As happens at Christmas every year throughout the Muslim world, Christians and their churches were especially targeted—from jihadi terror strikes killing worshipers, to measures by Muslim authorities restricting Christmas celebrations. Some incidents follow:
Iraq: “Militants” reported the Associated Press, “targeted Christians in three separate Christmas Day bombings in Baghdad, killing at least 37 people, officials said Wednesday. In one attack, a car bomb went off near a church in the capital’s southern Dora neighborhood, killing at least 26 people and wounding 38, a police officer said. Earlier, two bombs ripped through a nearby outdoor market simultaneously in the Christian section of Athorien, killing 11 people and wounding 21.”
Iran: Five Muslim converts to Christianity were arrested from a house-church during a Christmas celebration. Plain clothes Iranian security authorities raided a house where, according to Mohabat News, “a group of Christians had gathered to celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, December 24.” Before arresting the five apostates, authorities “insulted and searched those in attendance, and seized all Christian books, CDs, and laptops they found. They also took the Satellite TV receiver.” The original report received by Mohabat stated: “These Christians had gathered to worship and celebrate [the] birth of Jesus.”
Indonesia: Muslims in the Aceh province protested against Christmas and New Year celebrationsand called on authorities to ban them. Days earlier, an influential Islamic cleric organization, the Ulema Consultative Assembly, issued a fatwa, or edict, “prohibiting Muslims from offering Christmas wishes or celebrating on New Year’s Eve,” said the Associated Press. Aceh is the “only province in predominantly Muslim Indonesia that is allowed to implement a version of Islamic Shariah law.”
Kenya: “Youths,” reported Reuters, “threw petrol bombs at two Kenyan churches on Christmas day … in the latest bout of violence against Christians on the country’s predominantly Muslim coast.” The attacks occurred “in the early hours of December 25 after churchgoers held services to usher in Christmas.” The churches were located in Muslim-majority regions. One church was “completely destroyed.”
Somalia: The more “moderate” government—as it is often portrayed in comparison to Al Shabaab (“The Youth”) opposition—banned Christmas celebrations. Hours before Christmas Day, the Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs released a directive banning any Christian festivities from being held in the east African nation. In the words of one ministry official: “We alert fellow Muslims in Somalia that some festivities to mark Christian Days will take place around the world in this week. It is prohibited to celebrate those days in this country.” All security and law enforcement agencies were instructed to quash any Christian celebrations.
Pakistan: During Christmas Eve services, “Heavy contingents of police were deployed around the churches to thwart any untoward incident.” In some regions, “prayer service at major churches focused on remembering the Pakistani Christians who lost their lives in terror attacks.” For example, three months earlier, Islamic suicide bombers entered the All Saints Church compound in Peshawar following Sunday mass and blew themselves up in the midst of some 550 congregants, killing some 130 worshippers, including many Sunday school children, women, and choir members, and injuring nearly 200 people.
Even in Western nations like Denmark, Christmas Eve witnessed Islamic demonstrations and cries of “Allahu Akbar” (or “Allah is greater”).
Also in December, Syria’s Greek-Catholic Church declared that it had three “true martyrs”—men from the small town of Ma’loula, an ancient Christian site where the inhabitants still spoke the language of Christ. According to Asia News, “When the town fell [in September, to al-Qaeda linked rebels], a climate of fear was imposed… When three men refused to repudiate their religion, they were summarily executed in public, and six more were taken hostage. This was followed by a failed attempt by Syrian government forces to retake the town.” In the words of Patriarch Gregorios III to Pope Francis in a meeting: “Holy Father, they are true martyrs. Ordered to give up their faith, they proudly refused. Three others however gave in and were forced to declare themselves Muslim, but later returned to the faith of their ancestors.” According to the families who fled from Ma’loula, “some of their Muslim neighbors took part in the attack that devastated this historic village where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. Muslims are approximately one third of the population of the village…” Keep reading