2017

CAIRO — Militants in military-style uniforms opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in central Egypt on Friday, killing at least 28 people in the latest bloodshed targeting the country’s Christian minority, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the Islamic State has claimed links to previous attacks against Egypt’s Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population.

The attack also took place on the eve of Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, a time when some militant factions have stepped up attacks in the past.

The ambush — in the Minya region about 150 miles south of Cairo — underscored the increasing pressures on Egyptian forces as Islamist militants gain greater footholds around the country, undercutting Egypt’s vital tourism industry and forcing greater security for Coptic Christians and others targeted by militants.

The Minya governor, Maj. Gen. Essam el-Bedewey, said at least 28 people were killed and at least 25 were wounded when the attackers fired on the bus heading for the St. Samuel Monastery, one of several pilgrimage sites in an area that is home to a large portion of Egypt’s Christian population.

The Reuters news agency and other reports said children were among the dead.

A member of the region’s security department, Maj. Mohamed Abdel-Moneim, told reporters that about 10 men wearing military-style gear carried out the attack.

Last month, twin bomb blasts rocked churches in the Mediterranean port of Alexandria and the northern city of Tanta, leaving 44 dead and prompting Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, to declare a state of emergency.

After the latest attack, Sissi called an emergency meeting of security officials, state-run media reported.

In late April, Pope Francis visited Egypt as part of Vatican outreach to Egypt’s embattled Christians, whose community dates back to the early centuries of the faith. But the papal trip also brought denunciations from Islamist militants and warnings of further reprisals.

In December, a bomb hit the main cathedral in Cairo, killing 25 people as part of what is being described as a new strategy by the Islamic State to target Christians.

Christians have been generally supportive of Sissi’s military-backed government, but have become increasingly critical of the inability of the country’s security forces to protect their places of worship.

“The state is doing its best, but we need more efforts,” Minya’s Coptic Bishop Makarios told The Washington Post. “They [security forces] are always present and on guard after the attack takes place, and keep their security measures tightened for a short while after. . . . What we need is real effort exerted to ensure this is not repeated, not just solidarity and compassion.”

Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens, Mostly Women, Kids Celebrating Easter in Pakistan Park

NBC News

At least 63 people, mostly women and children, were killed and more than 300 others were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a children's park in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan's Punjab province on Sunday evening, officials said.

"A large number of people, majority of them women and children, were present in ‎Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore when the suicide bomber blew himself up. Mostly women and children are killed and injured in the blast," Said Lahore Police Chief Dr. Haider Ashraf.

The police chief said there was an unusual rush of the people in the park due to the weekend and Easter. He said a large number of Christian community celebrating the holy day were present in the park.

"Most of the dead and injured are women and children," said Mustansar Feroz, the police superintendent for the area in which the park is located.

Police officials said they had recovered the body of the suicide bomber. ‎He seems to be between 25 and 30 years old, he said.

A splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA), headed by Maulvi Omar Khalid Khurasani claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in Lahore.

The group spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, called NBC News from an undisclosed location while using an Afghan cell number and said they carried out the attack.

"Members of the Christian community who were celebrating Easter today were our prime target," the spokesman said.

Asked if women and children were their target as most of those killed in the blast included women and children, the Taliban spokesman said they were not on their list.

"We didn't want to kill women and children. Our targets were male members of the Christian community," Ehsan said. He said this was the first of series of ‎attacks they had planned this year in different parts of the country.

Punjab Health Minister Salman ‎Rafique said they had declared emergency in all the hospitals of Lahore city to better handle the injured.

"We are in a state of emergency. All the hospitals are under emergency. All ambulances had been called to site of the blast as a large number of people, the majority of them women and children are injured," the health minister said.

Media footage showed children and women crying and screaming and rescue officials, police and bystanders carrying injured people to ambulances and private cars.

Punjab Chief Minister, Shabaz Sharif later announced a three-day mourning in the province.

In 2014, Pakistan launched an offensive against Taliban and affiliated jihadist fighters in North Waziristan, seeking to deprive them of safe havens from which to launch attacks in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Punjab has traditionally been more peaceful than other parts of Pakistan. Sharif's opponents have accused him of tolerating militancy in return for peace in his province, a charge he strongly denies.

Last year, a bomb killed a popular Pakistani provincial minister and at least eight others when it destroyed the minister's home in Punjab.

The Islamic Genocide of Christians: Past and Present

APRIL 27, 2015

Last Friday, April 24, we remembered how exactly 100 years ago the last historic Muslim caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, tried to cleanse its empire of Christian minorities — Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks — even as we stand by watching as the new caliphate, the Islamic State, resumes the genocide.

And in both cases, the atrocities were and are being committed in the name of Islam.

In November, 1914, during WWI, the Ottoman caliphate issued a fatwa, or Islamic decree, proclaiming it a “sacred duty” for all Muslims to “massacre” infidels — specifically naming the “Christian men” of the Triple Entente, “the enemies of Islam” — with promises of great rewards in the afterlife.

The same Koran verses that the Islamic State and other jihadi outfits regularly quote permeated the Ottoman fatwa, including:  “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them — seize them, besiege them, and be ready to ambush them” (9:5) and “O you who have believed! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are but friends of each other; and whoever among you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them” (5:51) — and several other verses that form the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity.

Many Muslims still invoke this doctrine; it commands Muslims to befriend and aid fellow Muslims, while having enmity for all non-Muslims (one Islamic cleric even teaches that Muslim husbands must hate their non-Muslim wives, while enjoying them sexually).

As happens to this very day, the Muslims of the Ottoman caliphate, not able to reach or defeat the stronger infidel — the “Christian men” of Britain, France, and Russia — satiated their bloodlust on their Christian subjects.  And they justified the genocide by projecting the Islamic doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity onto Christians — saying that, because Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks were Christian, they were naturally aiding the other “Christian men” of the West.

As happens to this day under the new caliphate — the Islamic State — the Ottoman caliphate crucified, beheaded, tortured, mutilated, raped, enslaved, and otherwise massacred countless “infidel” Christians.  The official number of Armenians killed in the genocide is 1.5 million; hundreds of thousands of Greeks and Assyrians each were also systematically slaughtered.

(Although people often speak of the “Armenian Genocide,” often forgotten is that Assyrians and Greeks were also targeted for cleansing by the Ottoman caliphate.   The only thing that distinguished Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek subjects of the caliphate from Turkish subjects was that the three former were Christian.  As one Armenian studies professor asks, “If it [the Armenian Genocide] was a feud between Turks and Armenians, what explains the genocide carried out by Turkey against the Christian Assyrians at the same time?”)

