The so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a shooting in a Russian Orthodox Church in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny, where a church member was killed.
Four men broke into the Russian Orthodox Church on Saturday during a service. There were approximately 30 people inside when the attack started. Seven people were killed in the attack – two police officers who were guarding the church, one church member and the four militants. Two more security officers and another church member were injured. They are now recovering in hospital.
The attack on the church was planned; the attackers intended to capture the church with all the worshippers inside.
The attack took place just days after the start of Ramadan. Christians in areas where Islamic extremists are operating often experience increased violence during Ramadan, because the Quran says good deeds are ‘given manifold reward’ at this time, which is used to justify attacks by Islamic extremists.
And yet, Ramadan is also a time when Muslims around the world are particularly seeking God, and we often hear stories of Muslims having dreams and visions of Jesus during this time and coming to faith.
All Christians face violence and pressure in Muslim-majority Chechnya. But converts from Islam bear the brunt of it as they are considered to be betraying their national identity – Christianity is associated with Russia.
For converts from Islam, Christian ceremonies such as baptism are impossible. Raising children according to Christian beliefs is difficult too, since all children are expected to learn about Islam. Children of known converts are ‘retrained’ by the wider family to make sure they know the ‘right way to be Chechen’ and in some cases they may be taken away from their Christian parents.
Converts can lose their inheritance rights and their Muslim spouse may be pressured to file for divorce.
In the north of Chechnya there have been cases where converts are put under house-arrest by their families to force them to recant their new faith. Over the years, dozens of Christian converts have had to flee their homes and take refuge in safe houses. It is very difficult for them to return home.
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.