martyrs & pukka dosts

It is often asserted that there were more martyrs for Jesus in the twentieth century than in all the other centuries combined. I thought I'd test out this assertion and see if is true - with my trusty The Future of the Global Church in hand. This book has this series of very cool facing pages (pp 22-61) which cover the twenty centuries, one at a time, with the History of Empires in a given century on the left page and the State of the Church in that same century on the right page. And a little box does its best to count the martyrs who died in each century. So out with the calculator...

In the twentieth century there were 44,933,000 martyrs.
In the other nineteen centuries combined there were 23,268,000 martyrs.

It is not even close. The twentieth century had almost twice as many martyrs as the other centuries combined. That is a lot of people dying for Jesus in relatively recent times.

Here is the testimony of a twenty-first century martyr. His name is Shabhaz and he was a Christian politician in Pakistan. He filmed this testimony and it was sent to the BBC - and within a matter of months he was assassinated (specifically for speaking out against the blasphemy laws which are in the news once again right now). Have a watch and listen. The recording can make it difficult to pick up what he is saying and so I have added the words below (as best I can).

"The forces of violence, militant banned organisations, the T. and al-Q. - they want to impose their radical philosophy in Pakistan. Whoever stands against their radical philosophy, they threaten them. 
When I am leading this campaign against the S. laws, for the abolishing of b. law - I am speaking for the oppressed and marginalised persecuted Christians and other minorities, these T. threaten me. 
But I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. 
I know what is the meaning of cross and I am following of the cross. 
I am ready to die for a cause. I am living for my community and suffering people. I will die to defend their rights. For these threats and these warnings  cannot change my opinion and principles. I prefer to die for my principles and for the justice of my community, rather to compromise on these threats."

There is no denying that Pakistan is a hard country, particularly for believers. But as someone who visits the country regularly, I also hear the sadness of its Christian leaders as they watch the way their country always seems to be in the headlines for the wrong reasons. There are some good things happening too!

One of my 'pukka dosts' (strong, or good, friends) from Pakistan is visiting New Zealand soon. His name is Qaiser and he is one of a number of respected leaders emerging in the country. He is currently working on PhD studies in Melbourne (with a focus on the blasphemy laws). 

There will be a Public Meeting at Carey Baptist College (473 Great South Rd., Auckland) at 7pm on Tuesday 2 October 2012. Come with your questions and leave with Pakistan in the headlines of your more informed prayers.

nice chatting



Heather said…
Hi Paul,

I agree that it is important to be aware of the suffering of our Christian brothers and sisters.  However, a recent BBC programme has made me nervous of figures giving numbers of Christian martyrs.  They looked into a commonly cited figure of 100,000 Christian martyrs per year at the moment and found it to be pretty bogus.

The number comes from the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's Centre for the Study of Global Christianity.  They took the number of people they believe died for their Christian faith between 2000 and 2010 then divided it by ten to get their figure.  However, 90% of those people were people who died in the civil war in the DRC: people who died and who were Chrisitans, but few of whom died because of their faith.  The global church must surely mourn the deaths of these brothers and sisters, but to name them as martyrs seems pretty inappropriate.

So, I'd be keen to know where the numbers quoted in your Future of the Global Church came from.  They may be correct, but I'd like to be sure before quoting them further, having heard of such dodgy numbers gaining such prominence!

(PS if you don't want to listen to the audio version of the BBC programme - which is about 10 minutes - there's a written summary of some of the main points here).


--Heather :-)

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