Henry Morgenthau, the U.S. ambassador to the Ottoman Empire and personal witness of the atrocities, attested that “I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this.”   He added that what the Turks were doing was “a carefully planned scheme to thoroughly extinguish the Armenian race.”  In 1918, Morgenthau wrote in Red Cross Magazine:

Will the outrageous terrorizing, the cruel torturing, the driving of women into the harems, the debauchery of innocent girls, the sale of many of them at eighty cents each [today the Islamic State sells enslaved Christians and  Yazidis for as little as $43], the murdering of hundreds of thousands and the deportation to, and starvation in, the deserts of other hundreds of thousands, the destruction of hundreds of villages and cities, will the willful execution of this whole devilish scheme to annihilate the Armenian, Greek and Syrian [or Assyrian] Christians of Turkey  –  will all this go unpunished?

Because this genocide of Christians is usually articulated through a singularly secular paradigm — one that recognizes only those factors deemed intelligible from a modern Western point of view, one that never uses the words “Christian” and “Muslim” but rather “Armenian” and “Turk” — few are able to connect these events from a century ago to today Last Friday, April 24, we remembered how exactly 100 years ago the last historic Muslim caliphate, the Ottoman Empire, tried to cleanse its empire of Christian minorities — Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks — even as we stand by watching as the new caliphate, the Islamic State, resumes the genocide.

War, of course, is another factor that clouds the true face of the genocide.  Because it occurred during WWI, so the argument goes, it is ultimately a reflection of just that — war, in all its chaos and destruction, and nothing more.  This has been the stance of all successive Turkish governments. Turkish President Erdogan, who staunchly denies that his ancestors committed genocide against Christians by arguing that they were just wartime casualties, also absurdly accused China of committing “genocide” in 2009, when less than 100 Muslim Uighurs were killed in clashes with Chinese security.

War was — and, as shall be seen, still is — a pretext to sate jihadi barbarity.  Winston Churchill, who described the genocide as an “administrative holocaust,” correctly observed that “the opportunity [of World War I] presented itself for clearing Turkish soil of a Christian race.”  Talaat Pasha, one of the Ottoman Empire’s “dictatorial triumvirate” during WWI, pointed out that “Turkey is taking advantage of the war in order to thoroughly liquidate its internal foes, i.e., the indigenous Christians, without being thereby disturbed by foreign intervention.”

A century later, consider how Christian minorities today are still being systematically decapitated, crucified, tortured, raped, and enslaved — also under the pretext of war.  In every Arab nation the U.S. has helped oust (secular) autocrats — Iraq, Libya, Syria — indigenous Christian minorities have been massacred by the jihadi elements that were once contained by Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Bashar Assad (read here for details).

The Islamic State’s recent slaughter of some 30 Christian Ethiopians in Libya — and two months earlier, 21 Christian Egyptians — is merely the latest serving of Christian persecution in post “Arab Spring” Libya.

Nor is this limited to the Arab world.  In Muslim-majority northern Nigeria, Muslims, spearheaded by the Islamic organization Boko Haram, are waging a savage jihad on the Christian minorities in their midst.  Boko Haram’s stated goal is to cleanse northern Nigeria of all Christians — a goal that should be reminiscent by now.

But even in non-war-torn nations, from Indonesia in the east to Morocco in the west, from Central Asia in the north, to sub-Sahara Africa — in lands of different races, colors, languages, politics and economics, in lands that share only a Muslim majority — Christians are, to varying degrees, being eradicated.  Indeed, in Turkey today, even indigenous Turks who convert to Christianity are regularly persecuted and sometimes slaughtered in the name of Islam. See my book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, for a comprehensive account of what may eventually culminate into the Genocide of the 21st century.

There is no denying that religion — or in this context, the age-old specter of Muslim persecution of Christian minorities — was fundamental to the genocide of Armenians, Greeks, and Assyrians.  Even the most cited factor, ethnic identity conflict, while legitimate, must be understood in light of the fact that, historically, religion sometimes accounted more for a person’s identity than language or heritage — certainly it did for Muslims, in context of Loyalty and Enmity.   This is daily demonstrated throughout the Islamic world today, where Muslim governments, mobs, and jihadis persecute Christian minorities — minorities who share the same ethnicity, language, and culture as Muslims, but not religion — often in retaliation to the West (just as the Ottomans, as seen, were also “retaliating” to the Triple Entente).

Finally, to understand how the Ottoman Genocide of Christians is representative of the modern-day plight of Christians under Islam in general, the Islamic State in particular, one need only read the following words written in 1918 by President Theodore Roosevelt — but read “Armenian” as “Christian” and “Turkish” as “Islamic”:

The Armenian [Christian] massacre was the greatest crime of the war, and the failure to act against Turkey [the Islamic world] is to condone it… the failure to deal radically with the Turkish [Islamic] horror means that all talk of guaranteeing the future peace of the world is mischievous nonsense.

Indeed, if we “fail to deal radically” with the “horror” currently being visited upon millions of Christians around the Islamic world — which in some areas has reached genocidal proportions according to the United Nations — we “condone it” and had better cease talking “mischievous nonsense” of a utopian world of peace and tolerance.

Put differently, silence is always the ally of those who would commit genocide.  In 1939, on the eve of World WWII, Hitler rationalized his genocidal plans against the Jews, when he reportedly asked: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

And who speaks today of the ongoing annihilation of Christians under Islam?

Iranian-American Christian pastor imprisoned in Iran, faces death for trying to convert Muslims to Christianity

Jihad Watch

Muhammad said: "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him" (Bukhari 9.84.57). The death penalty for apostasy is part of Islamic law according to all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Yet Muslim spokesmen such as Harris Zafar, Mustafa Akyol, Salam al-Marayati, M. Cherif Bassiouni, and Ali Eteraz (among many others) have assured us that Islam doesn't punish apostasy. I expect that Zafar, Akyol, al-Marayati, Bassiouni, and Eteraz will immediately be jetting over to Iran to explain to the authorities of the Islamic Republic that they are getting Islam all wrong, wrong, wrong.

"US Pastor Saeed Abedini Faces Notorious 'Hanging Judge' in Iran," by Stoyan Zaimov for the Christian Post, January 10 (thanks to Daniel):

An American pastor currently held in Iranian prison is facing a grim future after it was announced that his case was recently transferred to a judge accused of human rights violations and infamous for the number of people he has sentenced to death.

"This new development is highly troubling -- it appears Iran is determined to remove any chance of the American pastor receiving any semblance of a fair trial. Even more troubling is that the U.S. government has remained silent, essentially abandoning this American in his search for justice," Jordan Sekulow, Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice, said in a report shared with The Christian Post. The ACLJ is representing Pastor Saeed Abedini's family in the U.S.

