Churches bombed, burned, urinated under Islam

Iraq:  The Islamic State blew up the country's oldest Christian monastery, St. Elijah's. The 27,000-square-foot building had stood near Mosul for 14 centuries. For several years, prior to 2009, U.S. soldiers protected and sometimes used the monastery as a chapel. "Our Christian history in Mosul is being barbarically leveled," reported a Roman Catholic priest in Irbil. "We see it as an attempt to expel us from Iraq, [and] eliminating and finishing our existence in this land." Yet, when Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for America's military efforts against ISIS, was asked about the status of Christians in Iraq soon after the monastery's destruction, he replied, "We've seen no specific evidence of a specific targeting toward Christians." Kosovo:  Muslims urinated in an Orthodox Christian church in Pristina, the capital. Deputy Prime Minister Branimir Stojanovic condemned the desecration of the Temple of Christ the Savior: "Urinating in a sanctuary is shameful, uncivilized, vandalism." (Last year in Italy, Muslims broke a statue of the Virgin Mary and also urinated on it.) Stojanovic added that, "The quiet observation of the demonstrators by the police, as they entered the temple and urinated is also shameful." Serbian [Christian] sanctuaries in Kosovo are constantly desecrated," the deputy prime minister said.

Algeria:  On January 7, unknown vandals damaged, robbed, and wrote jihadi slogans on a church. Furniture, ritual objects, and money worth about U.S. $8,000 was stolen from Light Church in Tizi-Ouzou, around 62 miles from Algiers. According to Pastor Mustapha Krireche, "Thieves broke into the inside of our church through the window, because we installed a reinforced door very hard to force open. ... They took the music equipment like guitars, synthesizer, percussion, and sound equipment, plus a printer, the trunk of tithes, a sum of money, and other material." The assailants left Islamic supremacist graffiti on the church walls including "Allah Akbar ["Allah is Greater"]." The church was targeted at least twice before: in 2009, "about 20 Islamist neighbors tried to block the congregation ... from meeting for worship"; in 2010, a group of Muslims rampaged through the church building, trying to burn it down and damaging Bibles and a cross.

Kuwait:  Lawmaker Ahmad Al-Azemi said that he and other MPs will reject an initially approved request to build churches because it "contradicts Islamic sharia laws." He added that Islamic scholars are unanimous in banning the building of non-Muslim places of worship in the Arabian Peninsula.

Mongolia:  Days after a church celebrated Christmas, explosives were thrown into the stove chimney of a Kazakh house-church. As a result, "Believers decided not to come together for a while. They [are] afraid of a repetition of the explosions in the homes of believers," said a church leader. Large numbers of people had attended the church's Christmas services and local Christians believe that this turnout had "angered some of the local Muslims and led them to carry out the attack.

Pakistan:  Three churches were attacked:

1) Apostolic Church was burned in the Punjab. The church building was torched a day after a prayer vigil for Epiphany on Jan. 6. Pastor Zulfiqar of the Apostolic Church said Bibles and sacred vessels were also lost in the blaze.

2) Akba Azhar, a 26-year-old Muslim man, broke into the Victory Church in Kasur and burned copies of the Bible and other sacred book.

3) A group of Muslims illegally seized a church property. The Christian congregation eventually gave up trying to reacquire its church building and a reconciliation meeting was held by police: "the Muslims instead armed themselves with guns and machetes and attacked the Christians' family members in their homes," said local Christian, Bashir Masih. After the church seizure, Muslims in the area "made it almost impossible" for church members to worship even in their own home.

South Sudan:  Muslims "sent" from the Muslim majority in Sudan, a country in which Sharia law is enforced, are suspected of burning down a church building in its southern neighbor where there is a Christian majority. On January 16, members of the Sudanese Church of Christ in the refugee settlement of Yida awoke in the morning to find their place of worship in flames.

Egypt:  A makeshift bomb was found near a church on January 22. Father Paul of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt found what he described as a "foreign object" next to the garbage can outside of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Aswan. He took it to the authorities for analysis, and it was discovered to be a makeshift bomb.

Iran:  Authorities from the Islamic Republic are trying to convert the Assyrian Christian church in Tehran into a mosque. The church was illegally confiscated two years ago, when church leaders were told that an Islamic prayer hall would be built there.

Indonesia:  Authorities in the Sharia-governed province of Aceh plan to remove tents built by Christians in which to worship after their churches were torn down late last year by authorities in response to Muslim violence against churches. The attacks left one dead and thousands of Christians displaced