Christians as “Target Practice” Muslim Persecution of Christians: May 2016 by Raymond Ibrahim

  • “We will show the Armenians and the Christians who we are… We have been ordered not to leave any Armenians in the area.” — Islamic rebels, Aleppo, Syria.

  • Thousands of Christians are fleeing Eritrea due to extreme persecution. A report describes Eritrea as “one of the world’s fastest emptying nations” and the “North Korea of Africa.” The majority of the 40,000 who fled to Italy last year are Christians.
  • “The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.” — Report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
  • A new study claims that as many as 40,000 Christians — including Muslims who wish to convert to Christianity — are being attacked and harassed by Muslims in migrant homes. According to the report, “Now in European asylum homes they are finding more and more that they are in as much danger from radical Muslims in Europe as they were in their home countries.”

More reports of the brutal treatment that Christians and other minorities experienced at the hands of the Islamic State (SIS) emerged during May. One account told of a couple who, after their children were abducted by ISIS militants, answered their door one day to find a plastic bag on their doorstep. It contained the body parts of their daughters and a video of them being brutally tortured and raped.

Another Christian mother from Mosul answered the door to find ISIS jihadis demanding that she leave or pay the jizya (protection money demanded as a tribute by conquered Christians and Jews, according to the Koran 9:29). The woman asked for a few seconds, because her daughter was in the shower, but the jihadis refused to give her the time. They set a fire to the house; her daughter was burned alive. The girl died in her mother’s arms; her last words were “Forgive them.”

The Islamic State reportedly beheaded another Christian leader on February 18. No media reported it, except for one Italian paper in May: “There are reliable reports are that Father Yacob Boulos, was beheaded by the terror group’ militants after he prayed on the altar of his church. He was punished for his faith.”

According to another report,

“In yet another disturbing example of the genocide facing Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, on 12-13 May a group from Islamic State (IS) entered a town near the city of Hama in Syria, populated only by Christians and Alawites, killing an as yet unspecified number of men, women and children. Men were beheaded, whilst women were raped and then murdered. Many children were also killed. It is not yet clear exactly how many people have been killed.”

A local Christian leader said,

“Where are the leaders of the West, Ban Ki-Moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations), the EU, WHO (World Health Organization), and other Christian organisations? How long will my nation tolerate and stay. We don’t hold arms and weapons, but we are melting like a candle! Is it possible for our voice to reach to all others?”

Father Douglas Bazi, an Iraqi priest, who was kidnapped by ISIS in 2006 but later escaped, recounted his experiences as a captive:

“They destroyed my car, they blew up my church on [sic] front of me. I got shot by AK-47 in my leg. The bullet is still in my leg. And I [have] been kidnapped for nine days. They smash my nose and my teeth by hammer. And they broke one of my back discs.”

He was released after his church paid for his ransom, but eventually had to flee the region after continued persecution by ISIS. “To be Christian in Iraq, it’s an impossible mission,” said Father Bazi, adding, “But even so, I’m not actually surprised when they attack my people. I’m surprised how my people are still existing. Please talk about our stories. Let the world know what happens to us.”

The rest of May’s roundup of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes, but is not limited to, the following:

More Muslim Slaughter of Christians

Uganda: A Christian pastor was poisoned to death by a Muslim. Micah Byamukama, 61, pastor of a Baptist Church, died on May 15, after ingesting an insecticide that a Muslim, Ahmed Mupere, had put into his food. Mupere is believed to have been upset that the pastor challenged his belief in jinn, supernatural creatures attested to in Islamic literature, including the Koran. “The true God is the God of the Lord Jesus Christ, who conquered the power of Satan including the Islamic Jinn… the Islamic Jinn are acts of Satan and should be denounced,” the pastor had apparently said. Soon, unidentified persons believed to have been hired by Ahmed attacked and wounded the pastor with knives.

Five days after the knife attack, Mupere, pretending not to be angry, came to visit the pastor, a widower with no children. According to the report, “Feigning reconciliation as he dined with the pastor from a shared dish, Ahmed secretly put poison on the food and stopped eating as Pastor Byamukama continued.” Shortly thereafter, the Christian man began having stomach pains, was rushed to the hospital and was soon declared dead.

Earlier, the pastor had told his neighbor, “Ahmed took a little food with me and then stopped. When I asked him why not continue with the food, he said he had eaten at his home, and that he wanted [to] go back home because it was getting late.” A nurse said he died from ingesting a highly toxic insecticide. Once investigations began, Mupere fled. The incident is the latest in a series of attacks, including other poisonings, by Muslims against Christians in eastern Uganda.

Separately in Uganda, a Muslim man strangled his wife to death for leaving Islam and converting to Christianity. Awali Kakaire, 34, began to suspect that his wife Mariam Nakiriya, 30, was a Christian a month earlier, when the local imam asked him why his wife and children had not been attending the mosque or madrassa (Islamic school). According to one of Kakaire’s sons: “Our father questioned us why we have stopped attending the madrassa, but we told him that we were busy with school work as our mother had instructed us This made my father to cool down his tempers.” Then, on May 8, Kakaire awoke at 6 a.m., and after his Islamic cleansing ritual, woke his wife to join him in morning Islamic prayers: “Our mother refused, and our father started strangling her as she cried for help,” his son said. After killing her, Kakaire left the house only to return two hours later and force his five children, ages 5 to 12, into a hole he had dug in a nearby garden.

“We resisted and began screaming, and neighbors arrived immediately, but he had already dumped us into the hole that he had dug. Seeing the neighbors, he tried to flee but he was overtaken and then began to be questioned by those who surrounded him.”

Kakaire was heard shouting “My family has no respect for Islam.” Thanks to some Muslim accomplices, Kakaire managed to escape the murder scene.

Syria: Up to 200 Christians were reportedly killed during sustained bombardments of the city of Aleppo. Between April 22 and April 30, approximately 1,350 rockets hit the Christian region. The attack killed 132 people, half of them women and children. Another 65 were killed on May 3, and hundreds more injured. Islamic rebels had earlier, on April 22, issued a direct threat against Aleppo’s large community of Armenian Christians, and warned, “We will show the Armenians and the Christians who we are… We have been ordered not to leave any Armenians in the area.”

Bangladesh: “Fighters from the Islamic State assassinated a doctor who called to Christianity in Kushtia, western Bangladesh,” ISIS announced in a brief statement issued in Arabic. Doctor Sanaur Rahman, 58, was riding home on his motorcycle along with his friend when they were attacked by machete-wielding terrorists. Rahman was hacked to death, while Zaman was critically wounded in the attack. The doctor was popular in his village because he used to treat and offer medicine to poor people free of charge and ran a free clinic on Fridays.