Abedini, 32, grew up in Iran, before converting to Christianity at the age of 20, and marrying an American woman in 2002, which helped him gain U.S. citizenship. Along with his wife, Naghmeh, and their two young children, the pastor has traveled back and forth between Iran and the U.S. a number of times in the past few years, helping create a network of underground churches, which provide a safe haven for Muslims who have converted to Christianity.

During one such trip in 2009, Abedini was detained by Iranian officials and interrogated for his conversion. While he was released with a warning against engaging in any more underground church activities, in July 2012, he was once again arrested while working on a non-sectarian orphanage project.

The ACLJ says the minister was arrested for "his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran," and that he faces the death penalty for trying to convert Muslims to the Christian faith. Currently, Abedini is facing trial at the Evin Prison in northwestern Tehran, described by the persecution watch group as one of Iran's most brutal prisons -- reports allege that he has been beaten by guards and inmates.

The pastor's case has been transferred to Branch 26 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court, and he is now in the hands of Judge Pir-Abassi, who was named in 2011 by the European Union as an individual subject to sanctions for human rights violations. The judge has reportedly presided over a number of cases against human rights activists, often handing down long prison sentences and even several death penalties – with some calling him one of Iran's "hanging judges."

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom also highlighted Judge Pir-Abassi in its 2012 Annual report to the U.S. State Department as being "responsible for particularly severe violations of religious freedom" and recommended that America should "continue to bar from entry into the United States and freeze [his and his immediate family members'] assets."

The ACLJ says that although the U.S. State Department has acknowledged Pastor Abedini's case, no action has yet been taken on his behalf.

"It is an absolute travesty that the U.S. government would stand by idly while an American citizen, detained for his exercise of a fundamental human right, deteriorates in an Iranian prison," the watch group insists....

Summary of Muslim hate for Christians in 2012 

Death to Churches: Christian Holidays in the Islamic World


While the mainstream media, government officials and so on try to portray these attacks as products of poverty, the fact is, wherever there are significant numbers of Muslims, churches are under siege.

Last Sunday, many Christians around the world celebrated Easter, taking for granted that they can congregate and worship in peace. Not so in the Islamic world, where top religious officials call for the destruction of churches, Christian holidays celebrated in church are increasingly a time of death and destruction, and a time of terror.

Nigeria, for example, saw some 50 Christians killed "when explosives concealed in two cars went off near a church during Easter Sunday services in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna….the casualty figure may go up because some injuries were really critical." The church targeted was "the Assemblies of God's Church near the centre of the city with a large Christian population and known as a major cultural and economic centre in Nigeria's north." According to the pastor holding Easter services at the time, "We were in the Holy Communion service and I was exhorting my people and all of a sudden, we heard a loud noise that shattered all our windows and doors, destroyed our fans and some of our equipment in the church."

There is little doubt that the Islamist group Boko Haram ["Western Education is a Sin"] is behind the terror strike. Boko Haram has long been targeting churches—most glaringly, last December 25, when several churches were bombed in the Muslim majority areas of Nigeria, in what was described as "Nigeria's blackest Christmas ever: then, over 40 Christians were slain, "the majority dying on the steps of a Catholic church [in Madalla, near the capital of Abuja] after celebrating Christmas Mass as blood pooled in dust from a massive explosion." As usual, the charred and dismembered remains of Christian worshippers were seen scattered in and around the destroyed church.

While the Christmas -- and now Easter -- church attacks may be Nigeria's most known, they are certainly not the only ones. The last six weeks alone reveal:

        Sunday, March 11: A Boko Haram suicide car bomber attacked a Catholic church during Mass, killing at least 10 people. The bomb detonated as worshippers attended Mass at St. Finbar's Catholic Church in Jos, a city where thousands of Christians have died in the last decade as a result of Boko Haram's jihad.
       Sunday, February 26: A Boko Haram suicide-car bomber killed at least three people, including a toddler, at another church in Jos. Witnesses said the jihadist drove his car into the prominent Church of Christ during morning prayers.
         Sunday, February 19: A Boko Haram bomb attack outside a church in Abuja left at least five people seriously injured and many more hurt, when a parked car filled with explosives detonated outside the Christ Embassy Church.

While the mainstream media, analysts, government officials, and so on, try to portray these attacks as products of Nigerian poverty, the fact is, wherever in the world there are significant numbers of Muslims (Nigeria's population is half Christian, half Muslim), churches are under siege
Some of the more spectacular ones include the Baghdad church attack where 58 Christians were killed; similarly, the New Year's Eve church bombing in Egypt that saw over 20 Christians killed (when several more churches were bombed and attacked, and thousands of Egyptian Christians demonstrated, they were slaughtered by their own military); earlier, in 2010, eight Egyptian Christians were shot dead by drive-by Muslims as they were leaving church on Christmas Eve.

Further, Muslim attacks on churches during the holiest of Christian holidays are not limited to Nigeria and Egypt, but occur throughout the Muslim world—for instance, in distant, "moderate" Philippines, where another church was bombed during Christmas.

Of course, there are some Muslim nations—Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and soon possibly Kuwait—where one rarely hears of church attacks; but only because they have nipped the "church problem" in the bud by not allowing them to exist in the first place. The hatred for churches is still there, but in an unseen form.

What an efficient way church attacks are, with worshippers tightly gathered in one spot, to ensure the deaths of maximum numbers of Christians.

Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Russian Priest Killed in Church

The New York Times
November 19, 2009

MOSCOW — The Rev. Daniil Sysoyev, a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church who was known for promoting missionary work among Muslims, was shot and killed in his parish church late Thursday night, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Father Sysoyev, 35, died at a Moscow hospital of gunshot wounds to the head and chest, RIA Novosti said. The Web site of the Moscow patriarchate confirmed his death. The parish’s choir director was wounded in the shootings at the Church of St. Thomas by the unidentified assailant.

A Moscow Patriarchate official called Father Sysoyev a “talented missionary” whose work among Muslims, including Tatars, might have been the motive for the shooting.

“I don’t exclude that the murder is connected to the fact that he preached among and baptized those who belong to Muslim culture,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk with the news media, said in a telephone interview.

Father Sysoyev had spoken out in opposition to Islam and had warned Russian women against marrying Muslim men.

Anatoly Bagmet, an official of the prosecutor’s office, said there was reason to believe that the shooting took place “on religious grounds,” the news agency reported.

Kirill Frolov, a prominent Orthodox missionary activist, said that Father Sysoyev had said that he had been receiving threats for several years.

“Over the course of two, three years Father Daniil, who was famous for his active missionary work, periodically received e-mails stating that if he didn’t stop his theological polemics with Islam, then he will be dealt with like an infidel,” Mr. Frolov told the Interfax news agency.

Missionary work and outreach to young people and non-churchgoers has become a keystone of the Moscow Patriarchate since Patriarch Kirill I became its leader 10 months ago. The church has been organizing rock concerts and trying to reach out to people through blogs.

