Christian History magazine, in partnership with Voice of the Martyrs-USA members, focuses on the "Modern Age of Persecution" in its newest issue. The publication cites findings by church statisticians that an estimated 70 million Christians have been killed due to their faith since the time of Jesus and that other believers were partly to blame.
Founded by the Christian History Institute, the magazine notes in its issue titled "Eyewitnesses to the Modern Age of Persecution," that among the three groups most responsible for persecution of Christians were Christians themselves. The publication references information gleaned by the late church statistician David Barrett and Todd M. Johnson of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
In addition to "atheist communist and socialist governments (and) Islamists and government sponsored sharia law," the publication adds that "Christian denominations that have attacked their own 'brethren' in disputes over conflicting doctrine" were also "responsible for persecution of Christians in modern times."
According to Barrett, "martyrs" are "believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility." As further explained, the phrase "in situations of witness" references "the entire lifestyle and way of life of the Christian believer, whether or not he or she is actively proclaiming at the time of being killed."
Barrett and Johnson estimate that "throughout Christian history, across all traditions of Christianity, and in every part of the world, some 70 million Christians have been murdered for their faith." They also estimate that 5.5 million Christians have lost their lives due to persecution from other Christians, which include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox adherents and other Christians.
"Note that most Christians killed as alleged 'heretics' or 'schismatics' down the ages should correctly be included in demographic enumerations of martyrs. Joseph Smith and many other Mormons are Christian martyrs," writes Johnson in his 2012 global demographic assessment on the subject.
The Christian History Institute adds in a press release on its persecution issue, "Christians themselves have tortured and killed countless of their own brethren during the 12th-14th century Inquisitions, during and after the 16th-17th century Reformation in Europe and, continuing today in Ireland, Eastern Europe and Africa."
Roy Stults, education services coordinator at Voice of the Martyrs-USA, insists, "Many Christians in the West either deny or are ignorant of it, but persecution is part of present reality."
Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, estimates that 100,000 Christians are killed for their faith annually, while Christof Sauer of the International Institute for Religious Freedom suggests that the figure is between 8,000 and 9,000 such martyrs.
A third estimate for the number of Christians martyred annually, as suggested by Vatican expert and journalist John L. Allen, Jr., is about 400, which he describes as an "absolute low-end estimate." While acknowledging the difficulty in attaining hard figures, especially in countries like South Sudan and North Korea, Allen notes that an estimate of 400 is still alarming.
"That's still more than one every day, still a global scourge, and still needs to be dealt with," Allen added.
Christian History magazine's "Eyewitnesses to the Modern Age of Persecution" is available online: www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine.