Christians are dying for their faith as never before.
“Nearly twice as many Christians died for their faith in the past year than in 2012,” reports World Watch Monitor. “Open Doors International said 2,123 Christians were reported to have been killed during the 12 months ending Oct. 31, 2012. That compares to 1,201 during the previous 12 months. More Christians were killed in Syria alone than were killed globally in the previous year.” Prince Charles with Coptic Orthodox leaders in London (Coptic Orthodox Church UK photo)
Indeed, the situation has worsened to the point that Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne, has added his voice to those calling for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Open Doors notes that their total is a “very, very minimum” count. In fact, there are reports from closed countries such as North Korea of terrible repression, but no published numbers.
For example, as many as 80 people were publicly executed in North Korea, “some for offenses as minor as watching South Korean movies or possessing a Bible,” reported Fox News. “Wonsan authorities gathered a crowd of 10,000 people, including children, at Shinpoong Stadium and forced them to watch the killings.”
“I heard from the residents that they watched in terror as the corpses were so riddled by machine-gun fire that they were hard to identify afterward,” said an unidentified person quoted by the South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.
“There is no clear reason for the executions,” noted Fox. “The country has been known to order public executions for minor infractions such as religious activism, cellphone use and stealing food, in an effort to intimidate the public.”
And that makes it difficult to know just how many North Koreans were killed for their faith. Similar difficulty in reporting exists in such areas as Somalia, where there is no functional government – or in war zones where details of deaths often go unreported.
Open Doors says it cannot include in the tally – or even accurately estimate – deaths that are rumored but never officially reported or Christians who die due to
long-term discrimination – such as in Pakistan where non-Muslims have almost no civil rights.
The number of Christians killed in the growing conflict ripping apart the Central African Republic is especially likely to have been under-reported, said Open Doors, because “most analysts still failed to recognize the religious dimension of the conflict” – where extremist Muslim rebels have sought out Christian pastors for execution.
In other areas, such as predominantly Muslim former Soviet Republics such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, “Christians aren’t always directly killed, but are so much squeezed with regulations and vulnerabilities that they just perish – not at once, but in the course of years. If we would include them in the counting, it would be an enormous number of people. However, the precise number of Christians who die due to these factors is very difficult to quantify,” Open Doors told the World Watch Monitor.
So, how many Christians actually died for their faith last year? Some relief organizations believe the Open Doors tally is far too conservative. Their estimates range from around 7,000 or 8,000, according to Thomas Schirrmacher at the International Institute for Religious Freedom to a high estimate of 100,000 by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
Where did the deaths occur? According to Open Doors, war-wracked Syria heads the list of the countries in which the most Christian deaths were reported (1,213), followed by Nigeria (612), Pakistan (88) and Egypt (83).