Officials of the Russian Orthodox Church have complained in recent years about violence directed against churches and priests.


Saturday, August 6, 2005

'Jesus' film screeners murdered
Men in Muslim Bangladesh had received threats

Posted: August 6, 2005
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Michael Ireland

Assist News Service

Two Christian men showing the "Jesus" film were killed in Faridpur, Bangladesh.

Lipial Marandi, 21, and Tapan Kumar Roy, 27, were employed with Christian Life Bangladesh, a partner agency of Campus Crusade for Christ, the American-based evangelistic group.

Amid strong outrage voiced at their July 29 murders, Bengali Christians are planning a rally in support of their families.

The two men had spent the last eight months providing health awareness programs to locals and showing the "Jesus" film.

The two-hour docudrama about the life of Christ, based on the Gospel of Luke, has been seen in every country of the world and translated into hundreds of languages.

The men had received threats that they would be killed if they continued their work, and local police say they were sleeping when intruders entered their rented house at 2 a.m. and stabbed them to death. Police have arrested two men in connection with the killings.

"We express our deepest sympathies to the families of Lipial and Tapan," said Thomas Abraham, vice president of Asia Campus Crusade for Christ. "We are saddened by the hatred of those who would commit such acts of violence."

It was the second murder of Christian Life Bangladesh workers. In April, 2003, Hridoy Roy was killed in a similar incident. The perpetrators of Hridoy's murder were never convicted.

"We are seeing an increased trend towards persecution of Christians in Bangladesh, and the Christian community in America is concerned," said Abraham. "We urge the Bengali government to bring the murderers to justice and uphold the Bangladesh constitution which protects religious freedom."

The Bengali Christian community and several newspapers have expressed outrage toward the murders.

Bengali Christians plan to hold a rally to voice their sympathy toward the families of the victims and to show of unity. A memorandum from the Christian community will be sent to the Bangladesh Prime Minister urging immediate action.


Muslim 'Palestinians' firebomb Christian 'Palestinians'

By Stan Goodenough

September 5th, 2005

Muslim Palestinian Arabs plundered a town of Christian Palestinian Arabs in southern Samaria Sunday, setting houses and cars ablaze in an apparent “revenge” attack after a Christian man dared to date a Muslim woman.

Christian families in the town of Taibe were forced into the streets, had their homes firebombed, and had to flee to neighboring villages for protection as the violence raged into the night.

No one was injured in the attack, despite the fact that the PA police took hours to respond to calls for help, according to reports.

The crowd of Muslims descended on the town a few days after a Muslim woman was allegedly killed by her family for having become involved in a relationship with a Christian from Taibe. The offending woman was forced to drink poison and then quickly buried earlier this week.

Islamic law forbids cross-religion relationships and imposes the strictest penalties on Muslims who transgress. So-called honor killings – where families kill members (usually women) accused of such “crimes” are widespread in Arab countries.

In the Kingdom of Jordan, the law states that family members who carry out honor killings are “totally exempt from sentence.” Between 28 and 60 such murders are estimated to take place annually in that country.

The Palestinian Authority also permits these killings, with up to 22 a year reportedly taking place.

If the history of Muslim-Christian relations in Judea and Samaria is an indication, the danger exists that Sunday’s violence could trigger a Christian exodus from yet another Christian-majority urban area in the land slated for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The once Christian town of Bethlehem is today 95 percent Muslim, many Christians having moved out after the Palestinian Authority took over the ancient birthplace of Jesus just before Christmas in 1995.

Christian “Palestinians” form a tiny minority against the overwhelmingly Muslim majority and under Islamic law and tradition, would have little recourse to protection if accused of any crime by Muslims in a future Palestinian state.


Egypt city tense after violence

By Michael Slackman The New York Times

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt Riot police forces armed with shotguns guarded a Coptic Christian church here over the weekend after Muslim protesters tried to storm the building in a demonstration that was broken up when security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd.

Three people were killed and many more wounded Friday in what officials called the worst case of sectarian violence to strike this Mediterranean city in recent memory.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets Friday, apparently angry over a play that was performed two years ago in the church and that was recently distributed on videodisc.

Although few people interviewed Saturday said they actually had seen the play or the DVD, the word on the street was it was anti-Islamic.

The streets remained tense Saturday, and many people warned that foreigners were not welcome. The mood in the city was sour and explosive.

"People are very, very provoked," said Ahmed Ali Mahmoud, 25, a pharmacist whose shop is opposite St. George's Coptic Church. "They are boiling."

While relations between faiths are often tolerant, if tense, in Egypt, there have been signs recently of growing strain between Egypt's Coptic Christians and Muslims.

It was unclear who was giving out the DVD, and church officials, as well as local residents, speculated that its distribution might somehow be connected to the coming parliamentary elections, where aggravated sectarian tensions could help certain candidates.

"We believe that this problem was raised in light of the coming parliamentary elections," a church statement said.

Alexandria, an ancient city founded by Alexander the Great, two hours north of Cairo, is home to one of the country's larger Coptic communities.

Of Egypt's 74 million people, more than 90 percent are Muslim, mostly Sunnis, and about 8 percent to 10 percent are Christian, mostly Copts.

Islam is the official state religion, and all legislation is supposed to be based on the Islamic code.


Blasphemy Laws and Church Attacks Fuel Strife in Pakistani Town.


Published: December 11, 2005

SANGLA HILL, Pakistan - The people gathered inside Holy Spirit Church were quiet and somber. The altar was covered in debris. Pictures of Jesus and Mary lay in a heap nearby. Torn copies of the Bible were scattered about.

"We have never seen anything like this," Boota Masih, 48, said.

"We have wailed and we have cried," he said, of his fellow Christians in Sangla Hill, a dusty market town 140 miles south of the capital, Islamabad, after the church was ransacked.

A mob of about 1,500 Muslims - urged on by local clerics who announced over their mosque's public address system that a Christian had desecrated a Koran - not only attacked the church here, but also gutted a Presbyterian Church and one belonging to the Salvation Army. A convent school, a nun's hostel and half a dozen houses were set on fire.

The Nov. 12 attacks sent shockwaves through the country's Christian minority, leaving them with a sense of insecurity. And once again, blasphemy laws were blamed for worsening sectarian relations in this country, where Christians, Hindus and other minorities make up 3 percent of the population, while an overwhelming 97 percent is Muslim.

Under the penal code, desecration of the Koran is punishable by life imprisonment. Any insult to the Prophet Muhammad is punishable by death.

Many Christians say the laws are simply used to justify attacks on them, out of religious or personal animosity.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, visiting Pakistan in December, asked Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to review the law.

"My response is one of great shock, great dismay that this can still go on," Archbishop Williams said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation. "It is part of the history of the abuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which I think is widely recognized in this country as a major problem, which this country has to tackle."

