Persecution of Christians
The persecution of Christians can be historically traced from the first century of the Christian era to the present day. Early Christians were persecuted for their faith at the hands of both the Jews from whose religion Christianity arose and the Romans who controlled many of the lands across which early Christianity was spread. Early in the fourth century, a form of the religion was legalized by the Edict of Milan, and it eventually became the State church of the Roman Empire.
In the 20th century, Christians were persecuted by various governments including the Ottoman Empire in the form of the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian Genocide and the Greek Genocide, as well as by atheistic states such as the Soviet Union, Communist Albania and North Korea.
In the New Testament
Early Christianity began as a sect among Second Temple Jews, and according to the New Testament account, Pharisees, including Paul of Tarsus prior to his conversion to Christianity, persecuted early Christians. The early Christians preached the second coming of a Messiah which did not conform to their religious teachings. However, feeling that their beliefs were supported by Jewish scripture, Christians had been hopeful that their countrymen would accept their faith. Despite individual conversions, the vast majority of Judean Jews did not become Christians.
Claudia Setzer asserts that, "Jews did not see Christians as clearly separate from their own community until at least the middle of the second century." Thus, acts of Jewish persecution of Christians fall within the boundaries of synagogue discipline and were so perceived by Jews acting and thinking as the established community. The Christians, on the other hand, saw themselves as persecuted rather than "disciplined."
Inter-communal dissension began almost immediately with the teachings of Stephen at Jerusalem, who was considered an apostate. According to the Acts of the Apostles, a year after the Crucifixion of Jesus, Stephen was stoned for his alleged transgression of the faith, with Saul (who later converted and was renamed Paul) looking on.
In 41 AD, when Agrippa I, who already possessed the territory of Antipas and Phillip, obtained the title of King of the Jews, in a sense re-forming the Kingdom of Herod, he was reportedly eager to endear himself to his Jewish subjects and continued the persecution in which James the Greater lost his life, Peter narrowly escaped and the rest of the apostles took flight.
After Agrippa's death, the Roman procuratorship began (before 41 they were Prefects in Iudaea Province) and those leaders maintained a neutral peace, until the procurator Festus died and the high priest Annas II took advantage of the power vacuum to attack the Church and executed James the Just, then leader of Jerusalem's Christians. The New Testament states that Paul was himself imprisoned on several occasions by the Roman authorities, stoned by the Pharisees and left for dead on one occasion, and was eventually taken to Rome as a prisoner. Peter and other early Christians were also imprisoned, beaten and harassed. The great Jewish revolt, spurred by the Roman killing of 3,000 Jews, led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the end of Second Temple Judaism (and the subsequent slow rise of Rabbinic Judaism ), and the disempowering of the Jewish persecutors. According to an old church tradition, which is mostly doubted by historians, the early Christian community had fled Jerusalem beforehand, to the already pacified region of Pella.
Luke T. Johnson nuances the harsh portrayal of the Jews in the Gospels by contextualizing the polemics within the rhetoric of contemporaneous philosophical debate, showing how rival schools of thought routinely insulted and slandered their opponents. These attacks were formulaic and stereotyped, crafted to define who was the enemy in the debates, but not used with the expectation that their insults and accusations would be taken literally, as they would be centuries later, resulting in millennia of Christian antisemitism.
By the 4th century, John Chrysostom argued that the Pharisees alone, not the Romans, were responsible for the murder of Jesus. However, according to Walter Laqueur, "Absolving Pilate from guilt may have been connected with the missionary activities of early Christianity in Rome and the desire not to antagonize those they want to convert."
In the Roman Empire
Under Nero, 64–68 AD
The first documented case of imperially supervised persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (54–68). In 64 AD, a great fire broke out in Rome, destroying portions of the city and economically devastating the Roman population. Some people suspected that Nero himself was the arsonist, as Suetonius reported, claiming that he played the lyre and sang the 'Sack of Ilium' during the fires. In the Annals of Tacitus, we read:
...To get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Chrestians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. (emphasis added)
This passage in Tacitus constitutes the only independent attestation that Nero blamed Christians for the Great Fire of Rome, and while it is generally believed to be authentic and reliable, some modern scholars have cast doubt on this view, largely because there is no further reference to Nero's blaming of Christians for the fire until the late 4th century. Suetonius, later to the period, does not mention any persecution after the fire, but in a previous paragraph unrelated to the fire, mentions punishments inflicted on Christians, defined as men following a new and malefic superstition. Suetonius, however, does not specify the reasons for the punishment; he simply lists the fact together with other abuses put down by Nero.:269
From the 2nd century to Constantine
In the first two centuries Christianity was a relatively small sect which was not a significant concern of the Emperor. The Church was not in a struggle for its existence during its first centuries, before its adoption by the Roman Empire as its national religion. Persecutions of Christians were sporadic and locally inspired.