Congo: Muslim terrorists killed scores of villagers in the east of the Christian-majority nation. The attackers carried machetes and axes into a village in North Kivu province during the evening of May 3. According to the local administrator, “the enemy managed to get past army positions and kill peaceful residents in their homes, slashing their throats. The 16 bodies are in front of me, killed by machete or axe.” Another source said that as many as 38 were slaughtered, including two Evangelical Christian leaders and their wives. According to the report,

The MDI [Muslim Defensive International] has repeatedly attacked the majority-Christian population in eastern DRC for years. Kidnapping and murder are common. It is alleged to have support from the Islamic government of Sudan… The MDI is known to have attracted foreign recruits and to have forced Christians to convert to Islam. The local population in the related area is overwhelmingly Christian (95.8%) and the impact on them has been immense.

In a letter released a year ago, Congolese Bishops denounced a “climate of genocide” and the passivity of the Congolese government and the international community: “Does the situation have to deteriorate even more before the international community takes measures against jihadism?” asked the Bishops in May 2015.

Philippines: Islamic jihadis attacked the “Crusaders” of the Catholic-majority nation. The recently-established ISIS branch in the Philippines claimed responsibility for a terror attack on a military position on Basilan Island. The attack killed one soldier and injured another. Basilan Island has long been a stronghold of local Muslim terror organizations that aim to topple the government and establish a Sharia-compliant government.

Muslim Rape and Humiliation of Christian Women

Bangladesh: A 26-year-old Catholic high school teacher was raped on May 12 by her Muslim principal and his friend, Shariful Islam. Afterwards, they threatened to post the video of the rape on Facebook, if she reported them. According to parish priest Fr. Domenic K. Halder, “The girl is very frightened. We pray for her, she is still in hospital.” Hundreds of Christians also protested in the streets of Dhaka and demanded justice.

Egypt: On May 20, a 70-year-old Christian woman was stripped naked, savagely beaten, spat upon, and paraded in the streets of Minya to jeers, whistles, and yells of “Allahu Akbar,” after a mob of some 300 Muslim men descended on her home. Her crime was that her son was accused of having a romantic relationship with a Muslim woman, an intimacy that is banned under Islamic law, Sharia. It is the same body of teachings that prescribes collective punishment to non-Muslim “infidels.” Seven Christian homes were also torched during the attack. Earlier that day her husband and she had gone to local police and complained that they were being harassed and threatened by neighborhood Muslims. The police responded by also threatening and ordering them out of the station. A few hours later, the attack occurred. It took the same local police over two hours to appear, giving the mob “ample time,” as one Christian clergyman put it, to riot. Minya’s most senior Christian cleric, Bishop Makarios, said during a televised interview concerning 70-year-old woman’s ordeal, that if a Muslim man were pursuing a Christian woman, the police response “would not have been anything like what happened…. No one did anything and the police took no preemptive or security measures in anticipation of the attacks.”

Uganda: After a 22-year-old Christian woman accused a mosque leader of murdering her father earlier in the year, local Muslims responded by beating and raping her. The woman, whose name was withheld, said she was beaten and raped on April 19 for telling a court what she had witnessed. She was found unconscious in a pool of blood, with cuts on her body. One of the three Muslims who assaulted her told her, “We shall kill you today because you are the one who made our sheikh to be imprisoned.” According to the woman, speaking from a hospital bed,

“I was able to identify the sheikh because we are neighbors, and my father had been questioning him about the Islamic faith not leading one to salvation with God. The sheikh had said to him, ‘You have no respect of our religion, and we have come for your life today.’ They started strangling my father as well as hitting him on the head with a big stick. When my father fell down, I managed to escape through the window.”

Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches

Tanzania: Another church was burned to the ground. The Roman Catholic church in the Kagera region is the third church in four months to be burned down in the nation. According to a local pastor, “Since 2013 we have had over 13 churches torched here in Kagera and no-one has been held accountable. This is not acceptable.”

Fortunatus Bijura, a priest at the church, said: “Those who think that destroying our church means we won’t pray, they are wrong … We have a big tree near the church and will continue meeting there for prayers.” Tanzania is approximately 35% Muslim.

Pakistan: The government announced its plans to demolish four historic churches in order to make way for the construction of a metro train. On May 3, Christians gathered in front of the Lahore High Court to protest the decision. “These churches were built pre-Pakistan and these all [sic] churches are located at very expensive and prime locations which politicians and Islamists are jealous of,” said Nasir Saeed, director of the Center for Legal Aid. “They cannot stand that Christians have such prime property and … so try to use any excuse to grab the land and belittle Christians.” While the community is still mourning their loved ones who perished during the Easter Sunday attack on Christians that left 69 dead and more than 340 injured, Saeed said they now face a new threat to their churches: “There is no respite for them and one problem after the other seems to follow Pakistani Christians,” he said.

Muslim Attacks on Christian Apostates, Blasphemers and Preachers

Pakistan: A fatwa, or Islamic decree, was issued against a Christian after Muslims accused him of watching an anti-Islamic video on his phone. Imran Masih was last reported on the run after a $10,000 bounty was put on his head. As a form of collective punishment, fellow Christians in his village were prevented from buying food from Muslim shopkeepers and given three options: “convert to Islam, leave the village forever, or hand over Imran so he can be burnt alive.” Speaking of this incident, a Pakistani human rights activist said,

I cannot believe that such things are still happening in this world. Such treatment towards Pakistani Christians is a slap on the face of the Punjab and central government, and to all those who never tire of telling the world that minorities are protected and enjoying equal rights in the country. I don’t understand how watching a video on the internet can be criminalised as an act of blasphemy…. I believe this is not an act of blasphemy and if people still think Imran has committed blasphemy then he should be punished according to the law. No one has any right to take the law into their own hands, harass local Christians, threaten them, burn Imran alive or force Christians to convert to Islam or leave the village. Such conditions from lay people make a mockery of the law. The Government of Pakistan must take this matter seriously, provide protection to the local Christians, and those who are breaking the law should be dealt according to the law.