"The problem is not so much about the idea of a law against blasphemy," he said, "as about a law whose penalty is so severe and whose practice gives so much scope for allowing people to settle private scores."

That, some residents of Sangla Hill say, is what happened in November; 88 people have been charged with ransacking and burning churches and property, and 3 police officials were suspended for negligence.

A local Christian man, Yousaf Masih, 45, was identified as the desecrator, but in sometimes conflicting accounts, his relatives said the allegations were invented by a man who owed Mr. Masih a gambling debt. "My brother is totally innocent," said one of Mr. Masih's brothers, Zulfiqar Humayun, 35. Mr. Masih is now under arrest at an undisclosed location.

But local Muslims say that on the day before the violence - a Friday, Islam's holy day - Mr. Masih set on fire a room used for storing old copies of the Koran after a shouting match with the man who owed him money. The next day, a local politician spread the account in a speech, and soon, the mob began its work.

The town's main Muslim cleric, Mufti Muhammad Zulfiqar Rizvi, a soft-spoken 63-year-old with a flowing dark-red beard and a curling moustache, said the mob was made up of "people from outside."

"Our religion, Islam, teaches us to protect the lives and property of minorities," he said.

Whoever they were, the attackers were methodical and precise. It took them just four hours to sweep through the town, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

Mr. Masih's house was gutted; the houses of two of his brothers were also set on fire. "They used a special chemical," said one brother, Tariq, 27, describing a reddish-orange flammable substance that was splattered on the walls of his house.

Similar stains could be seen on the walls of St. Anthony's high school, where fire had blackened ceilings.

"I am broken," said the headmistress, Sister Anthony Edward, 68, a frail woman with a quivering voice. "Ninety percent of the pupils of the school were Muslims. I don't know what is behind this."

At the Presbyterian church, in a nearby neighborhood, the Rev. Tajammal Pervez was bitter. Several calls to police officials seeking security for his church and residence were unheeded, he said.

"It is the incompetence of police," said Reverend Pervez, 54. He was standing in the rubble of what used to be his bedroom. The charred roof had fallen in. Trunks and cupboards, their locks broken, had been set on fire; nothing remained except for the wreckage of burned furniture. "A friend bought these clothes for me that I am wearing," he said.

Christians have been living for generations alongside Muslims in Sangla Hill, according to Reverend Pervez, and relations were cordial. But the violence changed everything, he said.

"The good are a few, the bad ones are more," he said.



Exclusive Interview
By David W. Virtue

The Rev. Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo is the international director of the Barnabas Fund based in England. The Fund is a ministry which assists Christian minorities in the Islamic world and in other areas where Christians undergo persecution. Dr. Sookhdeo was recently in the United States where he spoke with David W. Virtue of VirtueOnline. Dr. Sookhdeo is a leading world authority on Islam, author of several books on Islam including "Understanding Islamic Terrorism" and "A Christian's Pocket Guide to Islam". Born in Pakistan of Islamic parentage he converted to Christianity while a student in London in the early 60s.

VirtueOnline: What does the Barnabas Fund (BF) do?

Sookhdeo: It calls attention to the plight of Christian minorities particularly within the Islamic world. It looks at the persecution they are experiencing and seeks to make this known to the wider world. It calls upon the church to pray for, to identify with, and to be advocate for and support practically their suffering brothers and sisters.

VirtueOnline: I gather you are the leading organization in the world involved in this kind of work, and that you inform a number of worldwide government institutions of the difficulties and challenges which Islam poses.

Sookhdeo: The distinctive of the BF is that we have a strong research component that is keyed into a number of national contacts around the world. It is essentially a non-western organization based in the West. It has also developed a range of expertise on Islamic societies.

VirtueOnline: How are you viewed by leaders in the Anglican Church? I gather there has been some correspondence between you and Colin Chapman in which Colin Chapman is critical of an article on Islam which you wrote for the British magazine "The Spectator".

Sookhdeo: Not only the hierarchy of the Anglican Church but also other Christian leaders are divided because some are deeply unhappy with the work of Barnabas Fund. This is due to their interfaith agenda. As a result some are seeking to discredit what we are doing. Furthermore, I myself have personally experienced considerable racial harassment from white missionaries who are opposed to the work of the Fund.

VirtueOnline: In the interfaith dialogue of the Abrahamic faiths, it is often suggested that as there is One God for all these faiths, that we should be more understanding and accommodationist in our thinking and less exclusive in our demands as Christians. Do you agree with this?

Sookhdeo: Much of contemporary interfaith dialogue assumes that we all have the same understanding as to the nature of God. So when we speak of the Abrahamic covenant, we assume that the Jewish, the Christian and the Muslim understanding of God are the same. I would argue they are not. Whilst Jews and Christians have a common understanding of God, I would argue that Muslims do not. This naturally has repercussions in other areas - in the field of justice, in the understanding of our common humanity in the areas of human rights and religious tolerance. Much interfaith dialogue has to do with the lowest common denominator. Discussions often negate that which is essential to each religion. The result is it focuses on the lowest common denominator and what I call "cocktail dialogue" or "dialogical syncretism."

VirtueOnline: Can you give examples?

Sookhdeo: Some illustrations of this would be the understanding of how Jesus Christ is understood. This is deliberately underplayed because it is deemed offensive to speak of his deity and his uniqueness to followers of Islam. Furthermore, issues of the persecution of Christians by Muslims are deliberately left out. The discriminatory nature of Islamic law is not discussed and the death penalty for apostates which is still central to Islamic Shari'a is a 'no go' subject.

VirtueOnline: Does this mean that Christians and Muslims can never talk to each other about peace?

Sookhdeo: I believe that conversations between and amongst both religions are vital. We live in societies where religious and ethnic tensions are increasingly common. Sometimes this spills over into armed conflict. As such I passionately believe that there is no place in the modern world for wars of religion. Therefore we should strive for peace. The difficulty I have is with the word 'dialogue'. There are a number of meanings for this word dialogue. In New Testament Greek when St. Paul uses the word "dialogue" it is dialogomai which means to argue with a purpose of persuading a person. As such it is not a neutral term; it does not have to do with the sharing of experiences of other religions. When the Apostle Paul was on Mars Hill he did not call for a meeting of the different religions to engage in an interfaith dialogical process. He preached the gospel and engaged in dialogue. It was a form of evangelism. This is why I use the word "conversation" in respect to different faiths meeting with each other. In this conversation there must be honesty, integrity, transparency and truth. It must deal with society as it is and to [delete to] seek ways of developing understanding, living together and address the treatment of minorities. If it fails to do this, then this process has failed.

VirtueOnline: The Archbishop of Canterbury seems to hold the view that Islam can coexist peacefully with Christianity.

