If you step into any Christian church, you’ll likely hear a statement like this at some point during that experience: “There are more Christian martyrs today than there were in the Bible 2,000 years ago.” Part of the reason behind this might just be because human population numbers are higher than ever before and, in general, 1 in 4 people chooses to follow Christianity.
Christians are believed to be the most persecuted religious group when a global perspective is looked at.
The issue of Christian martyrdom is not something that is recent. Some might even say that modern persecution was brought about by ancestral decisions that led to the Crusades and other war-time conversions to the faith. In over 80% of countries that measure martyrdom, other religious extremists are causing the persecution. This means that once again, it isn’t country versus country causing the problem. It is religion versus religion.
- The numbers of Christian martyrs that occur every year is widely variable. Some place the number below 200 martyrs per month, while other statistics place that number above 10,000 per month.
- In the last decade, most of the numbers of Christian martyrs originated from the civil war that occurred in Democratic Republic of Congo.
- If the statistics from Congo are included, it means that the vast majority of Christian martyrdom that occurs in the world today came at the hands of other Christians.
Part of the issue behind the statistics of Christian martyrs is that definition of matyrdom can vary from researcher to researcher. There is some common ground in the fact that people are killed because of their beliefs as a result of human hostility at those beliefs, but the results are absolutely skewed. When 90% of Christian martyrs originated from the hands of other Christians, is that truly becoming a martyr for Christ? Or is that about becoming a martyr for one’s particular version of Christ that may or may not be accurate from a Biblical perspective? In reality, the number that is about 200 martyrs per year is probably more accurate. That doesn’t excuse the fact, however, that 200 people die every month because of what amounts to fear and bigotry.
How Prevalent is Discrimination Against Christians?
- Between 2006-2011, there were 145 countries where Christians were being harassed in some way because of their beliefs.
- Christians have a 10% greater likelihood to be harassed for their beliefs than Muslims do and are almost twice as likely to receive harassment when compared to Judaism.
- Nearly 67% of Christians in the world today live in dangerous neighborhoods where there are natural risks in play.
- Because Christians are also likely to be part of an ethnic, cultural, or linguistic minority, this further increases the risks of something negative happening to them.
- In the last year, nearly 70% of the Christian martyr cases from around the world originated in just one country: Nigeria.
- Between 1917 and 1980, nearly 15 million Christians died while living in prison camps where they were placed because of their faith.
- It is estimated that 100 million Christians are being persecuted for their faith around the world right now.
It’s a basic concept of humanity that people fear the things they don’t know and Christianity is definitely something that some cultures don’t know. The same can be said, however, of other religious groups. If you read the news, almost every day there is some sort of conflict that is, at its core, religiously centered. That means religion isn’t necessarily about faith, but is instead about control. If you can control the population of Christians [or other religious groups] through fear, then their philosophies aren’t bothersome and life can go on.
Is Martyrdom Today Worse Than It Was In History?
- In the 30 years previous to 1570, more than 1 million Protestant Christians were put to death in Europe because of their desire to break away from the Catholic Church.
- It is believed that more than 50 million people were killed by the Roman Catholic Inquisition that began in the 7th century.
- It is believed that Christians experienced over a century of persecution during the first years of the Christian faith under the Roman Empire.
- It is estimated that more Christians have been martyred in the last 50 years than in the first 300 years of Christianity’s existence.
There is a lot of paranoia when it comes to persecution and martyrdom in the Christian faith. Whether that feeling is justified or not is ultimately up to each individual, but martyrdom itself is about being a witness for faith – that’s where the term “martyr” actually originates. Many statistics in this area are supplemented by “stealth” methods of martyrdom and persecution where opinions are based on perspectives instead of faith. If a Christian refuses to love another by not providing services to them, is that truly persecution? Can a person really be a Christian martyr if they aren’t following God’s Word in the Bible? That’s why it is so difficult to distinguish fact from reality in this area. Those who are truly faithful go about their business quietly serving others without any worldly reward. It is their deaths, if they occur, that should be grieved because of martyrdom, shouldn’t it?
The Bible Predicts a Rise in Martyrdom
- John 16:2 states that there will come an “hour” when men will kill Christians because they think they are offering a service to God.
- Matthew 24 says that all nations will hate Christianity.
- Luke 21 says that the persecution of a believer is what will lead others to be able to testify their own faith to the world.
When the Bible itself explicitly states that martyrdom must happen before the return of Jesus, Christians should know what they are getting into when they choose to follow the tenets of this religion. Any discrimination or martyrdom is not acceptable in any way, shape, or form, yet there must also be an expectation for Christians – and most other religions – to see this type of persecution happening.