While celebrating a special Mass Monday in honor of the first Christian martyrs under Nero in the year 64, Pope Francis told those gathered that there are more persecuted and martyred Christians today than at any time in history.
“There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries,” Pope Francis said. “Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. Even those Christians who are forced away in an ‘elegant’ way, with ‘white gloves’: that too is persecution.”
American Christians have been voicing their frustrations for years at an American media obsessed with real and imagined offenses directed at any special interest group but completely disinterested in what author/journalist John L. Allen Jr. describes as a Global War on Christians.
Writing about Allen’s book, writer Eric Metaxas writes:
As Allen notes, according to a study by the Pew Forum, “between 2006 and 2010 . . . Christians had been harassed in a total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth.”
The International Society for Human Rights has estimated that “80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians.”
This harassment and discrimination takes many forms: institutional and employment discrimination, suppression of missionary activity to the ultimate form of discrimination, death.
Allen notes that estimates of the number of Christians who are killed because they are Christian range from 7,300 to 100,000 every year. Even at the low end, that represents nearly one per hour.
“So it is right,” Pope Francis said. “That our thoughts turn to the many martyrs of today, the many martyrs who give their lives for faith. It is true that during the times of Nero many Christians were persecuted, and today – he said – there are just as many.”
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