Sookhdeo: I would suggest that he listen to the voices of Christians within the Muslim world and in particular the voices coming from southern Sudan, Northern Nigeria, Pakistan and other countries. In these situations Christians experience discrimination, outright persecution and increasingly violence, being directed against them. If Islam is going to be a religion of peace and to coexist alongside Christianity then it must relinquish its theology of violence based on the revelations in the Koran. It must change its Shari'a Law and allow for full equality of Christians. It must allow Muslims the freedom to choose that is, to reject Islam if they so choose or embrace another religion if they so desire. It must give full freedom to women. Unless it can do these things how can there be co-existence? While the intention of the archbishop in seeking co-existence is good, whether Islam the religion will ever embrace his vision of society is another matter.

VirtueOnline: Are there any other difficulties?

Sookhdeo: There is a further difficulty. Many Christians in the Islamic world believe that some Christians in the West have betrayed them, that they have been sacrificed on the altar of interfaith, race and community relations. In their desire to make peace with Islam at any cost, they have sacrificed their brothers and sisters in this process. They also feel that it is patronizing and racist for white people to dialogue with Muslims on their behalf, as if non-Westerners were not capable of doing dialogue should they so desire.

VirtueOnline: A Communique for the Anglican/al-Azhar dialogue committee met recently. The thrust of the meeting was for religious minorities, both Christian and Muslim, to be able to live in peace and security, and as full participants in the political and social life of the country of which they were citizens.

Sookhdeo: The majority religious community has the duty to facilitate this, both as a religious obligation and for the well-being of society. It is equally important that religious minorities should seek to abide by the law of the country where they are resident, or of which they are citizens.

VirtueOnline: We noted specifically that Islam calls for Muslims to abide by and respect the laws and regulations of the non-Islamic countries where they live. There was also a particular concern for freedom of religion and the right to worship. From this communiqué it would appear that you are both on the same side?

Sookhdeo: Statements are easy to write and make; but what of the reality on the ground. Al-Azhar is the foremost Islamic institution in the Islamic world based in Cairo. In October in Alexandria churches were attacked by mass demonstrations. Muslim radicals have declared that it is halal (permissible) to kill the Patriarch of Alexandria, Pope Shenouda has had a fatwa put on him calling for him to be killed. The persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt by government and security forces abetted by religious institutions is a reality. Numerous Christian girls are being kidnapped and raped and forcibly converted to Islam. Again religions institutions and security services were involved in this process. Why was this not addressed? Last week in Washington the Coptic community called on the Egyptian government to stop the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt. A Coptic bishop in Australia, Bishop Daniel has written to the Egyptian Ambassador in Australia again calling for the cessation of violence against the Coptic Church in Egypt. Why is Lambeth and this group silent when the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt is experiencing such severe persecution? Furthermore converts from Islam to Christianity in Egypt currently experience abduction, imprisonment, torture and even death. Why has Al-Azhar not stopped this process? There are those who argue that it has even assisted this process. The Coptic Orthodox Church leaders are questioning the role of the Anglican Church in this whole process. They are asking for justice and for freedom.

VirtueOnline: I understand from my sources that the leadership of the Coptic Orthodox Church is very unhappy with the role which the Anglican Church is playing in this process. Is this true?

Sookhdeo: Yes, they are unhappy. What unfortunately is not often understood is that the senior leadership of the Coptic Orthodox Church is very closely monitored by the government. What they say in private cannot be said in public and they will only say in private what they think to those whom they fully trust. This applies to Christian persecution within Egypt (which some Anglican leaders deny) as well as to their opinion on Anglican involvement in dialogue. Most of the dialogue taking place involves westerners whom they mistrust. They also say that large sums of money enter into the country.

VirtueOnline: Is this true?

Sookhdeo: A lot of money is coming from the west to assist this process of dialogue. A further difficulty arises in relation to some of the participants. Dr. Zaki Badawi is perhaps the most prominent Islamic cleric in the UK and the most widely respected and a moderate voice in Islam. He wrote a paper recently on the Apostasy law in Islam and violence in the Islamic tradition. This paper was presented at Clarence House where Prince Charles chaired a meeting that brought together senior Christian and Muslim leaders to discuss the issue of Christian minorities under Islam. Dr Badawi confirmed in his paper the violence and persecution being directed against Christian minorities in the Muslim world; the danger of killing converts from Islam to Christianity and the discriminatory and oppressive nature of Shari'a Law when applied to Christian minorities. This position was acknowledged and confirmed by the other Muslim participants. When asked by the senior Anglican bishops present when the persecution would end, the Muslim scholar stated that they could not see this occurring in the foreseeable future. They argued that Shari'a can't be changed although Christians present disputed that. When Prince Charles suggested making a public statement about this, the Muslims said he was not to do this, but should confine himself to statements and speeches on civilization. When the bishops stated that this whole issue should be made public, the Muslim leaders said it should not, "it has to remain quiet." Unfortunately this story was leaked and no one knows who did the leaking. It surfaced in The Daily Telegraph at the end of last year. I can address the issue as I addressed it then, that I did not leak the story and because it is in the public domain I can now address it.

VirtueOnline: Were you at the meeting?

Sookhdeo: Yes. The Barnabas Fund throughout last year ran a campaign against the Apostasy Law of Islam. It called on the British Government, Muslim authorities and Prince Charles to intervene in this matter. The Apostasy Law calls for the killing of any Muslim who converts to Christianity. Many Christians wrote to Prince Charles urging him to intervene in this process. He very graciously and generously agreed to convene a small meeting at Clarence House where senior Muslim leaders would meet senior Christian leaders to discuss this issue. I, as international director of the Barnabas Fund and the one who was instrumental in bringing the matter to his attention was involved in this process. The prince had asked that something practical be done to address the persecution of Christian minorities in Muslim countries. He has also stated he did not see the need for more statements on the subject. In this he is to be commended.

VirtueOnline: Do you see any parallels between the gay issue in the Church and the interfaith issue, and in particular the way in which Islam is being approached?

Sookhdeo: Yes, very much. Good theology leads to good ethics, bad theology leads to bad ethics. Those in pursuit of an interfaith and pro-Islam policy are seeking to shape the agenda and to neutralize anyone who does not agree with them. When you have a church leader who is patron of a mosque, and others who embrace Islam as if it did not deny the heart of the Christian faith, and encourage their churches to support Islamic charities, you have to ask what kind of theology they have. On the other hand, many ordinary church members are deeply conservative in theology and support organizations like Barnabas Fund.

VirtueOnline: What form is contemporary persecution taking?

