In 2016 one Christian was martyred every six minutes. That’s almost 90,000 Christians who died for their faith last year. That’s the recent findings of the Italian research group, CESNUR, the Centre for Studies on New Religions. CESNUR is set to publish the full report next month, but that was the sobering report given by director Massimo Introvigne in a recent interview with Vatican Radio.

In addition, there are between 500 million and 600 million Christians who cannot freely profess their Christian faith.

According to Introvigne, that makes Christians the most persecuted religious group in the world.

Introvigne reported that a full 70% or 63,000 of the deaths resulted from tribal conflict in Africa. The other 30%, or 27,000, were Christians who were killed in terrorist attacks, destruction of villages, and persecution of governments. Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, India, China, and North Korea are all hot spots for Christian persecution and deaths.

Intovigne explained, “If the statistics were just those who had been given a straightforward choice – “Either deny your faith or perish” – the martyrs would number a few hundred. If they included also those murdered for certain practices to do with their Christian faith, the numbers rise to several thousand. But if you talk to people who are killed in a broad sense because they are Christians, then we get to 90,000, or one death every six minutes.”

He warned of growing intolerance across all countries, which he described as the “antechamber of discrimination” which then in turn is the “antechamber of persecution”.

And then he praised the “calm, noble, often exemplary attitude of Christian minorities subjected to all sorts of harassment and who only in rare cases respond to violence with violence.

“In most cases they peacefully demonstrated their faith, very often their persecutors, forgiving and praying for them.”

Let’s add our prayers for tolerance, healing and peace.

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