During the height of one of the most brutal months of Muslim persecution of Christians, the U.S. State Department exposed its double standards against persecuted Christian minorities.
Sister Diana, an influential Iraqi Christian leader, who was scheduled to visit the U.S. to advocate for persecuted Christians in the Mideast, was denied a visa by the U.S. State Department even though she had visited the U.S. before, most recently in 2012.
She was to be one of a delegation of religious leaders from Iraq — including Sunni, Shia and Yazidi, among others — to visit Washington, D.C., to describe the situation of their people. Every religious leader from this delegation to Washington D.C. was granted a visa — except for the only Christian representative, Sister Diana.
After this refusal became public, many Americans protested, some writing to their congressmen. Discussing the nun’s visa denial, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said:
This is an administration which never seems to find a good enough excuse to help Christians, but always finds an excuse to apologize for terrorists … I hope that as it gets attention that Secretary Kerry will reverse it. If he doesn’t, Congress has to investigate, and the person who made this decision ought to be fired.
The State Department eventually granted Sister Diana a visa.
This is not the first time the U.S. State Department has not granted a visa to a Christian leader coming from a Muslim region. Last year, after the United States Institute for Peace brought together the governors of Nigeria’s mostly Muslim northern states for a conference in the U.S., the State Department blocked the visa of the region’s only Christian governor, Jonah David Jang.
According to a Nigerian human rights lawyer based in Washington D.C., Emmanuel Ogebe, the Christian governor’s “visa problems” were due to anti-Christian bias in the U.S. government:
The U.S. insists that Muslims are the primary victims of Boko Haram. It also claims that Christians discriminate against Muslims in Plateau, which is one of the few Christian majority states in the north. After the [Christian governor] told them [U.S. authorities] that they were ignoring the 12 Shariah states who institutionalized persecution … he suddenly developed visa problems…. The question remains — why is the U.S. downplaying or denying the attacks against Christians?
The testimony of another nun, Sister Hatune Dogan, also made in May, indicates why the State Department may not want to hear such testimonials: they go against the paradigm that “Islam is peace.” According to Sister Hatune:
What is going on there [Islamic State territories], what I was hearing, is the highest barbarism on earth in the history until today… The mission of Baghdadi, of ISIS, is to convert the world completely to the Islamic religion and bring them to Dar Al Salaam, as they call it. And Islam is not peace, please. Whoever says ISIS has no connection to Islam or something like this is, he’s a liar. ISIS is Islam; Islam is ISIS… We know that in Islam, there is no democracy. Islam and democracy are opposite, like black and white. And I hope America will understand. America today has the power that they can stop this disaster on the earth, with other Western countries.
The rest of May’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following accounts, listed by theme.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Pakistan: Three separate incidents involved attacks on churches:
1) On May 28, in the city of Chakwal, south of Lahore, Muslim men destroyed a Protestant church and beat six Christians, including the pastor. Some of those wounded had to be hospitalized. A few days earlier, Pastor Suhail Masih and his companions had been accused by local Muslims of carrying out “proselytism and conversions of Muslims,” according to a preliminary report.
2) Javed David, head of Hope for the Light Ministries in Lahore, and his associates, have been receiving death threats since February. The latest incident occurred in April, but became public knowledge only in May. According to David:
I had been to church in Sheikhupura to attend a meeting with colleagues. It was 8 o’clock in the evening when we left to return to Lahore. We were about to reach the main road when a motorbike drove up and blocked the way. Maybe they were following us. The two bikers were wearing a helmet (sic). One of them came up to my window and spoke to me. “We know what you are doing here,” he said. “Stop building churches. Convert to Islam, which is the true religion. Otherwise we will make a horrible example of you.”… [On another] occasion too, I was going home when a motorcycle stopped in front of me. The driver knocked on the window and threw in a piece of paper. I did not open it before I got home. It said, “This is an Islamic nation. We cannot allow church building. Either you convert to Islam or you leave this country! Stop building churches or you’ll pay the consequences!”
3) On May 29 in Faisalabad, around 2 a.m., a gang of Muslims on motorcycles attacked a church near the Sadar police station. They opened fire on the church and set its main gate on fire, damaging its windows. According to church cleric Dilawar Masih, “Though no human loss was reported in this incident, attackers gave a clear-cut message that Christians and their places of worship are not safe and they may be attacked any time by the terrorists.”