Sookhdeo: In the Islamic world we have a variety of situations. Since 9/11 the US and the UK with other countries have been involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the "war on terror". These all involve Islam. There are those in the Muslim world who believe that the West, in particular Christianity is launching a new crusade against them. Unable to strike effectively against the West they direct their attacks against vulnerable Christian targets. For example in Iraq we see the bombing of churches and the kidnapping and murder of Christians who are caught in the middle. Over the past 25 years we have seen the rise of radical Islamic groups. These are essentially terrorist organizations determined to attack Christians and to rid their counties of the Christian presence. Attacks such as these occur in countries such as Indonesia and Pakistan. Increasingly Islamic law is being called for and in some countries being applied with adverse affects on Christian minorities. For example in the south of Sudan (which thankfully now has a peace accord) and northern Nigeria. The Shari'a Law debate is a pertinent one because of its discriminatory nature. The position of evangelists and Muslim converts is acute. During the past year there has been a growing number of national evangelists and converts martyred through beheading. Beheading as a method of execution goes back to the Koran where it speaks of striking the neck. This is much in vogue. The kidnapping and rape of Christian girls is on the increase in Pakistan, Egypt, the Holy Land, and in other places where this is occurring.

VirtueOnline: What else do you see?

Sookhdeo: Finally the increasing marginalization of Christian minorities in the Christian world makes them vulnerable to the pressures of Islam either to convert to Islam or to live with oppression. Sadly those Christians that have the ability to do so are fleeing to the safety of the West.

VirtueOnline: Where else do you see persecution taking place?

Sookhdeo: In Western countries, for example. In England we have cases of growing persecution. In south London Muslim gangs armed with guns have targeted Christians saying if they do not convert they will be killed. In Bradford, a Christian a family converted from Islam have had their lives threatened. Their car has been arsoned and they have been threatened with violence. When a meeting was arranged the response of Christians to such persecution has not always been helpful. The Bishop of Bradford met this family with his interfaith advisor. At this meeting he stated that the Diocese of the Anglican Church would not welcome such converts into it. That story has now gone public. He did not want Muslim converts into the Anglican Church. The convert was extremely disappointed and deeply saddened by the stance of the bishop. He felt that the bishop was more concerned with his relationship with the Muslim leaders in Bradford than with his plight with him [delete with him] as a convert. He felt deeply betrayed.

VirtueOnline: I gather that Islam is gaining ground rapidly in the UK and Europe. What is the story on this?

Sookhdeo: Islam has developed a process of major Islamization, which includes the re-writing of history and the shaping of the agenda at every level.

VirtueOnline: What should Anglicans do in their approach to Muslims?

Sookhdeo: We need to recognize that there is not a single approach but a number of strands which need to be addressed. These strands include the spiritual, the missiological, the theological, the social and political, because Islam is a system which does not separate the sacred from the secular, the spiritual from the social. It must be approached from an integrated basis. Spiritually, we must recognize that there is a spiritual conflict between Islam and Christianity. Missiologically it is appropriate to find common ground as a way of presenting the Gospel, as the Apostle Paul did in his Areopagus speech. Theologically we must focus on that which separates us, because unless we can recognize that wherever Christianity is distinctive and unique we face the real difficulty of confusion leading to syncretism. On the social level Islam has an agenda for how society is to be constructed. On the political level Islam has an agenda for the control of its own community and ultimately for society itself. Unless we recognize these different lines we will not be able to develop a coherent approach or for that matter strategy. For me the approach to Islam is founded on some basic principles.

First there must be the compassion of Christ, we are dealing with Muslims as human beings who have emotions and feelings and who must be loved with the total love of Christ.

Secondly, we must be scholarly accurate in our approach to Islam. We must recognize Islam - the ideological - in what it teaches. To impute our Christian understanding on to Islam and to Christianize it is to do it a disservice. We must understand it and accept in its own terms for what it is. That means having the scholastic ability to comprehend it.

Thirdly, we must be faithful to Christ. No matter how much we love the Muslims or analyze Islam the religion, we must ensure that we do not lose sight of Jesus Christ, his deity, his death and resurrection and his coming again as supreme judge. Jesus Christ is the only Savior.


Ramallah: Islamic violence targets Christians


7 April, 2006

Ramallah (AsiaNews) – Burned school rooms, church window panes destroyed, bible study halls set on fire and Catholic youth threatened by Muslims: thus runs a list of escalating violent attacks against Christians in Ramallah since Hamas won the election.

The parish priest, Fr Ibrahim Hijazin, 55 years, reported the violence to AsiaNews. Fr Ibrahim has been the parish priest in Ramallah for nine years and for 13 he has been running the Al Ahliyya school that educates poor Christian and Muslim children. The college was set up in 1856, in the time of the Ottoman Empire, and it had never been the target of violence before.

Once upon a time, Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian presidency, was considered to a Christian city with at least 40-50,000 Christians. Now at least 30,000 have emigrated to America and countries in the Gulf. Now, as a result of the emigration, out of an overall population of around 40,000 people, Christians number around 10,000, sub-divided into Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Melkites and Catholics, who are around 2,000.

The parish priest said the thugs were people coming from outside who were determined to discredit the government of Hamas and its capacity to maintain law and order.

“On 10 February, while I was in Jericho for a meeting of the Legion of Mary, with the patriarch of Jerusalem, a youth called to warn me that a classroom had been burned,” Fr Ibrahim said. “When I arrived, I found the remains of two Molotov cocktails, thrown at the windows that had the glass panes broken. We called the police and they started an inquiry but we have not any result.”

Once again, “on 5 March, a Sunday, after Mass, one of my parishioners came to let me know there had been another fire started in the basketball ground of the school. All the equipment was destroyed and the hall was completely ruined. Then too we called the police, but they have not yet managed to find out who was behind it. This time, however, around two dozen people from Hamas came. They proposed putting Hamas men to guard the building and the church, even inside, but I declined the offer, accepting only to have one guard outside.”

“All these incidents took place at night. Once, when Cardinal Theodore Mc Carrick of Washington was here with the patriarch, we made the matter known to the President Abu Mazen, and he also promised to rectify the situation. But so far, we have seen no results at all. We continue to face problems even with the community: our youth meeting in the evening for activities are often threatened and beaten by Muslim youth, who come and force their way into the parish building. We have reported this too to the police.”

The parish priest does not think anyone has anything against him: “I am very well known because the school welcomes Christian and Muslim youth, very poor ones, and there is a beautiful friendship among them. Before the Intifada, we also had Judaism courses and Israeli youth used to participate.”

As for who could be behind the incidents, “we think they are coming from outside Ramallah. Suspicion is falling on Palestinians who are against the Hamas government and who want to ignite inter-faith conflict” to discredit them. The parish priest swore there were never any problems with Hamas.

Other Christian communities have also been targeted. On 20 March, the Lutheran Church had all its windows and panes of glass broken. The headquarters of the Protestant bible association of Birzeit “Living stones” was burned down. On the doors, someone had written: “Oh Prophet of God, [we are] at your service!”