One traditional account of killing is the Persecution in Lyon in which Christians were purportedly mass-slaughtered by being thrown to wild beasts under the decree of Roman officials for reportedly refusing to renounce their faith according to St. Irenaeus. The sole source for this event is early Christian historian Eusebius of Caesarea's Church History, an account written in Egypt in the 4th century. Tertullian's Apologeticus of 197 was ostensibly written in defense of persecuted Christians and was addressed to Roman governors.
Trajan's policy towards Christians was no different from the treatment of other sects, that is, they would only be punished if they refused to worship the emperor and the gods, but they were not to be sought out. The "edict of Septimius Severus" touted in the Augustan History is considered unreliable by historians. According to Eusebius, the Imperial household of Maximinus' predecessor, Alexander, had contained many Christians. Eusebius states that, hating his predecessor's household, Maximinus ordered that the leaders of the churches should be put to death. According to Eusebius, this persecution of 235 sent Hippolytus of Rome and Pope Pontian into exile but other evidence suggests that the persecutions of 235 were local to the provinces where they occurred rather than happening under the direction of the Emperor.
Under the reign of Emperor Decius, a decree was issued requiring public sacrifice, a formality equivalent to a testimonial of allegiance to the Emperor and the established order. Decius authorized roving commissions visiting the cities and villages to supervise the execution of the sacrifices and to deliver written certificates to all citizens who performed them. Christians were often given opportunities to avoid further punishment by publicly offering sacrifices or by burning incense to Roman gods, and were accused by the Romans of impiety when they refused. Refusal was punished by arrest, imprisonment, torture, and executions. Christians fled to safe havens in the countryside and some purchased their certificates, called libelli. Several councils held at Carthage debated the extent to which the community should accept these lapsed Christians. The Christian church, despite no indication in the surviving texts that the edict targeted any specific group, never forgot the reign of Decius whom they labelled as that "fierce tyrant".
Some early Christians sought out and welcomed martyrdom. Roman authorities tried hard to avoid Christians because they "goaded, chided, belittled and insulted the crowds until they demanded their death."
According to Droge and Tabor, "in 185 the proconsul of Asia, Arrius Antoninus, was approached by a group of Christians demanding to be executed. The proconsul obliged some of them and then sent the rest away, saying that if they wanted to kill themselves there was plenty of rope available or cliffs they could jump off." Such seeking after death is found in Tertullian's Scorpiace and in the letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch but was not the only view of martyrdom in the early Christian church. The 2nd-century text Martyrdom of Polycarp relates the story of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who did not desire death, but died a martyr, bound and burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire miraculously failed to touch him. The Martyrdom of Polycarp advances an argument for a particular understanding of martyrdom, with Polycarp's death as its prized example. The example of the Phrygian Quintus, who actively sought out martyrdom, is repudiated.
According to two different Christian traditions, Simon bar Kokhba, the leader of the second Jewish revolt against Rome (132–136 AD) who was proclaimed Messiah, persecuted the Christians: Justin Martyr claims that Christians were punished if they did not deny and blaspheme Jesus Christ, while Eusebius asserts that Bar Kokhba harassed them because they refused to join his revolt against the Romans. The latter is likely true, and Christians' refusal to take part in the revolt against the Roman Empire was a key event in the schism of Early Christianity and Judaism.
The Great Persecution
These persecutions culminated with the reign of Diocletian and Galerius at the end of the third century and the beginning of the 4th century. The Great Persecution is considered the largest. Beginning with a series of four edicts banning Christian practices and ordering the imprisonment of Christian clergy, the persecution intensified until all Christians in the empire were commanded to sacrifice to the Roman gods or face immediate execution. According to legend, one of the martyrs during the Diocletian persecution was Saint George, a Roman soldier who loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and tribunes claimed to be a Christian by declaring his worship of Jesus Christ. Though Diocletian zealously persecuted Christians in the Eastern part of the empire, his co-emperors in the West did not follow the edicts so Christians in Gaul, Spain, and Britannia were virtually unmolested.