Left: The house of Imran Masih in the village of Chak-44, Pakistan. Masih was last reported on the run after Muslims accused him of watching an anti-Islamic video on his phone and a $10,000 bounty was put on his head. Right: The Catholic Church in the village. (Images source: World Watch Monitor)

Separately in Pakistan, police arrested a Christian man in Punjab province for allegedly posting messages on his Facebook account that were considered blasphemous by Muslims. According to Liaquat Usman’s wife, “My husband stopped some [Muslim] boys from teasing girl students. A couple of days ago the boys manhandled Usman. Instead of arresting the boys, police arrested Usman saying a complaint against him has been lodged for committing blasphemy.” Initial investigations showed that the “blasphemous” messages were posted on Usman’s Facebook account a year earlier, and that someone else living abroad tagged them on his account.

Germany: A new report claimed that as many as 40,000 Christians — including Muslims who wish to convert to Christianity — are being attacked and harassed by Muslims in migrant homes. According to the report,

Many converts [to Christianity] wished to do so in their homelands, but in places like Iran and Afghanistan the penalty for leaving the Islamic religion can be death and so they fled to Europe. Now in European asylum homes they are finding more and more that they are in as much danger from radical Muslims in Europe as they were in their home countries. The most prevalent form of abuse was verbal insults with 96 people saying that had received abuse or threats. Eighty-six said they had been physically assaulted and 73 said they had been subjected to death threats against themselves and family members. Three quarters of the migrants also said they had been victims of multiple attacks. The perpetrators of most of the attacks were fellow migrants who look down on converts and believe them to be apostates. Perhaps, more interestingly was the prevalence of Muslim security guards who participated in the attacks. Almost half of those surveyed said they had received abuse from security guards and in the German capital of Berlin the figure rose to two-thirds.

Azerbaijan: Christian activists called attention to the plight of a frail Christian evangelist from Azerbaijan who has spent a year behind bars in neighboring Georgia on what his supporters say are “trumped-up charges” for the possession of drugs. If convicted, the man could face 14 years imprisonment. The Azeri evangelist says he has been framed by people who are angry about his evangelism work among Muslims. Local sources said “His health is very bad and he needs urgent help — medical, spiritual and materially.” Fears also exist that the man will not be able to return safely to predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan after an eventual release from prison. According to a human rights organization,

Officially, the country is secular and religion is tolerated. However, the level of surveillance is so incredibly high that Christians in Azerbaijan do not know whom to trust anymore. Persecution of Christians has gone up markedly since last year due to ever-increasing government controls,” added Open Doors. Another sign of the government pressure is the fact that Azeri Christians find it easier to evangelize in countries like Georgia and Iran than in their own country.

Muslim Hate for and Violence against Christians

Syria: The Islamic State released an online video on May 16, showing an ISIS fighter desecrating the graves of Christians and showing off the damage that was done to the Christian cemetery. The video was allegedly filmed in the city of Deir ez-Zor. The ISIS militant is shown touring the cemetery, showing shards of stone and wood, while in the background are destroyed headstones and corpses of Syrian soldiers — some torn to pieces — who apparently tried to stop the desecration.

Eritrea: Thousands of Christians are fleeing the nation due to extreme persecution, according to a report which describes Eritrea as “one of the world’s fastest emptying nations” and the “North Korea of Africa.” The majority of the 40,000 who fled to Italy last year are Christians. The report added that “all evangelical and independent churches have been closed.” Dawit, who was among hundreds of Christians jailed and tortured for his faith, said:

“There is no law and no justice. When I was living in Eritrea I was arrested because of my Christian faith. That’s why I left. In Eritrea almost every Christian faces imprisonment. That’s why I was in prison.”

Berhane, another Christian who managed to escape said:

“We believe there are over 300 Christian prisoners at the moment. Most of them have been in prison for over ten years and they are suffering for lack of food and proper hygiene and proper medical care and even some of them have lost their lives.”

Turkey: United States ally and NATO member Turkey is aiding and abetting the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in Syria that kill Christians, by providing them with aerial cover and “safe haven,” said Mindy Belz, an activist and senior editor of WORLD magazine:

We have to have a new approach to our ally, Turkey. Turkey is a country that is in transition and is becoming more and more radicalized. There is strong evidence, as I interviewed people at the border who had escaped to Lebanon. I sat down with them in Beirut. They were up at the border when Turkey shot down the Syrian jet that crossed the border [in 2015]. … The people who witnessed it said, “Turkey is providing air cover for these Islamic militant groups”…. There has been strong evidence that they have provided air cover and provided safe haven at their borders for ISIS…They have aided and abetted extremist groups, not only ISIS but Al-Nusra Front and some of the others. These are groups that are killing Christians and America ought to not tolerate allies that support groups that kill Christians.

Iran: Despite the nuclear deal made with the Obama administration, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has found that religious minorities in Iran, including Christians, continue experiencing severe human rights abuses. The report, released only a couple of months shy of the one-year anniversary of the nuclear deal reached in July 2015, found that religious freedom conditions “continued to deteriorate” over the past year, with Christians, Baha’is, and the minority Sunni Muslims facing the most persecution at the form of harassment, arrests, and imprisonment.

Under President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, the number of religious-based arrests has increased, despite Iran’s continuous denial that it is violating people’s human and religious freedom rights. The report states:

“The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.”

The report notes that as many as 550 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2015, and at least 90 Christians remain in prison or detention as of February due to their religious beliefs and activities:

“During the reporting period, human rights groups inside Iran reported a significant increase in the number of physical assaults and beatings of Christians in prison. Some activists believe the assaults, which have been directed against converts who are leaders of underground house churches, are meant to intimidate others who may wish to convert to Christianity.”

A report from May indicate that one Christian prisoner in Iran, Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran, who earlier underwent heart surgery, is suffering from illnesses, including nausea, ear pain, and chronic pain in her joints and spinal cord, which were diagnosed as caused by lumbar disk, arthritis, and osteoporosis. Regardless, prison officials have refused to transfer her to a hospital to receive proper medical care. Mrs. Zargaran was initially summoned to an Iranian intelligence office for interrogation in March of 2011. Interrogators constantly threatened her and her family, insulted her and questioned her Christian activities.

Pakistan: According to Sardar Mushtaq Gill and fellow attorneys who represent the family of the Christian couple burned alive by a mob for allegedly desecrating a Koran, “Witnesses and lawyers are [being] threatened…. There are many concerns about the possible impunity for the perpetrators.” Because witness have refused to recognize those most responsible for the killing of the Christian couple, they have already been released on bail. “There are 106 detainees accused of this lynching and if the trial continues in this direction, it seems that everyone will be freed.”

Nigeria: Gunmen shot at a car carrying Roman Catholic Cardinal John Onaiyekan in the country’s southern Edo state. The attack on the cardinal comes amid increasing violence and kidnappings of Christian clergy by Muslims for ransom. Three other Christian leaders were kidnapped for ransom within the same year. The decomposing body of a cleric kidnapped in a Muslim-majority region was found last April.

