The killing of Christians has taken place ever since the slaying of Stephen — the first Christian martyr recorded in New Testament biblical times.
“Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among people” (Acts 6:8).
Religious leaders persecuted Stephen, a leader in the early Christian church in Jerusalem, for his faith. “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,’” Acts 7:59 says.
To this day, Christians face opposition and strife for their belief that Jesus Christ came to this Earth as Savior.
“Christians continue to be the most persecuted believers in the world, with over 90,000 followers of Christ being killed in the last year, according to prominent Italian sociologist and author Massimo Introvigne,” The Christian Post reported in December 2016. The statistic came from the Center for Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, whose main campus is in Hamilton, Massachusetts.
On April 20, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C., spoke at an event in the nation’s capital and addressed the response to Christian persecution.
“Reports suggest that about 200 million Christians around the world are at risk of physical violence, arrest, torture, even death simply because they live and practice a faith that is not acceptable to the rulers in that part of the world,” Wuerl said.
The event last Thursday featured the release of a report called “In Response to Persecution” by the University of Notre Dame’s Under Caesar’s Sword global research initiative.
“Christian communities under persecution adopt survival strategies including fleeing, going underground, or accommodating and supporting repressive regimes,” Fox News noted about the report. “For each year between 2007 and 2014, Christians have been targeted for harassment in more countries than any other religious group.”
While estimates for the number of Christian martyrs worldwide vary, as a testament to their faith thousands of Christians put their lives at risk each year.
“Even the low-end estimate for the number of Christians killed for religious reasons each year puts the count of new martyrs at roughly one every hour, 365 days a year,” wrote John Allen, editor of Cruxnow.com.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion, and Christians make up approximately 2.2 billion of the world’s 7.7 billion population.
“The place where persecution of Christians is being most severely experienced is the very place where Christianity all began,” Cardinal Wuerl said, according to Breitbart News. “In that region of the world is the birthplace of the Christian faith.”