Raymond Ibrahim will be a regular contributor to The Herland Report, generously allowing us to publish his articles. Ibrahim is of Egyptian decent and a strong voice against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, especially critical of the politicized sunni-Islamist movement that fuels sectarian strife between groups in the region. He has famously stated that the US is the chief facilitator of Christian persecution in the Middle East, through its support to radical jihadist groups.
Reports of Christian life under the Islamic State (ISIS) continued throughout 2016. Many reports came from the ancient Christian towns surrounding Mosul, such as Batnaya and Qaraqosh, conquered by ISIS in August, 2014, and liberated in late October, 2016.
One Christian man, Esam, from Qaraqosh, related what ISIS did after his sister’s husband refused to convert to Islam: “He was crucified and tortured in front of his wife and children, who were forced to watch. They [ISIS] told him that if he loved Jesus that much, he would die like Jesus.” The Islamic militants tortured his brother-in-law from 6 in the evening until 11: “[T]hey cut his stomach open and shot him before leaving him hanging, crucified.” Two other members of Esam’s family, a Christian couple, were abducted and separated by ISIS. To this day, the husband does not know where his wife is; he only knows that she was turned into a concubine, a sex-slave.
Karlus, a 29-year-old Christian, told how ISIS members broke into his elderly father’s home in Batnaya and began to destroy crosses and tear up a picture of Christ. When Karlus tried to stop them, he was taken and tortured: they “hung him from the ceiling of the jail he was held in, by a rope attached to his left foot. As blood poured from his foot, they beat and kicked him, rubbing salt into his wounds. He was sexually abused in prison by three women wearing niqabs [black veils]. He was told he would be shot dead,” said the report. Seven weeks later he was released.
Another handful of Christians told how they “were threatened, forced to spit on a crucifix or convert to Islam,” but they “miraculously survived more than two years under Islamic State group rule.”
Ismail, another young Christian from Qaraqosh told how he was forced at gunpoint to convert to Islam two years ago when he was 14: “They told me to say ‘there’s no God but Allah’ and you’ll become a Muslim. I said, ‘There’s no God but Jesus’ so he slapped me. I was still young. He slapped me and pointed the gun at my head. He told my mum, ‘If you don’t convert to Islam we will kill your son.’”
Before being driven out of these now-liberated Christian towns around Mosul, ISIS planted explosive devices in teddy bears and toys that would be detonated when children picked them up, “killing unsuspecting families.”
Those who survived ISIS, accused former U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama of doing nothing when Iraq’s largest Christian city, Qaraqosh, fell to the Islamic terrorists more than two years ago, when its Christian population was over 50,000. One man said, “Obama has never helped the Christians. In fact, he despises them. In the last 26 months, he has shown he despises all of them. But we have hope in the new president, Trump.” A Catholic priest said: “The US government led by President Obama could have protected us – or at least helped us to protect ourselves. But unfortunately Obama abandoned us.” A young girl wearing a cross added: “We hope this new guy called Trump will help us more than Obama did.”
The rest of the month of November’s worldwide Muslim persecution of Christians includes, but is not limited to, the following:
Attacks on and because of Christian Churches
Indonesia: While dressed in a T-shirt with the word “jihad” emblazoned on it, a man named Jo Bin Muhammad firebombed a church in Samarida. As he walked by the church while in session, he hurled a Molotov cocktail at it, setting the building on fire. A two-year-old girl died of her burns; three other children were injured. A church member described the incident: “Suddenly, at about 10:00 in the morning, we heard [an] explosion from outside. People were running out using the front and back door of the church. Women were crying and terrified. We saw four children were burned—injured badly—while one was only lightly injured.”
Philippines: An improvised bomb was remotely detonated outside a Catholic church in Mindanao as churchgoers were leaving after early morning mass on Sunday, November 27. Although the bomb was designed for maximum damage, a car parked between the entrance of the church and the bomb deflected much of the explosion. Two people were injured. According to the local archbishop, the incident is “an attack on freedom of religion and freedom to worship.” He added that the bombing of the Our Lady of Hope Church “at the end of our 5:30 a.m. 1st Sunday of Advent mass is pure terrorism, made worse because of the sacredness of the place, the sacredness of the day, and the sacredness of the event that had just taken place.”
Egypt: Soon after rumors began to circulate that the Christians of Sohag were attempting to build a church, leaflets were distributed calling on local Muslims to attack the “infidels.” Two days later, on November 25, after Muslim prayers, “a great deal of fanatic Muslim young men, some of them were carrying gas canisters and rocks while others came armed with automatic rifles, clubs, machetes and knives, they attacked Copts and Coptic-owned houses,” reported Samir Nashed, a Christian resident. The Muslims burned and plundered 11 Christian homes, cut off water and power supplies to the village, and blockaded the roads so that fire trucks could not enter and the damage to Christian properties would be complete. Four Christians were also beaten and injured.
Bangladesh: At least 20 men looted the Catholic church near Dhaka, in the Muslim-majority nation. On Saturday night, November 26, the knife-wielding invaders broke into the enclosure and tied up the guards and pastor, Fr. Vincent Bimal Rozario. “The thieves warned me to remain silent,” he said. “They wanted to kill me with sharp weapons. They asked me where the money and valuables were. I was forced to tell them.” They then raided the church, seizing a camera, laptop, money dedicated to repairing tombs, and other goods valued at about $1,300. The church enclosure has been attacked at least two times before, including in 2014 when two Christian nuns were raped and beaten.
A separate report published in November found that Christians and other religious minority groups in Bangladesh have been experiencing persecution “almost daily” at the hands of both professional Islamic terrorist groups and their own Muslim neighbors for the past three years.
There is a second article in this series.
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.