(Note: HRAIC is not a Christian organization but , thanks to International Christian Concern, we present this abridged summary of human rights abuses in several Islamic countries in the hope that the ulama try to remedy them.)
While the number of countries where persecution against Christians continues to grow, the following are among those countries deemed by ICC to be among the most persistent violators of religious freedom and the most strategic in terms of having a negative impact on surrounding countries. If a country is not listed, its omission does not imply that no persecution against Christians exists or that abuses are any less severe.
PERSECUTION DEFINED - International Christian Concern defines "persecution" as specific acts that are targeted against people on account of their religious faith. These acts may occur in one or more of various forms that are included but are not limited to:
1. the denial of basic internationally accepted norms of human rights,
2. persistent acts of violence and extrajudicial killings,
3. repeated incidents of incarceration and/or interrogations,
4. the use of unusual and inhumane punishment, such as torture, solitary confinement and enslavement,
5. the inability for the accused to obtain legal representation or a fair public trial,
6. severe limitations that prevent believers from the right to peacefully assemble or practice their faith either in public or private,
7. the interference or prohibition by government against Christian institutions,
8. unfair laws, policies and practices that either severely impede or endanger the lives of Christians on account of their faith.
(countries listed in alphabetical order)
The selected countries meet the above definition of a country where Christians are persecuted and meet all of the following criteria:
1. When a consistent number of acts of persecution are confirmed to be the result of government sanctioned or tolerated acts of persecution against Christians on account of their faith,
2. When a government refuses to implement necessary laws or policy changes needed to curtail acts of persecution and safeguard the Christian community,
3. When there is a verifiable and consistent pattern of widespread acts of persecution that pose a serious threat to the existence of an entire Christian community with possible regional consequences.
Primary Source of Persecution:
A Government sanctioned B Government tolerated, but perpetrated by political factions or religious extremists Severity of Persecution against Christians
1. Frequent incidents of violent acts of force, including torture, slavery, expulsion or the withholding of food and humanitarian aid that frequently cause severe deprivation or death. 2. Repeated human rights offences that occasionally may result in the loss of life and include lengthy detentions, beatings and the confiscation or destruction of property.
3. Numerous violations that include fines, discrimination in education, employment or the electorate process, insufficient legal representation, and restrictions on places of worship.
POSTED: October 22, 1998
Egypt's Christian population, numbering approximately 5.7 million, is the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. The government claims that all religions are treated equally in Egypt. However, Islam remains the state religion. In 1997, Islamic terrorist violence again shook Egypt as 21 Christians were martyred in El Mina. In February 1997, Muslim terrorists attacked a church in Upper Egypt, killing 10 young people who were attending a youth Bible study. In January 1998, several Christian businesses were burned to the ground. One company lost 38 million dollars but the insurance company will not help any of these terrorized Christian owned businesses because they don't insure against terrorist attacks. In Alexandria and Cairo, Christian owned businessmen were threatened with either paying the "jizya" (an ancient tax on non-Muslims) or face the consequences. In March, seven Christians were killed by a Moslem terrorist who was said to be responsible for the killing of 24 others in 1995.
Also during the month of March, one family who converted to Christianity had their 13-year-old daughter kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam. The terrorist later released her and when she returned home they attacked the family, killing them by slitting their bellies and crushing their heads with stones. In a separate incident, another young Muslim woman convert was abducted and held against her will as a local Muslim leader attempted to rape her in an attempt to force her to return to Islam.
Another case of a female kidnapping took place when Muslim extremists kidnapped a Coptic Christian's 12-year-old daughter. They told the father that his responsibilities were over and that his daughter had converted to Islam. When the Christian took the matter to court he demanded they show his daughter. A female came forward wearing a veil and the traditional black garb to cover her.
The Christian couldn't identify his daughter and the judge refused his plea to remove the veil so that he could identify her.
The survival of the church in Egypt has also been hampered by the 1856 Ottoman Decree that is still in force which prohibits the construction or repair of churches, including the repair of a toilet, without a presidential decree. While mosques are allowed to flourish, the construction of non-Muslim places of worship are curtailed. In January 1998, President Mubarak transferred his authority on issuing building permits to the regional governors. It remains to be seen if the granting of permits by the regional governors will have any significant impact. Most Christian pastors interviewed by ICC remained skeptical. Restricting church construction has been used by the government as a means to limit church growth, and such restrictions have been encouraged by the Muslim leadership.