A separate report tells of the day-to-day sufferings of Christians living alongside Muslims in Nigeria:

For Bishop Matthew Kukah, persecution is not just the history of the Church. It’s a reality that he lives every day. In the diocese of Sokoto, located in northern Nigeria, ministry includes not only the normal sacramental and pastoral concerns of any other diocese. It also includes regularly responding to violence and attacks against the small Christian minority living in the majority-Muslim area. Christians living in northern Nigeria today wonder “why have they and their institutions become target practice,” explained Bishop Kukah told CNA. Christian churches and businesses – as well as the people who frequent them – suffer both targeted violence at the hands of Islamist extremists… And after the attacks, Christian communities face a wall of bureaucratic challenges and lack of government support as they struggle to rebuild…. While some targets of violence find government and societal aid in rebuilding and accessing services such as schools and hospitals, the state in northern Nigeria merely “looks on” as Christian churches and institutions struggle to rebuild.

“[Y]ou live in a state that is less than you expect as a citizen,” said Bishop Kukah. “You don’t know what to expect tomorrow. … Christians suffer disproportionate violence from Muslim extremists. … Our churches are being bombed with no compensation paid for the schools or other properties of the Church.”

Bangladesh: Unidentified attackers hurled crude bombs at the home of a Christian family and left two Christians injured. The attack occurred just after midnight in a mainly Christian hamlet in the western Chuadanga area. Police suspected “attempted robbery” as the motive. But the report notes:

“the attack comes amid a string of murders of Christians, Hindus and members of other religious minorities across the country by suspected militants, as Bangladesh reels from rising Islamist violence… Suspected Islamists have murdered at least 30 members of religious minorities, secular bloggers and other liberal activists, foreigners and intellectuals in Bangladesh in the past three years.”

Christianity is Rattling: “Lights Out” in Germany by Giulio Meotti

  • The fall of German Christianity leaves an emptiness that seems likely to be filled by a more multicultural and Islamic society. Germany today houses Europe’s largest Muslim community.Christians in Germany, Die Welt reports, will become a minority in 20 years.

  • The falling birth rate will remove a piece of Germany larger than the former communist East Germany. It will result in a demographic loss equivalent to the population of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt combined.
  • The German army just spent 428 million euros on various operations relating to migrants during the past year. It has been the costliest mission within German borders that the army of the Federal Republic of Germany has ever undertaken.
  • In the decades after WWII, Germans have turned into hard-core pacifists, enjoying their role on the sidelines of global conflicts. The army was then turned into a humanitarian organization.

“Contemporary historians … right now, have failed to find a single historical example of a society that became secularised and maintained its birth rate over subsequent centuries,” the former UK chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, recently argued.

“Falling fertility has coincided so closely with massive secularization that we must at least ask whether the two phenomena are related, even if not in a neat one-to-one relationship”, the scholar Philip Jenkins also said.

This is also true apparently for Germany.

The Ratzinger-Schülerkreis is the circle made up of 41 former alumni of Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Ratzinger), who meet once a year with their former professor to discuss a specific topic. This year Pope Benedict has chosen the “spiritual crisis of Europe.” The guest of honor was the American jurist Joseph Weiler, who coined the expression “Christophobia” and defended the crucifix in Italian schools at the EU’s highest tribunal.

As Pope, Benedict understood the cultural and religious crisis of Europe, and the former German professor sees his native country as a litmus test for the future of Europe’s Christianity.

In Germany, where President Joachim Gauck was a Protestant pastor and Chancellor Angela Merkel is the daughter of a clergyman, in the country of liberal theologians — such as Hans Küng, Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Eugen Drewermann, who have fueled intense criticism of the Vatican hierarchy regarding ecclesiastical celibacy, birth control, the role of women, and sacraments for the divorced — Christianity is rattling.

In 1963, there were 400 new priests ordained in Germany. In 1993, there were 238 new priests ordained. In 2013, the number fell to 98. In 2015, the number fell to a historic low of 58. This was revealed by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Germany’s largest national subscription daily newspaper, published in majority-Catholic Bavaria: “The Catholic Church in Germany is facing a dramatic shortage of priests. Never before as today have so few men in Germany become Catholic priests.”

The German dioceses plan to respond to this crisis by merging parishes, closing churches and hiring priests from Africa. The Catholic Church in Germany has already closed 515 churches in the past decade, while the Evangelical Church closed 340. The number of parishes has decreased from 13,300 in 1995 to 10,800 in 2015.

What was once the Catholic St. Peter’s Church in Mönchengladbach, Germany, is now an indoor rock-climbing facility — one of several known as a “climbing church” (Kletterkirche). Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The agony of German Catholicism is also demonstrated by the faithful who “escape.”

Germans have been leaving the Catholic Church in droves. In 2015, 181,925 Germans formally chose apostasy. By comparison, only 2,685 people have converted to Catholicism. The number of baby baptisms has also decreased by one third, from 260,000 baptized in 1995 to 167,000 in 2015. The situation is even more dismal for weddings. Twenty years ago, 86,456 couples married in a church. Last year, the number dropped by almost half: in a nation of 80 million people, only 44,298 couples sworn eternal love in a church. The proportion of people who attend church has declined from 18.6% in 1995 to 10.4% in 2015.

This trend is called “the New Atheism” (“der neue Atheismus“). According to Detlef Pollack, a professor of religious sociology at the University of Münster, only 4% of east German Protestants regularly attend church today, compared to 15% in the 1950s. A recent study conducted by University of Chicago professor Tom W. Smith revealed that citizens of the former German Democratic Republic have, by far, “the world’s highest rate of atheism.”

This tendency is becoming the norm in Germany. Andreas Püttmann, a researcher at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, called it “Gesellschaft ohne Gott” (“society without God“) in his book by the same title. “The long-term trend shows an epochal implosion,” Püttmann writes in the book.

A few weeks ago, in the Marienkirche Church, in the middle of Alexanderplatz in Berlin, an evangelical pastor celebrated Germany’s first gay wedding before an altar. The author Peter Hahne, in his book “Enough Amusement! The End of the Fun Society” (“Schluss mit lustig! Das Ende der Spaßgesellschaft“) wondered if Germany “can still be called a Christian country, or whether it would not be more accurate to say that Germany is a predominantly atheist country with religious minorities.”

The fall of German Christianity leaves an emptiness that seems likely to be filled by a more multicultural and Islamic society. That is why Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, just called for the creation of a “German Islam.” Merkel’s powerful ally linked the rise of a German Islam with the national demographic disaster. “Demographic change is one of our great challenges,” said Schäuble. Germany today houses Europe’s largest Muslim community.

