Sunday, August 7, 2016

Post 45--Muslim Persecution of Christians

Post 44 of this blog talks about whether Muslims want peace or terrorism. I quoted Canadian Muslims who are fiercely opposed to violence and terrorism. I also wrote about some who want both!  Yes, as strange as it seems, terrorists who claim to be Muslims resort to violence as the only way to peace.  They base their definition of peace on a very literal, unhistorical and fundamentalist interpretation of the Qur’an.
Most Muslims reject that interpretation as well as the attitudes and actions that result from it. One of its results is the death of thousands of Muslims at the hands of those militant “Muslims” throughout the regions where militancy has a hold, especially those claimed by ISIS in the “Middle East” and Boko Haram in the north-east of Nigeria and neighbouring countries. Probably more Muslims are killed than Christians and others. Most of the global Muslim community strongly resist and resent any suggestions that Islam and the Muslim community are violent or approve of terrorism. They wonder why Westerners associate Muslims with violence and terrorism. Why, Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance, they will argue up and down. Those militants do not represent Islam.
Well, that may be true, but that does not take Muslims off the hook. There is another form of violence that may not be described as “terrorist” but is violent none the less. I am talking about persecution. Persecution of other religions is rife within the Muslim community, even within the most liberal or secular Muslim countries. 
There are various Christian organizations that monitor situations of such persecution. One of them has been introduced to you in the past and I’m going to resort to them again: Barnabas Aid.  Their international headquarters is in the UK, while they have regional offices in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Northern Ireland & Republic of Ireland, Singapore and the USA.  They publish both a bi-monthly magazine and a prayer bulletin.  I am going to simply quote a few random reports of theirs from the May/June 2016 prayer bulletin.
My stories will zero in on ordinary Muslims, their governments and their agencies in Muslim-majority countries. There are many other fronts where there is serious persecution, but I hope to address them sometime in the near future. These could include reports of ISIS atrocities that will be addressed one day under the rubric of “genocide.” There is also persecution of Christians at the hands of Muslim minority communities in the West. Then there are Hindu persecution of Christians, Chinese persecution, Buddhist persecution,Secular persecution in the West, etc., etc.  One of the most puzzling forms of persecution is that of Christians by Muslims in Christian-majority countries, mostly in Africa! I reserve all of that for future blogs. In all of this, I am aware that there are also situations where Muslims are persecuted. Perhaps that subject will be treated as well in due time.
But for today, persecution of Christians by ordinary Muslims in Muslim-majority countries:
May 1—“Iraqi Christians in Baghdad have recently lost their homes, businesses, cultural sites and church buildings when they were seized by Iranian-backed militias, forcing the owners to leave.” “They are being targeted in a type of ethnic cleansing designed to rid the Iraqi capital of all Christians.”
May 16—“A Pakistani Christian was beaten to death by police in January 2016, after having been stripped naked and hung up until his shoulders were dislocated. Liaquat Masih had worked as a driver for 18 years for a Muslim politician when he was accused by his employer’s wife of stealing jewelry. The police also beat Gull Khatab, a former employee of the politician, to try to pressure him into accusing Liaqat, but Gull refused. When local Christians staged a peaceful protest the following day outside the police station at which it all happened, police used batons against them, injuring six women and four men.”
May 18—“Tahira (21) and her sister Reema (20), both Christians, were kidnapped by Muslims towards the end of last year, forcibly converted to Islam and forced to marry their kidnappers in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Tahira has managed to escape but dares not return to her family, who are now in grave danger because the kidnappers have filed a police complaint against them. The police typically take the side of the Muslim husbands in such cases. Pray that Reema may also find a way to escape and that both sisters may find a hope and future in a culture where their reputations are now ruined and they and their relatives are in danger of physical attack by the Muslim family or arrest by the police.”
May 19—“There are estimated to be around 700 cases like Tahira and Reema (see above) every year in Pakistan. Pray for the courageous Christian lawyers…who put their own lives at risk to give legal assistance to the victims and their families. As the Lord to grant them favour as they argue their cases before the authorities and to protect them from the many enemies they make as they speak up in defense of poor and vulnerable believers.”    
June 6—A fifth-century underground cave church has been discovered in Turkey’s Cappadocia region, a place where some of the earliest Christians lived (Acts 2:9; 1 Peter 1:1 in New Testament).  As Christians in Turkey today face pressures of many kinds, particularly with regard to their buildings, and are made to feel unwanted in their own country, pray that this tangible reminder of their historic roots may bring them encouragement and hope. Pray that the Muslim population (99% according to government figures) will recognize that Christians are not foreigners or traitors, but have a rightful place in society.  
June 7—A church building in Bursa, Turkey, dating from the 1880s, is currently used by four different denominations. When the Christians made a routine application to renew their permission to use the building, they were refused and ordered to leave the premises by February 26.  When this became known, local residents and the Turkish media reacted in support of the Christians—a very unusual occurrence in Turkey, where the Muslim majority and media are generally negative towards Christians. Perhaps even more surprising was the response of the Turkish authorities on February 23 withdrawing the eviction order.            

In closing this post, I think it only fair to tell you that this very day my wife and I were brunch guests at the home of a Turkish Muslim family who are our friends and who are the most cultured, gentle and kind people you can imagine. It almost seems ungrateful to publish this report today. I apologize to them, but the truth must be told. By no means all Turkish Muslims fit that description when it comes to Christians, but the percentage is too high, high enough to dub such events as “common place,” while resistance to them is considered “unusual” and “surprising.”  The end result after centuries of Muslim domination of these early Christian regions is a greatly reduced Christian community.