This persecution lasted until Constantine I came to power in 313 and legalized Christianity. It was not until Theodosius I in the later 4th century that Christianity would become the official religion of the Empire. Between these two events Julian II temporarily restored the traditional Roman religion and established broad religious tolerance renewing Pagan and Christian hostilities.
Martyrs were considered uniquely exemplary of the Christian faith, and few early saints were not also martyrs.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that "Ancient, medieval and early modern hagiographers were inclined to exaggerate the number of martyrs. Since the title of martyr is the highest title to which a Christian can aspire, this tendency is natural". Attempts at estimating the numbers involved are inevitably based on inadequate sources, but one historian of the persecutions estimates the overall numbers as between 5,500 and 6,500., a number also adopted by later writers including Yuval Noah Harari:
In the 300 years from the crucifixion of Christ to the conversion of Emperor Constantine, polytheistic Roman emperors initiated no more than four general persecutions of Christians. Local administrators and governors incited some anti-Christian violence of their own. Still, if we combine all the victims of all these persecutions, it turns out that in these three centuries, the polytheistic Romans killed no more than a few thousand Christians.
In the Sassanian Empire
The Sassanian policy shifted from tolerance of other religions under Shapur I to intolerance under Vahrans and apparently a return to the policy of Shapur until the reign of Shapur II. The persecution at that time was initiated by Constantine's conversion to Christianity which followed that of Armenian king Tiridates in about 301 A.D. The Christians were thus viewed with suspicions of secretly being partisans of Roman Empire. This didn't change until the fifth century when the Nestorian Church broke off from the Church of Antioch. Zoroastrian elites continued viewing the Christians with enmity and distrust throughout the fifth century with threat of persecution remaining significant, especially during war against the Romans.
Kartir in his Kaba'yi Zartust inscription dated about 280, refers to persecution (zatan – "to beat, kill") of Christians ("Nazareans n'zl'y and Christians klstyd'n"). Kartir took Christianity as a serious opponent. The use of the double expression may be indicative of the Greek-speaking Christians deported by Shapur I from Antioch and other cities during his war against the Romans. Constantine's efforts to protect the Persian Christians made them a target of accusations of disloyalty to Sasanians. With the resumption of Roman-Sasanian conflict under Constantius II, the Christian position became untenable. Zoroastrian priests targeted clergy and ascetics of local Christians to eliminate the leaders of the church. A Syriac manuscript in Edessa in 411 documents dozens executed in various parts of western Sasanian Empire.
In 341, Shapur II ordered the persecution of all Christians. In response to their subversive attitude and support of Romans, Shahpur II doubled the tax on Christians. Shemon Bar Sabbae informed him that he could not pay the taxes demanded from him and his community. He was martyred and a forty-year-long period of persecution of Christians began. The Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon gave up choosing bishops since it would result in death. The local mobads with the help of satraps organized slaughters of Christians in Adiabene, Beth Garmae, Khuzistan and many other provinces.
Yazdegerd I showed tolerance towards Jews and Christians for much of his rule. He allowed Christians to practice their religion freely, demolished monasteries and churches were rebuilt and missionaries were allowed to operate freely. He reversed his policies during the later part of his reign however, suppressing missionary activities. Bahram V continued and intensified their persecution, resulting in many of them fleeing to the Byzantine Empire. Bahram demanded their return, sparking a war between the two. The war ended in 422 with agreement of freedom of religion for Christians in Iran with that of Mazdaism in Byzantium. Meanwhile, Christians suffered destruction of churches, renounced the faith, had their private property confiscated and many were expelled.
Shah Yazdegerd II (439–457) had ordered all his subjects to embrace Mazdeism in an attempt to unite his empire ideologically. The Caucasus rebelled to defend Christianity which had become integrated in their local culture, with Armenian aristocrats turning to the Romans for help. The rebels were however defeated in a battle on the Avaryr Plain. Yeghishe in his The History of Vardan and the Armenian War, pays a tribute to the battles waged to defend Christianity. Another revolt was waged from 481–483 which was suppressed. However, the Armenians succeeded in gaining freedom of religion among other improvements.