The latest annual report of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration explains that, due to the decline in the number of Christians in a period of mass immigration from Islamic countries, “Germany has become demographically a multi-religious country.” Christians in Germany, Die Welt reports, will become a minority in 20 years.

Religious decline is usually followed by a demographic one. The London-based think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, just shed light on the “Europe’s demographic timebomb.” In the report, “From empty pews to empty cradles,” three American scholars, Eli Berman, Laurence Iannaccone, Giuseppe Ragusa, explain that in many European countries, the sudden drop in religious practice has determined a demographic suicide.

It is not only a question of religious faith, but also of optimism about the future.

If the current fertility rates persist, Germany is set to decline from a 2002 peak of 82 million people, to 74.5 million by 2050. Greece, with a loss of 29% of its the population, would decrease from 11 million to fewer than 7 million inhabitants. Poland, suffering a decline of 25%, would pass from 38 million to 29 million.

The projections indicate that Germany will experience more than 64 million deaths during the next half century, and fewer than 40 million births. The falling birth rate will remove a piece of Germany larger than the former communist East Germany. It will result in a demographic loss which would be the equivalent to the population of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt combined.

It is a new situation. Since 1972, Germany has not seen a single year in which the number of newborns has exceeded the number of deaths. It was then that families began to go out of fashion in West Germany. Now there is a talk of many small communities in Germany that could become ghost towns.

In 2003, at the peak of the US war against Iraq, then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld criticized the German and French opposition to the military campaign as a symptom of “old Europe”. Rumsfeld would later say:

“Some people were sensitive about my comment because they thought it was a pejorative way of highlighting demographic realities. Apparently they felt it pointed a white light at a weakness in Europe — an aging population. Europe has come some distance since World War II in becoming Europe.”

Germany’s decline today is, in fact, also a military one. The German military (Bundeswehr) during the Cold War was the first line of defense against a Soviet invasion; now the army is decaying. The German army just spent 428 million euros on various operations relating to migrants during the past year. It has been the costliest mission within German borders that the army of the Federal Republic of Germany has ever undertaken.

While Ukrainian troops were battling pro-Russian separatists on the eastern borders of Europe, a German battalion took part in a NATO exercise in Norway. The Germans had no weapons and used broomsticks as simulated guns. The Bundeswehr today has helicopters that cannot fly and tanks that cannot shoot. This is a cultural decision.

In the decades after World War II, the Germans have turned into hard-core pacifists, enjoying their role on the sidelines of global conflicts. The Bundeswehr was then turned into a humanitarian organization. To quote journalist and author Henryk Broder, “pacifism has become a German lifestyle” — not only for Germany’s leadership but for the society as well.

Already today, one in 20 Germans — 5% of the population — is over 80 years old. By 2050, it will be one in six. Europe’s largest and richest nation is becoming a country for old men. A quarter of German men said “no” to children. It is such a terrible irony that Nazi Germany, which devastated the continent in its search of Lebensraum (“living space”), is now a nation for decrepit, disarmed and secularized men. And soon, Islamized as well.

To quote Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s Minister of Defense (and a mother of seven): if Germany does not reverse its plummeting birthrate, “we will have to turn out the light.”

Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.

Christian Summer Conferences Offer Israel Blessings and Curses by Susan Warner

  • A segment of Christians is actually trying to delude the world into thinking the absurd: that the ancient Jews of Canaan and Judea are “colonialists” who are “illegally occupying” their own native land.

  • Seemingly undeterred by their 2016 defeats, the Christian anti-Israel coalitions are regrouping for their next attacks, while pro-Israel Christian Zionist organizations — including Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Friends of Israel (FOI), International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) and Bridges for Peace, among others, continue to speak out and teach the facts and the truth about Israel to Christians throughout the U.S. and Europe.
  • Still, the Bible gives us hope and assurance that there is a future day when Israel will be able to bask in the elusive peace it demonstrably continues to offer those who are trying to destroy it.

In breaking news yesterday, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America approved a resolution calling on the U.S. government to end all aid to Israel if Israel does not stop building settlements and “enable an independent Palestinian state.”

Several international Christian policy conferences this summer have produced a mixed bag of both blessings and curses — all aimed at Israel. The United Methodists, The Southern Baptists, The Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Unitarian Universalists are worth noting here.

United Methodists

From the quadrennial United Methodist General Conference (UMGC), the good news is that the four major divestment and boycott proposals were defeated in committee before ever reaching a floor vote. The primary targets of the defeated boycott campaign were Caterpillar and Motorola, the corporate giants alleged — in a totally fictitious plot — to be co-conspirators with Israel supposedly to disable and destroy the Palestinian people.

The General Conference, not surprisingly, also voted to reaffirm (759-24) the United Methodist resolution #60229 — Guiding Principles for Christian-Jewish Relations. This is a resolution that has been reinforced and amended for many years. It reflects the UMC’s interest in establishing and maintaining relationships with the Jewish community.

However, mention of Israel in the UMC resolution is a trailing number nine out of nine points with a hesitant tone that reveals a distinct lack of understanding of the critical role of Israel in worldwide Jewish affairs.

Because of their apparent lack of factual information on the topic of Israel, the resolution appears to have caused some confusion. According to their document, they are “searching, wrestling, and struggling with complexities and painfulness of the controversies surrounding these Middle East issues.” (extrapolated from petition #60229)

The UMC story however, does not end there. There are two nagging unresolved elements: first is the United Methodist Kairos Response Committee, which some people say is openly anti-Semitic, and second is the misguided United Methodist membership in the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Reinforcing and undergirding the campaign to destroy Israel economically, is the extreme anti-Israel United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) committee, currently reorganizing their menu of fraudulent attacks on Israel in the aftermath of their defeat at the General Conference.

The defeat of the UMKR effort at the General Conference a “cautious victory,” according to an NGO Monitor article. It cites the UM Global Ministries Committee, which calls on the Church to withdraw its membership from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO) another anti-Israel group to which the Methodist Church sadly remains a signatory.

While resolution #60229 is one positive step toward reconciliation, it unfortunately omits mention of Israel as the one and only sanctuary state for Jews.

This glaring omission leaves room for extremists, such as the United Methodist Kairos Response (UMKR) group, to advance its aggressive agenda against Israel as so-called “colonialist occupiers”. It is exactly this position that reverberates throughout a segment of Christians who are actually trying to delude the world into thinking the absurd: that the ancient Jews of Canaan and Judea are “colonialists” who are “illegally occupying” their own native land.

