On Sunday, March 15, as Christian churches around the world were celebrating morning mass, two churches in Pakistan—one Catholic, one Protestant—were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers. At least 17 people were killed and over 70 wounded.
The Taliban claimed responsibility. It is believed that the group had hoped for much greater death tolls, as there were almost 2,000 people in both churches at the time of the explosions.
According to eyewitnesses, two suicide bombers approached the gates of the two churches and tried to enter them. When they were stopped—including by a 15-year-old Christian youth who blocked them with his body—the Islamic jihadis self-detonated. Witnesses saw “body parts flying through the air.”
According to an official statement of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, despite all the threats received by the churches, authorities only provided “minimal” security.
As in other Muslim-majority nations, churches in Pakistan are under attack. On September 22, 2013, in Peshawar, Islamic suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church right after Sunday mass and blew themselves up in the midst of approximately 550 congregants, killing nearly 90 worshippers. Many were Sunday school children, women, and choir members. At least 120 were injured.
In 2001, Islamic gunmen stormed St. Dominic’s Protestant Church, opening fire on the congregants and killing at least 16 worshippers, mostly women and children.
The rest of March’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following accounts, listed by theme and country in alphabetical order, not necessarily according to severity.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches and Monasteries
Central African Republic: At least eight churches were burned in the northern province of Nana Grebizi, after heavily armed Muslim Fulani herdsmen attacked several villages. Two Christians, including a pastor, were killed in the attack; another Christian was severely tortured. After the carnage, the Islamic herdsmen started fires and looted the local population. The blaze destroyed swathes of farmland, at least eight churches, several other mission centers and an unknown number of Christian homes.
Egypt: During the early morning hours of March 9, the Coptic Catholic Church of Kafr el-Dawar was attacked by armed men who used an explosive device against the place of worship. Two policemen were hospitalized after the attack. Separately, Dr. Yusuf al-Burhami, a leading cleric in Egypt’s Salafi movement, appeared in a video that surfaced in March saying that “Destroying churches is permissible—as long as the destruction does not bring harm to Muslims, such as false claims that Muslims are persecuting Christians, leading to [foreign] occupations.” He further added that “the reason we agree to their [churches] being built, via the article in the constitution dealing with worship, and the reason we do not collect the jizya [tribute] from the Christians, is because the condition of Muslims in the current era is well known to the nations of the world—they are weak and deteriorating among the people.” Burhami explained that when the Arab Muslims first conquered Egypt in the 7th century, the ancient nation was Christian, and because the Muslims were few in number, Coptic Christian churches were allowed to remain—“just as the prophet allowed the Jews to remain in Khaibar after he opened [conquered] it, but once Muslims grew in strength and number, [second caliph] Omar al-Khattab drove them out according to the prophet’s command, ‘Drive out the Jews and Christians from the Peninsula.’”
Germany: A potential jihadi attack on the cathedral and synagogue in Bremen was averted following action by police, a Belgian newspaper reported. Numerous police guarded the cathedral and synagogue and searched a local Muslim cultural center.
Iraq: Islamic State militants blew up a 10th century Chaldean Catholic church north of Mosul and bulldozed a nearby graveyard. According to Nineveh Yakou—an Assyrian Archaeologist and Director of Cultural Heritage and Indigenous Affairs at A Demand for Action—the Saint George monastery was “wiped out” by IS. The building was founded by the Assyrian Church in the 10thcentury but rebuilt as a seminary by the Chaldean Catholic Church in 1846. “The current monastery was built on an archeological site containing ancient Assyrian ruins. It was an important show of continuity from the Assyrian to our culture,” Yakou said. “ISIS is wiping out the cultural heritage of Iraq. The monastery was classified as cultural heritage. It’s a cultural and ethnic cleansing.”
Kenya: On the afternoon of February 28, in Maramande, Hindi, Muslims from neighboring Somali set a Christian church on fire. This same church was set on fire last July 5, 2014, but was built again in January 2015. According to the pastor of the twice-torched church, “These people do not want Christianity in this area…. They want to finish me so that Christianity will not go on here. But I will continue raising up my eyes to God for help.” According to Morning Star News, “Violence in Kenya’s coastal region has accelerated in the past few years. On Jan. 11 in the Mombasa area, a gunman shot a Christian dead at the gate leading to a church building, apparently after mistaking him for the church pastor. Police reportedly said the assailants could be members of an active Islamic extremist terror cell in Mombasa blamed for past gun and grenade attacks.”
Lebanon: Unidentified persons invaded Mar Elias, an ancient Maronite church in Bekaa. Along with damaging one of the church’s windows, they destroyed a portion of the flooring, as they dug a large hole near the altar. According to Maronite Bishop Joseph Mouwad, much of the church’s sacred items were left intact and not stolen. Instead, “they broke the tiles and dug the ground, apparently looking for something, though we do not know what.” Fingerprints and cigarette butts were found.
Muslim Slaughter of Christian ‘Infidels’
Central African Republic: An argument between a taxi driver and his Muslim passenger led to the slaughter of at least 16 Christians in Bangui, the nation’s capital. A Muslim man known as Aladji hailed a motorcycle taxi and asked to be taken to a Muslim-dominated district of Bangui. He was carrying a bag of grenades. When the motorcycle broke down, the driver stopped to fix it, but his agitated passenger pulled out a knife and tried to stab him. The driver overpowered Aladji and killed him instead. After his body was found, Muslims marched to the Christian sector of the city where they slaughtered at least 16 Christians—some decapitated. Authorities arrested 10 members of Seleka—the almost entirely Muslim rebel group—following the killings….