Accounts of executions for apostasy of Zoroastrians who converted to Christianity during Sasanian rule proliferated from the fifth to early seventh century, and continued to be produced even after collapse of Sasanians. The punishment of apostates increased under Yazdegerd I and continued under successive kings. It was normative for apostates who were brought to the notice of authorities to be executed, although the prosecution of apostasy depended on political circumstances and Zoroastrian jurisprudence. Per Richard E. Payne, the executions were meant to create a mutually recognised boundary between interactions of the people of the two religions and preventing one religion challenging another's viability. Although the violence on Christians was selective and especially carried out on elites, it served to keep Christian communities in a subordinate and yet viable position in relation to Zoroastrianism. Christians were allowed to build religious buildings and serve in the government as long as they didn't expand their institutions and population at the expense of Zoroastrianism.
Khosrow I was generally regarded as tolerant of Christians and interested in the philosophical and theological disputes during his reign. Sebeos claimed he had converted to Christianity on his deathbed. John of Ephesus describes an Armenian revolt where he claims that Khusrow had attempted to impose Zoroastrianism in Armenia. The account, however, is very similar to the one of Armenian revolt of 451. In addition, Sebeos doesn't mention any religious persecution in his account of the revolt of 571. Story about Hormizd IV's tolerance is preserved by the historian al-Tabari. Upon being asked why he tolerated Christians, he replied, "Just as our royal throne cannot stand upon its front legs without its two back ones, our kingdom cannot stand or endure firmly if we cause the Christians and adherents of other faiths, who differ in belief from ourselves, to become hostile to us."
By Jewish tribes in Yemen
In AD 516, a tribal unrest broke out in Yemen and several tribal elites fought for power. One of those elites was Joseph Dhu Nuwas or "Yousef Asa'ar", a Jewish warlord mentioned in ancient south Arabian inscriptions. Syriac and Byzantine sources claim that he fought his war because Christians in Yemen refused to renounce Christianity. In 2009, a documentary that aired on the BBC defended the claim that the villagers had been offered the choice between conversion to Judaism or death and that 20,000 Christians were then massacred stating that "The production team spoke to many historians over 18 months, among them Nigel Groom, who was our consultant, and Professor Abdul Rahman Al-Ansary, a former professor of archaeology at the King Saud University in Riyadh." Inscriptions documented by Yousef himself show the great pride that he expressed after killing more than 22,000 Christians in Zafar and Najran. Historian Glen Bowersock described this as a "savage pogrom that the Jewish king of the Arabs launched against the Christians in the city of Najran. The king himself reported in excruciating detail to his Arab and Persian allies about the massacres that he had inflicted on all Christians who refused to convert to Judaism."
During the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period
By Christians both during and after the Protestant Reformation
By Persians and Jews during the Roman-Persian Wars
Several months after the Persian conquest in AD 614, a riot occurred in Jerusalem, and the Jewish governor of Jerusalem Nehemiah was killed by a band of young Christians along with his "council of the righteous" while he was making plans for the building of the Third Temple. At this time the Christians had allied themselves with the Eastern Roman Empire. Shortly afterward, the events escalated into a full-scale Christian rebellion, resulting in a battle against the Jews and Christians who were living in Jerusalem. In the battle's aftermath, many Jews were killed and the survivors fled to Caesarea, which was still being held by the Persian Army.
The Judeo-Persian reaction was ruthless—Persian Sasanian general Xorheam assembled Judeo-Persian troops and went and encamped around Jerusalem and besieged it for 19 days. Eventually, digging beneath the foundations of the Jerusalem, they destroyed the wall and on the 19th day of the siege, the Judeo-Persian forces took Jerusalem.
According to the account of Sebeos, the siege resulted in a total Christian death toll of 17,000, the earliest and thus most commonly accepted figure.: 207 Per Antiochus, 4,518 prisoners alone were massacred near Mamilla reservoir. A cave containing hundreds of skeletons near the Jaffa Gate, 200 metres east of the large Roman-era pool in Mamilla, correlates with the massacre of Christians at hands of the Persians mentioned by Antiochius Strategius. While reinforcing the evidence of massacre of Christians, the archaeological evidence seem less conclusive on the destruction of Christian churches and monasteries in Jerusalem.
According to the later account of Antiochus Strategos, whose perspective appears to be that of a Byzantine Greek and shows an antipathy towards the Jews, thousands of Christians were massacred during the conquest of the city. Estimates based on varying copies of Strategos's manuscripts range from 4,518 to 66,509 killed. Strategos wrote that the Jews offered to help them escape death if they "become Jews and deny Christ", and the Christian captives refused. In anger the Jews allegedly purchased Christians to kill them. In 1989, a mass burial grave at Mamilla cave was discovered in by Israeli archeologist Ronny Reich, near the site where Antiochus recorded the massacre took place. The human remains were in poor condition containing a minimum of 526 individuals.