It is distressing to watch the members of the Methodist Church at their General Conference trying to sidestep the malevolent embrace of anti-Semitism that seems to have overwhelmed so many Christian groups in recent years.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) represents seven million members in the United States. Since 1996, the UMC has adopted one resolution after another providing guiding principles for creating positive relationships with the Jewish people — yet seems weak and self-defeating in response to toxic anti-Israel attacks from within.

Southern Baptists

In an even more comprehensive and positive move, the Southern Baptist Convention in its June gathering passed an anti-divestment resolution in support of Israel. The resolution declared “that the BDS movement seeks to isolate only the nation of Israel economically and socially.”

The Southern Baptists resolved to “support the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state and reject any activities that attack that right by promoting economic, cultural, and academic boycotts against Israel.” They added that “at this critical time when dangerous forces are mounting up against the nation of Israel, we recommit ourselves to pray for God’s peace to rule in Jerusalem and for the salvation of Israel.”

According to Baptist News Global, the lone opponent of the resolution was Pastor Jamal Bishara, who is leader of First Arabic Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona. He argued unsuccessfully that parts the resolution “on prayer and support for Israel” are both biblically and factually incorrect.

Bishara, who was born and raised in Nazareth, Israel, reflects, according to critics, a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel bias deeply embedded within Israel’s Christian communities. He has said that Palestinians have “the right to live peaceably in their land. … Among the Palestinians you have brothers and sisters who are Christians also.” However, no Israeli leader has ever suggested denying the Palestinians the right to live in peace. Bishara’s comment appears to attest more to an anti-Israel narrative on the part of many Israeli Christian groups, including: Eastern and Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant groups, particularly Bethlehem Bible College, which sponsors the infamous biennial, Christ at the Checkpoint Conferences.

Fortunately, Bishara’s opinion represents a fringe minority within the largely pro-Israel Southern Baptist denomination.

Presbyterian Church (USA)

The Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) General Conference, after lengthy debate, approved (429-129) a report entitled Israel-Palestine For Human Values in the Absence of a Just Peace. The report, originally issued in February, declared the denomination’s intention of reevaluating its support for a two-state solution.

At first glance, the reviews of the report suggested that the PCUSA might be planning to moderate its formerly hate-filled attitudes toward Israel. But a thorough reading of the report reveals that its foundational premise is weighted with incorrect and bogus “facts,” typically laying blame for the intractable problems in the region solely at Israel’s feet, while invoking the name of God as a guide and inspiration.

According to a report in Religion News Service:

The votes by Presbyterian Church USA delegates angered mainstream Jewish groups, who said the measures unfairly ‘demonize’ Israel, give a pass to Palestinian violence and question the Jewish state’s right to exist. But Some Jewish leaders noted that delegates amended resolutions to temper action and stances against Israel.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) criticized the General Assembly (GA) for endorsing a report that was ‘one-sided;’ and ‘filled with inaccuracies.’

“For those who seek an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace it is deeply disappointing that a major Protestant denomination in the U.S. with deep roots in the Middle East, has chosen to be a cheerleader for those whose vision of peace does not include the State of Israel,” said Emily Soloff, AJC associate director of interreligious and intergroup relations.”

The PCUSA conference also seemed to disassociate itself from any official affiliation with Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has been running an aggressive but unsuccessful global campaign to try to destroy Israel through economic boycotts of products, businesses and academic institutions.

At the same time, PCUSA proposed to approve a resolution to urge the realty company RE/MAX to stop sales of property within Jewish settlements in the “occupied territories.”

“The denomination’s irresponsible approach to peace and human rights in the Middle East is reprehensible,” declared noted Christian affairs analyst Dexter Van Zile.

“The Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) sunk to a new low last week—the GA’s noisy obsession with attacking Israel was only matched by their deafening silence towards the plight of thousands of Christians suffering under Islamic totalitarian regimes. The PCUSA’s General Assembly chose to ignore so many human rights abuses happening in the rest of the Middle East and yet claimed to stand as social witness to the world.”

PCUSA represents roughly 1.6 million members.

Unitarian Universalists

The Unitarian Universalist (UUA) General Assembly, at its June meeting in Ohio, defeated this year’s divestment proposals which required a two-thirds majority to pass. The divestment proposals, similar to those proposed by both the Methodists and the Presbyterian USA denominations, target Caterpillar, Motorola and other US companies doing business in Judea and Samaria.

The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) — considered among the most liberal of the Christian denominations — stands at the forefront of the “peace and social justice” movement, which is typically used as an excuse to blame Israel for the ills of the Palestinians.

The committee leading the charge against Israel is called Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME). On the surface, the UUJME, along with partners in “peace and social justice,” proclaim their intentions to offer support and compassion for suffering, poor and oppressed people groups, in this case Palestinians.

The reality, however, reveals a seriously flawed agenda based upon twisted “facts” and innuendo laying all blame for the Middle East conflict at Israel’s feet.

While the Unitarian Universalists alone, with only 200,000 members, do not represent a significant influence on public opinion against Israel, their alliances with Israel’s other Christian foes of Israel such as Quakers, members of the World Council of Churches and Presbyterian Church (USA), the Kairos Palestine group and the BDS movement, represent an unmistakably loud collective voice against the only pluralistic, tolerant democracy in the Middle East.

Seemingly undeterred by their 2016 defeats, the Christian anti-Israel coalitions are regrouping for their next attacks, while pro-Israel Christian Zionist organizations — including Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Friends of Israel (FOI), International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ) and Bridges for Peace, among others, continue to speak out and teach the facts and the truth about Israel to Christians throughout the United States and Europe.

Christian actions both for and against Israel during the summer of 2016 are constant reminders that Israel can never stop being alert to seen and unseen enemies. For Israel, hostility from Christians, Muslims and government-funded NGOs unfortunately means complacency is not an option.

The summer of 2016 reminds us that Christian foes of Israel, after 2000 years of persecution, stand ready to strike yet again. Still, the Bible gives us hope and assurance that there is a future day when Israel will be able to bask in the elusive peace it demonstrably continues to offer those who are trying to destroy it.

Susan Warner is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of Gatestone Institute and co-founder of a Christian group, Olive Tree Ministries in Wilmington, DE, USA. She has been writing and teaching about Israel and the Middle East for over 15 years. Contact her at israelolivetree@yahoo.com.