Another great frustration to Christians is the government-issued identity card. From the time of birth, every Egyptian citizen is issued an identity card that states his or her religion. The card will either state Muslim or Christian. If one has a card bearing the identity of Christian on it, they are discriminated against in terms of jobs, and many things similar to the 1960 civil rights offenses toward African Americans. Non-Muslims may change their identity to read "Muslim" but Muslims are not allowed to change their identity to read "Christian." Moreover, there are no restrictions on non-Muslims converting to Islam, but Muslims face serious legal problems and social pressure if they convert. While there have been no recent charges brought against converts in the past two years, previously the government has used provisions in the penal code that prohibit falsifying documents as a means to punish converts who attempted to change their religious affiliation. A common charge that had been brought against converts cites the penal code violation that prohibits religion to "ignite strife, degrade any of the heavenly religions, or harm national unity or social peace."
International Christian Concern visited Egypt early in 1998 to assess the persecution of Christians. In a separate visit to Egypt by clergymen from the New York City Council of Churches, after having only government arranged meetings, it was falsely reported that there is no government sponsored persecution. To the contrary, the ICC delegation received numerous reports from Christian leaders that the Egyptian government is indeed directly involved in persecuting Christians. Government surveillance of converts and pastors was a common complaint heard by the ICC delegation. A special branch of the secret police that is assigned to monitor the activities of drug dealers is also responsible for monitoring the activities of Christians.
This Muslim country along with Sudan and Saudi Arabia is ranked among the worst and most violent persecutors of Christians. The Iranian government continues to persecute those who openly proclaim their faith. In August of 1997 the Administrator of Osghofi Church was arrested and remained in prison until last December. He is not allowed to leave Iran and was arrested when he tried to follow his wife and child who had fled to the Netherlands. Also 20 to 30 Christians from a Church in Shiraz were arrested and remain in prison. The condition of these Christians is unknown.
Most of the evangelical churches in Iran have been forced to meet in secret since being threatened by the authorities. The threats are taken seriously since the murder of four Christian pastors in recent years. Their deaths were attributed to the government. Moreover, the church in Iran must constantly be on guard for government-paid spies who infiltrate the church. Christians are strictly forbidden from sharing their faith with Muslims. Pastors have been severely punished and their churches closed for having allowed Muslims in their church services.
Government brutality has become the common means of suppressing those who share the Gospel and those who convert to Christianity. Documented evidence indicates that there has been an escalation of persecution against converts since the May 1997 election of Sayed Mohammad Khatami as president. There have been reports since 1997 of several converts being arrested and tortured.
One Iranian convert to Christianity was injected with a radioactive material before being released so that he might die a slow death. Pastors, church leaders and converts are frequently targeted for assassination and are kept under heavy surveillance.
Muslims from within the Pakistani government and Islamic extremist groups continue in their attempt to Islamize all Pakistan. The infamous "blasphemy" laws (Penal codes 295-B&C) are used primarily against Christians as a means to oppress the Christian minority. The blasphemy laws are frequently used to settle grudges held by Muslims against Christians, using the mandated punishment of death as a means to retaliate against
Christians who have been wrongfully accused of having blasphemed the Prophet Mohammed or the Koran, the Muslims' holy book. A number of Christians are in prison or are under threat of being charged under Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Christian prisoners report having been subjected to harsh treatment, including severe torture. There have been several suspicious deaths of Christians while in detention.
On April 28, 1998, Ayub Masih was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Masih was arrested on October 14, 1996 after allegedly telling a neighbor to read Salman Rushdie's novel, "The Satanic Verses," considered to be blaspheming Mohammed. While in court, an attempt was made on his life by Muslim gunmen. Due to international protests, the courts have yet to carry out the death sentence against a Christian. However, increasing pressure and threats against the judiciary by Muslim extremists heightens concern that the government may allow the execution of Ayub Masih to be carried out. Other Christians sentenced and then later acquitted, including 14-year-old Salamat Masih in 1996, have had to flee the country because of Muslim death threats. Under sharia law, a Muslim may kill a Christian and only be punished by having to pay the "diyat" (blood money) to the victim's family. However, should a Christian murder a Muslim, the Christian would be sentenced to death.
In May 1998, out of frustration, the popular Catholic human-rights advocate Bishop John Joseph took his own life as a protest of the increasing persecution against Christians. His suicide was sparked by the death sentence handed down against Ayub Masih and the government's refusal to abolish the blasphemy laws. As more than 10,000 mourners gathered for the Bishop's funeral, Muslim extremists attacked and burned Christian homes and shops, while shouting slogans in support of Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
Even if the government did abolish the blasphemy laws, the Federal Sharia Court has the authority to overturn any legislation that is deemed "inconsistent with Islamic belief." Members of the judiciary, although they themselves being Muslim, fear reprisals from Muslim extremists. In 1997, a Supreme Court judge was assassinated by extremists for having acquitted two Christians charged with blasphemy. As a result, it has become increasingly more difficult to find a lawyer to represent Christians and judges fear reprisals from extremists if they pass a fair judgement acquitting the accused. Nevertheless, ICC is encouraging the international community to pressure the government of Pakistan to abolish the blasphemy laws as well as the separate electorate system that further relegates Christians to live as second class citizens.