Egypt: Two churches were attacked:
1) On May 16, a homemade explosive device planted next to a Coptic Christian church was detonated around sunset. As the St. George Church in Tamiya (Fayum governorate) was mostly empty at the time, there were no casualties. However, the church’s administrative offices and second floor windows were shattered, creating chaos and panic in the area. Church security cameras captured the two men on a motorcycle, who stopped at the church. One of the men dismounted and placed a bag containing the bomb next to the church, and they then sped off.
2) On Sunday morning, May 31 in Senoras city, Fayum, masked men on motorcycles opened fire on an Evangelical church. Security forces guarding the church briefly exchanged fire with the masked men before they fled on their motorcycles. No one was reported hurt.
Canada: On May 26, a 22-year-old man of Muslim background was charged with alleged hate crimes committed against the St. Catherine of Siena Church and its neighboring elementary school in Mississauga, Ontario. Iqbal Hessan faces five counts of mischief, and over $5,000 in fines. On May 20, the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue that stands in front of the church was covered in black paint and the fingers of its outstretched arms were broken off. Behind the church, graffiti with the words “There is no Jew God” was scrawled across the brick wall along with a drawing of a face labelled “Jewsus.” That vandalism was the fourth time the church was targeted. On April 9, surveillance cameras caught a young man breaking into the church, ripping pages of the Sacramentary book on the altar, throwing them at the tabernacle, and then stealing one of the church’s sound-system speakers. On May 17, a drawing of a hand gesturing with the middle finger was found spray-painted on the front steps of the church. And on May 25, graffiti was sprayed on the school walls.
Algeria: According to Abdel Fattah Zarawi, the Muslim leader of the Salafi party, also known as the Free Front of Algeria, any and all Christian churches remaining in the North African nation must be closed and reopened as mosques. Although the transformation of Christian churches into Muslim mosques is nearly as old as Islam itself — Algeria was Christian-majority and even gave the world St. Augustine before Islam invaded and conquered it in the seventh century — the Salafi leader tried to portray his proposal as a “grievance” against rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, especially France. Launched on social media and networks, the Salafi campaign against Algerian churches even calls for the transformation of the nation’s most important churches into mosques — including the Church of Notre Dame d’Afrique in Algiers, the Church of St. Augustine in Annaba, and the Church of Santa Cruz in Oran — since “they have no relation whatsoever to the religion of Algerian Muslims,” in the words of the Free Front.
Saudi Arabia: Sheikh Adel al-Kalbani, former Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca and current prayer leader of Muhaisin Mosque in Riyadh, issued a tweet from his personal Twitter account, saying, “My beloved nation: It suffices me that you shelter me from hearing church bells ringing in you.” Due to his importance, the New York Times once issued an entire spread about al-Kalbani. The “hopeful” theme is how al-Kalbani managed to rise to the top in Saudi Arabia by becoming the first black Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. No word in any English language media, however, about his abhorrence for Christian churches and their bells.
Turkey: A 900-year-old Christian church in Turkey is to be renovated into a functioning mosque — despite previous governmental assurances that it would be renovated into a museum. Enez’s Hagia Sophia, the name of the ancient church, is located inside the city of Ainos, along the border with Greece and stationed atop a hill, visible to all. Another centuries-old church, Hagia Sophia in Trabzon, along the Black Sea, was reopened in 2013 as a mosque, although it was a museum for many years. Meanwhile, a majority of Turks await there-transformation of the greatest Hagia Sophia (Constantinople’s) into a mosque.
Yemen: A Catholic church was seriously damaged during a Saudi bombing raid around mid-May. The church of the Immaculate Conception in Aden had earlier been occupied by Houthi rebels who had vandalized its interior. The airstrike by Saudi bombers — in support of the Yemeni government in its struggle with the rebels — did further damage to the structure. Only one Catholic priest remains in Yemen. Two priests fled the country to escape the violence, while another, who was out of the country when the fighting began, has been unable to return. Twenty members of the Missionaries of Charities have chosen to remain in the war-torn country, tending to the sick and the poor.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
Pakistan: On Sunday, May 24, a Christian man in the Sanda neighborhood of Lahore was accused of blasphemy when some Muslims saw him burning newspapers that reportedly contained Arabic verses from the Koran. After the accusation, a Muslim mob caught the Christian, severely beat him, and even attempted to set him on fire. A few months earlier, another Muslim mob burned a Christian couple alive inside a kiln after they, too, were accused of insulting Islam. The Christian youth — named Humayun Masih, said to be “mentally unstable” — was imprisoned and charged under section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, which prohibits the desecration of the Koran. After the attack on the Christian youth, the Muslim mob, reportedly thousands, rampaged through the neighborhood and set fire to Christian homes and a church. Christians in the region were attacked, and most fled the region; some of the mob was armed and gunshots were heard….