Christian Human Rights Activist Jailed in Turkey by Robert Jones

  • Assyrian human rights activist Sawo Oshana Ide, accused of “being a member of an armed organization,” has been jailed in Turkey since February 18. The indictment does not mention which “armed organization.”The second trial will be held June 16. The international community must not abandon him.

The Assyrian human rights activist Sawo Oshana Ide, accused of “being a member of an armed organization,” has been jailed in Turkey since February 18. The indictment does not mention which “armed organization” Sawo belongs to. According to Ide’s lawyer, Erkan Metin, “He is abstractly accused of doing research in accordance with the objectives of an organization and forming lists about ammunition.”

According to the Turkish penal code, it is a charge that can bring imprisonment for five to ten years.

According to Assyria TV, “the Turkish security forces stormed the apartment of Sawo Oshana Ide in Midyat, Turkey. The police took his computer and other notes. Thereafter, Sawo and his wife were taken into interrogation. Today in the afternoon, the police released Sawo’s wife but he was arrested on charges of collaborating with a terrorist organization.”

The accusations are based on some photos and notes in his computer, Metin said.

“Some of the photos were taken at the election campaigns of the Assyrian MP, Erol Dora, and the photos of the members of the Kurdish YPG members as well as the photos of the commemoration of the death of Sakine Cansiz, a Kurdish politician murdered in Paris.

“His notes include his report on the immigrant smuggling, his writings about the Yazidis and Assyrians in Iraq, his research on Syria, his writings about his visit with the Chaldean metropolitan bishop to the Kocanis Church in the city of Hakkari, an outline drawing of a ruined church in Hakkari, as well as his notes about the weapons stockpile of the Assyrian forces he received during his visit in Iraq.”

“Sawo was born and grew up in the village of Gorumlu, in the predominantly Kurdish city of Sirnak,” said his lawyer. “After members of his family, Hamdin and Hikmet Simsek, were murdered, and after the pressures of the state intensified in the region, his family fled. Sawo lived in France for about 30 years.

“The extrajudicial murder is now known to have been committed by the Turkish colonel, Cemal Temizoz. The slain Kurdish lawyer, Tahir Elci, was the lawyer of that trial.”

“Sawo loves his people,” added Metin, “and researched their problems…His detention might aim to intimidate Assyrian rights advocates in Turkey.”

He said that since the clashes in the southeastern region intensified after June 7, 2015, the pressures of the state’s forces on Assyrians have been on the rise.

“There are about 25,000 Assyrians in Turkey. The fears and concerns of Assyrians have skyrocketed in the face of the jihadist terror attacks against Assyrians in the Middle East, the rise of the anti-secular policies across the country and the policies of the AKP government that have paved the way for that.”

The future seems grim for Assyrians in Turkey. But their past was never that bright either. Assyrians in Turkey, like other minorities, have never been allowed to live as equal, free citizens of the Turkish republic. They have systematically been discriminated against due to their language, ethnicity and religion. The 1915 genocide marked the peak of the Assyrian persecution in the region.

“In the 1915 genocide,” according to Tuma Celik, a historian and chief editor of the newspaper Sabro (The Hope), “two thirds of Assyrians were exterminated. We think that the decision of genocide included [all] Christians…. If the aim had been to massacre the Armenians only, they [the assailants] would not have attacked the places where Assyrians lived. For instance, there was not a single Armenian in the town of Midyat. But Assyrians there were also slaughtered in an organized manner.”

Even after 101 years after the genocide, discrimination and pressures against Assyrians, an ancient people of the region, continues unremittingly.

On April 1, for instance, Erol Dora, an Assyrian MP of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), tried to deliver a speech at the Turkish parliament to mark the Assyrian Akitu day.

But the word “Akitu’ used by Dora was censored in the registry of the parliament and recorded as “X” — another demonstration of the Turkish regime’s ongoing policy, ever since the establishment of the Turkish state in 1923, of the denial of non-Turkish languages and cultures in Turkey, and even the use of non-Turkish names. [1]

Assyrian human rights activist Sawo Oshana Ide (left) has been jailed in Turkey since February, accused of “being a member of an armed organization.” Erol Dora (right), an Assyrian MP of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), was censored when he tried to deliver a speech at the Turkish parliament to mark the Assyrian Akitu day.

Kurdish leaders have been trying so hard to change the situation for the better — but only to end up in jail.

Abdullah Demirbas, the former mayor of the Sur district of the city of Diyarbakir, introduced what he defined as “multi-linguistic municipality” to Turkey, a state that does not very much tolerate the use of non-Turkish languages.

He encouraged the use of Kurdish, Armenian, Zazaki, Arabic and Assyrian languages in the municipal works. He added Kurdish, Armenian and Assyrian languages first to the signboards at the entrance of the town, and then at the entrance of the municipality. Due to these activities, he was not only arrested and brought to court, but was also removed from his mayoral post in 2007 by the Turkish state council.

Given the systematic mistreatment of Assyrians at the hands of Turkey, the detention of Sawo Oshana Ide appears an extension of the anti-minority policies of the Turkish government.

If you are a minority in Turkey, then you are most probably the target of the Turkish regime. You are easy to oppress and exterminate. This has been the case for at least the last hundred years under the Turkish republic.

The second trial of Sawo Oshana Ide will be held on June 16. “He has been put in three prisons in 1.5 month until his first trial took place,” said his lawyer. “And he was not even brought to his first trial even though we had demanded it. He attended the trial through videoconferencing. We really do not know what will happen to Sawo from now on. ”

The international community must not abandon him.

Robert Jones, an expert on Turkey, is currently based in the UK.


[1] “Soon after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey,” reported Human Rights Watch (HRW), “its government embarked upon a radical program of nation-building. Ethnic diversity was perceived as a danger to the integrity of the state…. Those who refused often met with severe repression.”

In 2011, for instance, Favlus Ay, an Assyrian citizen of Turkey, applied to a local court in Midyat, which used to be an important center for Assyrians before the 1915 genocide, to change his name to “Paulus Bartuma”, which is an Assyrian name. His application was rejected by Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which cited the importance of the “national” and “constitutional unity” of Turkish citizens through their last names.

“In various areas of public life,” writes the scholar Derya Bayir, “the use of languages other than Turkish is still effectively prohibited in Turkey. “The restrictions on party political literature, political campaigns and speeches, local government activities including sponsorship of events and provision of services, and controls on languages used by associations have not become flexible.” (Source: Bayir, D. Minorities and Nationalism in Turkish Law: Routledge, 2013.)