Evangelical Christians and converts experience the greatest persecution. Scores of Christians have been forced to flee their homes and are living in hiding, with most unable to return or able to find a way of escape to freedom outside the country.
Islamic extremists in Chapianwali have started a campaign targeted at persecuting the Christian minority. Just before Christmas 1997, a young Christian worker accused of blasphemy was beaten up by a Muslim cleric who charged into the church at Toba Tek Sing and desecrated crosses and Bibles in the church. In the same town, a 13-year-old boy was forced to convert to Islam and ordered to "never call yourself a Christian again or I'll shoot you." The boy is under police "protective custody" and the family has fled their home for safety.
Saudi Arabia, having no constitution, is a Muslim monarchy under the leadership of King Fahd Bin Abd Al-Aziz. Saudi Arabia can be fairly described as the most repressive Muslim country in the world. By the end of the 7th century, Muslim raiders had either killed or expelled all Christians from the country. Today, churches are banned, prayer meetings in private homes are prohibited, Bibles are confiscated, and proclaiming the Gospel is punishable by such extreme measures as execution by beheading or life in prison. Any display of Christian symbols is entirely forbidden and the practice of Christianity even by foreigners is strictly prohibited, with a few exceptions.
The expatriate church, numbering over 30,000, is forced to meet in secret and the Saudi Muslims converting to Christianity, which are growing in number, are taking extreme measures to guard their identity in fear of severe reprisals from the government or family members. The government's religious police, the Mutawah, routinely searches for Christians holding Bible studies in their homes or otherwise sharing their faith in public. In 1997, two Filipinos who became Christians while in prison, were beheaded after being warned numerous times to halt their evangelistic activities and to stop leading Bible studies. Scores of expatriate Christians have been imprisoned and expelled on account of their beliefs. In June 1998, 31 believers were arrested in an apparent crackdown in Riyadh. ICC hosted the international coordinator for the underground house churches in Saudi Arabia and together initiated efforts in Washington that led to the release of all 31 in an unprecedented short period of time. Fortunately, all of them escaped the customary 70 lashes, but nevertheless were immediately deported. Many of them had been employed in Saudi Arabia for more than 10 years.
Christian leaders in Saudi Arabia are concerned that the government's actions of arresting and deporting Christians is a deliberate plan aimed at eliminating all Christian activities in Saudi Arabia.
The degree of human suffering in Sudan is perhaps worse than all travesties committed by mankind during this century. As many as two million people have perished over the past ten years as a result of government instigated famine, genocide and military action. Millions of nonconforming Sudanese have been dislocated from their homes as thousands of villages have been destroyed and the survivors deprived of food and medical treatment.
Nearly one fourth of all the people in the south are Christians. These Christians have been subjected to forced conversions to Islam in exchange for food and "protection." However, many Muslims are converting to Christianity because of the suffering that they too have encountered at the hands of militant, government-sponsored Muslim forces.
Thirteen people are currently imprisoned in Khartoum and face possible execution for their alleged involvement in resisting the government's militant Islamic agenda. Christian convert Faisal Abadallah, detained since June 1997, remains in prison and is said to be suffering head pains and a kidney ailment due to beatings.
Among the most barbaric human rights violation is the decapitation of hands and feet from captured men who refuse to comply with demands imposed by raiding Muslim forces. Equally inhumane is the government's involvement in rounding up and marketing women and children as slaves. Young Christian children are forced to recite the Koran and are given Muslim names. The Christians of the fertile Nuba Mountain region are especially hard pressed and continue to be cut off from all international aid while being subjected to violent attacks by Sudan's military forces.
In a trip to Southern Sudan in May 1998, Britain's Baroness Caroline Cox uncovered widespread destruction and loss of life. Vast areas of northern Bahr-El-Ghazal were found to have been laid waste by Sudan's National Islamic Front (NIF) forces and government-backed Mujahadeen and Murahaleen. More than 160 people were found slain and many more are still missing. The bodies of a countless number of others were seen floating in the river. Hundreds were abducted, mostly children. Thousands of homes and crops were destroyed. On May 10, an early morning raid on the trading village of Abin Dau took residents by surprise. Sudan's Public Defense Force (PDF) and government-backed forces swept through the village. All escape routes were cut off and many terrified civilians perished. An estimated 30-40,000 survivors from the raids have fled to swamps and are living off of the roots of water lilies. The death toll among the survivors is rising daily due to starvation and disease.