Gazan Muslims Form Group to Attack Christian Targets
Sep 19, 2006
by Ezra HaLevi

The group, which calls itself the “Army of guidance,” sent an announcement to news agencies based in Gaza saying that “every place relevant to Christians will be a target until the cursed infidel – the Vatican – apologizes to Muslims.”

Hardline Islamic groups were offended by the Pope’s citing of a Byzantine emperor who criticized Islam’s founder Mohammad’s command to spread Islamic faith by the sword.

Last Friday, the 1,400 year old St. Perfidious Greek Orthodox church in Gaza was among seven Christian targets burned or vandalized throughout PA-controlled areas.

Pope Benedict XVI has refused to apologize for merely citing quotations, but said he was “deeply sorry” for the Muslim reaction to the words – which he stressed do not constitute his own opinion.

Though touted as an apology by the Vatican’s own public relations team, Islamic leaders continue to demand submission from the leader of Catholicism.

The chief Islamic Mufti of Jerusalem Mohammed Hussein called the Pope’s statement of sorrow insufficient and demanded a “clear apology” Tuesday. He condemned attacks on churches but insisted the Pope himself is responsible for the Muslim violence.


Two Christians freed after months of torture by Muslim
Qaiser Felix

Muhammad Ikram kidnapped the woman who used to clean his house together with her 13-year-old daughter. He tortured them for months in a bid to force them to convert to Islam. They were released thanks to the intervention of the Lahore court and the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance.

Sialkot (AsiaNews) – The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has managed to secure the release of two Christian women who were kidnapped and tortured for three months by a Muslim couple of Sialkot who wanted to convert them to Islam. The APMA director, Shabhaz Batti, told AsiaNews about the women and called on the government to “punish those guilty of this atrocious incident as severely as possible.”

Bhatti told how Nasreen Pervez, 40, and her daughter, Razia, 13, “went to the home of Muhammad Ikram, a Muslim of Sialkot, after the death of Nasreen’s husband, Pervaiz, in September.” Pervaiz “ran a poultry breeding farm in Punjab, but his business was struck by bird flu and he got ill and died. After his death, mother and daughter started to work as servants in the residence of Muhammad, their neighbour.”

However, after they had been working there for one month, Muhammad “refused to pay their salary and together with his wife, kidnapped the two women. They tore the crosses from their necks and forbade them to pray. They demanded that the women change their faith and convert to Islam and when they refused, they tortured them.”

At night, “they were chained to prevent them from escaping. Razia’s right foot was injured with the shards of a broken bottle and both had burns on their bodies. One day, Muhammad threatened to kill their relatives if they continued to be hard headed and to refuse to change religion or if they tried to escape.”

He even brought a bottle of acid and a syringe: “You will die with this in your body”. Nasreen responded: “You may kill us but we will not convert.”

After three months, Nasreen’s eldest daughter, Sheeba, went to visit her mother and little sister but Muhammad and his wife chased her away and threatened her: “Don’t come back unless you want to see them dead.” Worried, Sheeba turned to the village elders who contacted APMA.

The association “immediately went to the Lahore High Court and denounced what was going on. The judge ordered the intervention of a court bailiff who, together with our team, freed the two women.”

Bhatti said: “The growing victimization of Christians and minorities in general is alarming. We try to help the families of victims and at the same time, to find legal and practical channels to help those submitted to such violence, but the government must intervene forcefully to stop them.”

He said Christians around the world “can help us with prayer: ask the Lord for protection and justice for those who suffer for their faith.”


Kurdish Christian Child Convicted of Murder in Iraq

Convert girl to appeal five-year sentence for killing uncle.

By Peter Lamprecht
International Christian News
March 1, 2007

ISTANBUL, (Compass Direct News) – A Christian child has been sentenced to five years in juvenile detention in Northern Iraq for fatally stabbing her Muslim uncle while he beat her for converting to Christianity, her lawyer said.

Judge Satar Sofe convicted 14-year-old Asya Ahmad Muhammad of murder at the trial’s first hearing on February 7 in Dohuk’s juvenile court.

Muhammad’s defense lawyer appealed the ruling on February 17, questioning Sofe’s conclusion that the killing had been intentional.

“The court should consider Maria’s [Muhammad’s Christian name] case unintentional killing because she didn’t intend to kill her uncle,” Akram Mikhael Al-Najar told Compass.

The lawyer said Muhammad’s five-year sentence was light, considering that Iraq’s penal code invokes the death penalty for committing murder.

“Since her uncle provoked her and kicked and abused her, the court appreciated these situations and decreased her punishment,” Al-Najar said. The lawyer expects the Kurdish regional Court of Cassation, northern Iraq’s highest court, to rule on the appeal within three months.

Even if the appeal is turned down, Al-Najar told Compass that Muhammad could be released after serving only three quarters of her five-year sentence.

Muhammad stabbed her paternal uncle with a kitchen knife last July when he came to her family’s kitchen utensil store on the outskirts of Dohuk and began beating her, her mother and younger brother.

Sayeed Muhammad’s Muslim family claimed that he attacked his relatives in order to restore “honor” supposedly lost because his female in-laws were working in public. But Asya Muhammad’s father and lawyer said that the real motive for the attack was religious.

Asya Muhammad’s father, Ahmad, told Compass that his brother had previously tried to murder him five times, angered by his conversion to Christianity.

In the wake of Sayeed Muhammad’s death, Asya Muhammad’s grandparents called for her father to be killed. External mediators later convinced the grandparents that Asya Muhammad’s father had nothing to do with his brother’s death, leading the elderly couple to demand their granddaughter’s death and a large sum instead.

Upon hearing these threats, Asya Muhammad’s parents and siblings went into hiding. Her mother and three younger brother’s have now returned home, though her father continues to reside at an undisclosed location.

Lawyer Al-Najar said that the family is no longer afraid of being attacked.

“But if Maria was released from jail, she would be in danger, of course, and she would have to live far from those terrorists [her grandparents],” Al-Najar told Compass.

A Muslim cleric in Mosul, Asya Muhammad’s grandfather attended the February 7 hearing with his wife to testify against his granddaughter. The elderly cleric was present last year when his granddaughter grabbed a store knife and plunged it into her uncle’s chest while he was tearing at her hair.

Asya Muhammad’s lawyer said that if her appeal is rejected, she will finish out her sentence in Dohuk’s juvenile prison. Al-Najar described her situation in jail as “good,” saying that she has the opportunity to study and take computer courses.

But one Christian in Dohuk told Compass that Asya Muhammad’s situation is far from ideal. As the only female minor in the prison, the source said it was uncertain whether jail officials would allow her to attend classes at the all-male school.