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Christian Clergy Welcomes Islam in Church, Then Bows to It by Giulio Meotti

  • Last July, for the first time during a Mass in Italy, a verse of the Koran was recited from the altar. A priest in the south of Italy enraged parishioners by dressing the Virgin Mary in a Muslim burqa for his church’s Christmas Nativity scene. These interfaith initiatives are based on the gradual elimination of the Western-Christian heritage in favor of Islam.

  • The Catholic clergy is probably disoriented by Pope Francis himself; he was the first to allow the reading of Islamic prayers and Koran readings from the Vatican.
  • The Pope embraced religious relativism when it comes with Islam. He repeated that Islamist violence is the work of “a small group of fundamentalists” who, according to him, have nothing to do with Islam.
  • Church of England Bishop Harries suggested that Prince Charles’s coronation service should be opened with a Koran reading. In the US, more than 50 churches, including the Washington National Cathedral, hold Koran readings. Is there any reading of the Christian liturgy in mosques?
  • How is it that so few Christian leaders have raised their voices against this unprecedented attack on a Christian monument? Have they organized so many Koran readings in their own churches so that they now view it as normal to convert a church into a mosque?
  • Would it not be better for the Catholic Church to establish a real dialogue with the Islamic communities based on principles such as reciprocity (if you build mosques in Europe, we build churches in the Middle East), protection of Christian minorities in the Crescent and theological repudiation of jihad against “infidels”?

There is a disturbing and growing trend in Italy and Europe.

For the first time in more than 700 years, Islamic songs resonated in Florence’s Cathedral, the Church Santa Maria del Fiore. Under the famous Dome of Brunelleschi, Islamic melodies accompanied Christian ones. The “interfaith initiative” was promoted a week after the barbaric massacre by Islamist terrorists in Paris at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, and included “Koran is Justice” and other such “hymns”.

A priest in the south of Italy then enraged parishioners by dressing the Virgin Mary in a Muslim burqa for his church’s Christmas nativity scene. The pastor of the parish of Saints Joachim and Anne in Potenza, Father Franco Corbo, said that he had the special crèche constructed “in the name of dialogue among religions”. These interfaith initiatives are based on the gradual elimination of the Western-Christian heritage in favor of Islam.

Another priest in Italy also eliminated the Christmas nativity scene at the local cemetery because “it could offend Muslims”. Father Sante Braggiè said there would be no crib in the cemetery in the northern city of Cremona because it may anger people of others faiths or people whose relatives are not buried there:

“A small corner of the cemetery is reserved for Muslim graves. A crib positioned within sight of them could be seen as a lack of respect for followers of other faiths, hurt the sensibilities of Muslims, as well as Indians and even atheists”.

In Rebbio, the Italian parish church of St. Martin was preparing the end of Mass. Suddenly a veiled woman, Nour Fayad, took the floor and read the verses of the Koran which announce the birth of Christ. The initiative was intended by the priest, Don Giusto della Valle, as “a gesture of dialogue”.

In Rozano, near Milan, headmaster Marco Parma, then scrapped his school’s Christmas carol concert: he decided to ban traditional festivities at Garofani school, “to cause no offence”.

In July, for the first time during a Mass in Italy, a verse of the Koran was recited from the altar. It happened in the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, during a ceremony in memory of Father Jacques Hamel, who was slaughtered by ISIS terrorists in France. While Catholics recited the Creed, a delegate of the mosque of al Azhar Mosque in Cairo softly repeated an “Islamic prayer for peace”.

Imam Sali Salem recites a verse from the Koran in Rome’s Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, on July 31, 2016. (Image source: La Stampa video screenshot)

The Catholic clergy is probably disoriented by Pope Francis himself, who was the first to allow the reading of Islamic prayers and Koran readings from the world’s most important Catholic facility. It happened when Pope Francis met with late Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Vatican City, a gathering designed “to pray for Middle Eastern peace”.

Since he was elected Pontiff, Francis has spent a lot of time in mosques. He has visited many Islamic places of worship abroad, as in Turkey and in the Central African Republic, but he was also willing to become the first Pope to visit the Grand Mosque in Rome.

When it comes to Islam, the Pope embraces religious relativism. He repeated that Islamist violence is the work of “a small group of fundamentalists” who, according to him, have nothing to do with Islam. When asked why he did not speak of Islamic violence, the Pope replied, “If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence”, even though one would be hard-pressed at this time to find any priests, nuns or other Catholics planting bombs anyplace in the name of Jesus Christ.

This trend goes beyond Italy. In the UK, Bishop Harries suggested that Prince Charles’s coronation service should open with a reading from the Koran. In the US, more than 50 churches, including the Washington National Cathedral, hold Koran readings. The head of the Protestant Church in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, has also called for Islam to be taught in state schools. Is there any reading of the Christian liturgy in the mosques?

These interfaith shows also seem to be making us blind to more disturbing readings of the Koran in Christian churches, such as the one that recently took place in Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia: for the first time in 85 years, Turkish Muslims read an Islamic text inside the Christianity’s most beautiful Eastern church. Their goal, as attested by bills submitted to Turkey’s parliament, is clear: Islamizing the church, which had been used as a museum since 1935.

Christian silence is less clear: how is it that so few Christian leaders raised their voice against this unprecedented attack on a Christian monument? Have they organized so many Koran readings in their own churches so that they now view it as normal to convert a church into a mosque?

After a terror attack in a church in Normandy last July, the Christian clergy opened the doors of their churches to Muslims. This gesture was welcomed as a turning point in the relation between the two religions. But from a population of six million Muslims in France, only a few hundred Muslims participated. Was their attendance really representative of Islamic public opinion?

These well-intended gestures might look like an interfaith gain, but are in fact an ecumenical loss. Would it not be better for the heads of the Catholic Church to establish a real dialogue with the Islamic communities, based on principles such as reciprocity (if you build mosques in Europe, we build churches in the Middle East), protection of Christian minorities in the Crescent and theological repudiation of jihad against “infidels”?

To the Catholic clergy who opened the door of Florence’s Cathedral to Islam, Muslims will next suggest removing a painting in the basilica: Domenico di Michelino’s “Dante and the Divine Comedy”. For Muslim extremists, Dante is guilty of “blasphemy”: he included Mohammed in his poetic Hell. The Islamic State does not make a secret of its willingness to strike Dante’s tomb in Italy. Other sites on ISIS’s list include St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice and the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, both of which portray scenes from the Divine Comedy.

A fantasy? Not at all. The Italian human rights organization Gherush92, which advises UN bodies on human rights, already asked to have Dante removed from school curricula because supposedly it is “Islamophobic“.

In this new interfaith “correctness”, only Islam gains. Christians have everything to lose.

Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.

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