So apparently Christians are the world’s most persecuted people

Paul Vallely writes:

Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.

The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.

People suffering, regardless of how much, is terrible. Numbers and facts matter. Resources are determined according to need and requirement. And reality doesn’t always align with our political perspectives.

Vallely doesn’t cite “insulting Jesus”, for example, as discrimination, but rather instances like “Christians… languishing in jail for blasphemy in Pakistan, and churches are burned and worshippers regularly slaughtered in Nigeria and Egypt, which has recently seen its worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries.”

He continues

The most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century saw as many as 500 Christians hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals in Orissa, India, with thousands more injured and 50,000 made homeless. In Burma, Chin and Karen Christians are routinely subjected to imprisonment, torture, forced labour and murder.

Persecution is increasing in China; and in North Korea a quarter of the country’s Christians live in forced labour camps after refusing to join the national cult of the state’s founder, Kim Il-Sung. Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be a Christian.

This is horrible.


Smart commenters are smart. Thanks, folks!


  1. Bruce Martin says

    Maybe. But to put this in perspective, it is only the equivalent of 1% of the Christians of, say, Egypt, selected from all over the world. And the report doesn’t distinguish between theological-based attacks vs attacks on members of minority communities for say any other reason. So many or most of these might have little to do with Christianity, and a lot to do with statistics.
    The needless harm to anyone is always a disaster. But how many deaths occur for other reasons when the world population goes from 7000.0 million to 7000.1 million? Or if you prefer, from 7.0000 billion to 7.0001 billion?
    Even accepting Vallely’s story at face value, there is no way to process or deal with such raw numbers. There’s no reason to think that harm is distributed proportionally. So what fractions occur in India, in China, in the Middle East, or in Western areas? What reforms are advocated to deal with this as an issue in each area? Presuming that causes and effective reforms are different in different areas, those who believe this story to be of significance have a burden to pass on some word as to what are the highest areas of concern, or the most promising areas for reform. But I missed this in Vallely’s piece.

  2. Randomfactor says

    IIRC, previous iterations of “Christian persecution” counts included persecution OF Christians BY Christians…

    I wonder if this list similarly counts Moslem-on-Moslem attacks…

  3. says

    “The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour.”

    Please don’t let this terrible statistic go by without question. That estimate was done by counting murders of Christians in a 10 year period and dividing by ten.

    Two problems.

    First, the murders weren’t necessarily for their faith.
    Secondly, the ten year period in question included the Rwandan genocide. The Tutsis were mostly Christian, but they were murdered for being Tutsis, not for being Christian. And those 500,000 to 1,000,000 deaths make up the vast majority of the count.

  4. Psychopomp Gecko says

    To be fair…both sides in Christian on Christian violence think they’re the True Christians being attacked by No True Christian.

    Eh, that was a cheap shot. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Either way, good job uncovering the flaws in their methods, other commentators.

  5. Gilbert Brown says

    I understand the freethought blog privilege however I cannot condone the free from thought responses to this article. Whatever the exact numbers of persecuted people is not the issue. Give or take some numbers, the conclusion is that a large number of Christians are being killed for their faith (their choosen worldview). Additionally killed numbers also do not include other forms of persecution.

    Now the problem I have with these responses are that the securalists is quick to defend the rights of say the LBGT movement, a minor portion of the American population (2%) Yet when people are being killed on mass they quibble about the accuracy of numbers?

    Your hatred for Christianity has blinded your compassion for fellow humanity. You should be appalled at your self-aggrandisement while so many innocents suffer- even if you disagree on world views.

    These responses reinforce common anti-atheist stereotypes- Be better than your prejudices.

  6. says

    Gilbert Brown:

    Give or take some numbers, the conclusion is that a large number of Christians are being killed for their faith (their choosen worldview).

    I don’t think that’s a reasonable conclusion to reach. All we do know-if we take the information presented at face value-is that up to 100,000 christians are killed each year. We do *not* know if they were killed because they were christian. In fact, going back to the source of that 100K figure, we see this:

    2. We focus more on the perspective of the Christians being killed than on the motives of the
    persecutors. Some would insist that in order for a situation to be considered martyrdom, the
    persecutor needs to have solely religious motives for killing Christians or that Christians are singled
    out exclusively because of their faith. John Allen, Jr, in his book The Global War on Christians,
    dedicates a chapter to this, calling it a “myth.” He states that, “to grasp whether there was a religious
    or Christian component to a given incident, we need to understand not only why someone committed
    the act but also why the target was in a position where it could happen.” He goes on to illustrate the
    problem by examining the well-known martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed for his
    involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler. What is important in Bonhoeffer’s case is not the technical
    reason for his death but his own witness about why he stood up to the Nazi regime. Many famous
    martyrs in Christian history were killed for reasons other than because they were Christians. Instead,
    we ask whether or not they were in a “situation of witness.”

    This is number 2 in a list of 6 reasons why the numbers are so large. If they didn’t focus sufficiently on the motives of those doing the killing, then the authors (and you) have no way of knowing if these christians were killed because of their faith.

    The other reasons were:

    1. We use a broad definition, not a narrow one. For a quantitative analysis of martyrdom, Christian
    martyrs are defined as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of
    witness, as a result of human hostility.”
    3. While paying attention to individual martyrs, we focus on groups of martyrs. Many Christians think
    that martyrs are solitary individuals put on trial who refuse to recant and are eventually put to death
    in a public setting. By our definition, the vast majority of martyrs do not endure this kind of public display; many are killed without warning. Children, even infants, are considered martyrs by most
    churches, further underlining the often-anonymous nature of martyrdom.

    4. Other religions also use broad definitions. Most Jewish scholars consider the victims of the
    Holocaust as Jewish martyrs. Muslims include millions of people who have lost their lives in battles
    defending their faith. Even Muslims who die fighting other Muslims (Sunni-Shia conflicts) have been
    considered martyrs in recent years, at least by their sect or tradition (reminiscent of 16th-century
    Catholic or Protestant martyrs).

    5. Mass killings and genocide are closely related to Christian martyrdom. This is particularly true
    when ethnicity is tightly interwoven with religious identity. One example is the Armenian genocide at
    the beginning of the 20th century. A plaque at the Armenian Martyrs Memorial Monument in
    Montebello, California, reads, “This Monument, erected by Americans of Armenian descent, is
    dedicated to the 1,500,000 Armenian victims of the Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish
    Government, 1915–1921, and to men of all nations who have fallen victim to crimes against
    humanity.” One might argue that the Armenians were killed because of their ethnicity, not because of
    any religious profession, but Orthodox Christianity was an inseparable part of Armenian identity for
    most of the victims. In that sense, Armenian Christian men, women, and children who were killed as
    they went about their daily lives died as much due to their faith as to their ethnicity.

    6. The basic method for counting martyrs is to list “martyrdom situations” at particular points in
    time. A martyrdom situation is defined as “mass or multiple martyrdoms at one point in Christian
    history.” It is then determined how many of the people killed in that situation fit the definition
    outlined above

  7. says

    Put another way, saying a Christian boy was murdered by police in MIssouri is not particularly useful, and in fact confuses the situation. If you instead say a Black boy was murdered by police in Missouri, it all immediately becomes very clear.