George Wiegel at First Things comes a summary of the Global Mission Report. It is certainly interesting reading. As he suggests, the reports of Christian demise have been greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, there are shocking numbers to report on the numbers of Christian martyrs. The report defines “martyrs” as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives, prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” The report estimates that there were, on average, 270 new Christian martyrs every 24 hours over the past decade, such that “the number of martyrs [in the period 2000-2010] was approximately 1 million.” Compare this to an estimated 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900.
To those who might think that we are gaining, and we are, let us never forget that there are those who pay the ultimate cost for their faith and their numbers are also growing and growing significantly. My friend Tampani Simojoki has posted on his blog this report of martyrdom of Christians in Somalia. All of this is sobering and yet I continue to be strengthened in my relatively carefree life by the knowledge that the faithful stand in Christ where such a stance is not without its persecution, suffering and death. We just heard in the Beatitudes where our Lord speaks with love declaring blessed those who suffer and are persecuted for His name's sake.
This first hand report from Somalia ends with this somber and tearful paragraph: To write this story was too difficult for me. It was too much for me to see and hear what these children went through. However, there are other children who went through the same ordeal, and who still suffer begging for food in the streets of Mogadishu and other towns with no glimmer of hope in sight. May God help them too.
We have all heard of the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, of the Copts, for example, in Egypt, perhaps even more vulnerable due to the instability there. We have heard of the plight of Christians devastated from all sides during the Iraqi war. I could go on. I wish I did not have to. There are no shortage of place where death is too often the cost of faithfulness. Perhaps those of us who live in the security of a nation where Christianity may not be as popular as once thought but still perfectly legal and safe, well, we should give pause and not grow weary in pleading their case and praying for them. Let us not forget to pray for them... and for all those now suffering for the sake of Christ...