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The Debate Over Exact Number of Christians Martyred Every Year Continues


VATICAN: The hassle over specific number of Christians martyred each year continues as revealed by a Vatican spokesman.

Persecution of Church
Persecution of Church

The moot over the,” precise number of Christians martyred each year continues.” Earlier this year, a Vatican spokesman affirmed the United Nations Human Rights Council that as many as 100,000 Christians are martyred each year.


That number crops up from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, recognized as “home to the world’s leading scholars of Christian demographics” according to Judd Birdsall. Birdsall, has previously worked for the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom, and is currently a PhD student at Cambridge University.


“While CSGC researchers estimated that around one million Christians were martyred in the first 10 years of the 21st Century, leading to an average of around 100,000 a year, found this figure puzzling,” he said.  While he said,”I admire CSGC’s rigorous and interesting work, annual reports for the State Department contain accounts of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of martyrs. Some Christian organisations place the number as high as 1,000. Why the discrepancy?”


Frans Veerman, Director of the World Watch List (WWL), Open Doors’ annual monitor of the 50 most dangerous countries in which to be a Christian, said that,”For the WWL 2012 the charity could confirm only 1,200 Christians actually killed because of their faith; twelve hundred as the very, very minimum count.”Open Doors International Director of Research and Strategy Ron Boyd McMillan added: “Every year, since we started WWL in 1991, the number of Christians killed for their faith was in the hundreds or thousands, never in the hundreds of thousands.”


Veerman says that,”Beyond those Christians whose deaths can be verified, there are two more categories to consider. The first is Christians who are killed due to increased vulnerability, such as those in conflict areas.


“In conflict and war, it is about double vulnerability – in situations where Christians have not been respected, or have been discriminated against for many years, conflict can make them extra vulnerable in the sense that they draw extra negative attention from the military, or militant social groups, etc. They are also the easiest to attack because they are normally not protected – impunity already existing before the conflict. Examples are Sudan and the Nuba people, with many Christians and their communities being quick and easy prey; also Christians within Syria, as Open Doors’ Vulnerability Assessment of Syria’s Christians tried to show.”


Thomas Schirrmacher from the International Society for Human Rights assumes a figure of between 7,000 and 8,000 Christian martyrs per annum, however, Veerman adds, “When you add this first extra group of victims to the 1,200 verifiable cases, this could be about right.”


John Allen, author of the book The Global War on Christians, whose publication a week ago appears to have rekindled the debate, believes the precise figure is ultimately less important. “I think it would be good to have reliable figures on this issue, but I don’t think it ultimately matters in terms of the point of my book, which is to break through the narrative that tends to dominate discussion in the West – that Christians can’t be persecuted because they belong to the world’s most powerful Church,” he said.


“The truth is two thirds of the 2.3 billion Christians in the world today live in dangerous neighborhood. They are often poor. They often belong to ethnic, linguistic and cultural minorities. And they are often at risk. And ultimately I think making that point is more important than being precise about the death toll,” he continued.