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June 14, 2014 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 

The persecution of Christians is not ancient history, but it is difficult in a short article to give an accurate picture of the history of Christian martyrdom and bring it up to date.  However, since there is an extreme reticence in the information services to deal with this subject I offer this brief reminder.  I am using the most recent issue of CHRISTIAN HISTORY MAGAZINE as my source, but there is an abundance of accurate material available.  One just has to look for it.

David Barrett defined martyrs as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.”  Barrett’s research estimated that around 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred since the Church began.  Here I will offer only a few instances in modern times in order to make the point that Christian martyrdom is not ancient history.  It is a matter for prayer every day in a Christian’s life.

In 1915 the modern Turkish Republic was being formed out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.  In that process 900,000 Armenian Christians were massacred.  An additional 600,000 Christians were deported from what is now Turkey, many dying from illness and starvation in the deserts of Syria.  The percentage of Christians living in Turkey went from 30 percent at the beginning of the process to a third of one percent in the twenty-first century.

During the Greco-Turkish war (1919-1921) there was a population shift between Greece and Turkey resulting from severe pogroms against the Greeks in Asia Minor.  Some of my readers are familiar with the city of Smyrna from the book of Revelation.  In 1922 Smyrna was an almost totally Christian city and a center for the Orthodox Church in the area.  In that year 120,000 Greeks were killed in Smyrna in one day alone.  2000 years of Christian history in that city was brought to a tragic end.

In 1963 the civil war in Sudan between the Islamic north and the Christian south left 600,000 Sudanese Christians dead along with 64 missionaries.

In 1948 the Russian Ministry for State Security attacked a splinter group from the Russian Orthodox Church calling itself the “True Orthodox Church.”  300,000 died in the crackdown.

Between 1950 and 1980 the Chinese government was engaged in what they called the “Great Leap Forward.”  In that process churches were destroyed, believers were imprisoned, and nearly 700,000 Christians and their leaders killed.

Under the seven year reign of Idi Amin in Uganda (1971-1978) 300,000 Christians were killed.

In North Korea an estimated 200,000 Christians are imprisoned.  In the Korean War (1950 – 1954) Communist troops massacred 150 Catholic priests and 500 Protestant Pastors and since then thousands of ordinary Christians have lost their lives for their faith.

Today the most dangerous place for Christians is the Middle East.  The only safe haven is Israel where the population of Christians is growing.  This is not true for the so called “Palestinian Territory.”  There Islam is squeezing out the Christians.

These few facts are offered as a plea not to forget, and for Christians to pray for our persecuted family all over the globe.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END-whs