From the many excavations carried out in the Galilee, it is clear that all churches had been destroyed during the period between the Persian invasion and the Arab conquest in 637. The church at Shave Ziyyon was destroyed and burnt in 614. Similar fate befell churches at Evron, Nahariya, 'Arabe and monastery of Shelomi. The monastery at Kursi was damaged in the invasion.
Under Islamic rule
At the time of the Arab Islamic conquest of the mid 7th century AD the populations of Mesopotamia and Assyria (modern-day Iraq, north east Syria, south east Turkey and Kuwait), Syria, Phoenicia (modern-day Lebanon and coastal Syria), Egypt, Jordan, North Africa (modern-day Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya and Algeria), Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey) and Armenia were predominantly Christian and non-Arab.
As People of the Book Christians were given dhimmi status (along with Jews, Samaritans, Gnostics and Mandeans), which was inferior to the status of Muslims. Christians thus faced Religious discrimination and Religious persecution in that they were banned from proselytising (spreading or promoting Christianity) in lands conquered by the Muslims on pain of death, they were banned from bearing arms and undertaking certain professions. Under sharia, non-Muslims were obligated to pay jizya and al-kharaj taxes, together with periodic heavy ransom levied upon Christian communities by Muslim rulers in order to fund military campaigns, all of which contributed a significant proportion of income to the Islamic states while conversely reducing many Christians to poverty, and these financial and social hardships forced many Christians to convert to Islam. Christians unable to pay these taxes were forced to surrender their children to the Muslim rulers as payment who would sell them as slaves to Muslim households where they were forced into Islam According to the Hanafi school of sharia, the testimony of a non-Muslim (such as a Christian) was not considered valid against the testimony of a Muslim in legal or civil matters. Islamic law forbid Muslim women from marrying Christian men, but Muslim men were permitted to marry Christian women. Christians under Islamic rule had the right to convert to Islam or any other religion, while conversely a murtad, or an apostate from Islam, faced severe penalties or even hadd, which could include the death penalty. In general, Christians subject to Islamic rule were allowed to practice their religion with some notable limitations stemming from the Pact of Umar. This treaty, enacted in 717 AD, forbade Christians from publicly displaying the cross on church buildings, from summoning congregants to prayer with a bell, from re-building or repairing churches and monasteries after they had been destroyed or damaged, and imposed other restrictions relating to occupations, clothing and weapons. The Umayyad Caliphate persecuted many Berber Christians in the seventh and eighth centuries, who slowly converted to Islam.
Tamerlane instigated large scale massacres of Christians in Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia Minor and Syria in the 14th century AD. Most of the victims were indigenous Assyrians and Armenians, members of the Assyrian Church of the East and Orthodox Churches, which led to the decimation of the hitherto majority Assyrian population in northern Mesopotamia and the abandonment of the ancient Assyrian city of Assur. Other massacres were perpetrated by Helugu Khan against the Assyrians, particularly in and around the ancient Assyrian city of Arbela (modern Erbil).
Ottoman Albania and Kosovo
Before the late 16th century, Albania, despite being under Ottoman rule, had remained overwhelmingly Christian, unlike other regions such as Bosnia, Bulgaria and Northern Greece, and mountainous Albania was a frequent site of revolts against the Ottoman Empire, often incurring enormous human costs such as the decimation of entire villages. To handle this problem, the Ottomans their usual policy of toleration of Christians as second class citizens to one aimed at reducing the Christian population through Islamization, beginning in restive Christian regions of Reka and Elbasan in 1570. The pressures associated with this campaign included particularly harsh economic conditions opposed on the Christian population; while earlier taxes on the Christian were around 45 akçes a year, by the middle of the 17th century the rate had been multiplied by 27 to 780 akçes a year. Albanian elders often opted to save their clans and villages from hunger and economic ruin by advocating village-wide and region-wide conversions to Islam, with many individuals often continuing to practice Christianity in private. A failed Catholic rebellion in 1596 as well as the support by the Albanian population for Austro-Hungary in the Great Turkish War, and the Venetians in the 1644 Venetian-Ottoman War as well as the Orlov Revolt were all factors that led to punitive measures mixing outright force with economic incentives depending on the region, and ended up forcing the conversion of large Christian populations to Islam in Albania. In the case of the Great Turkish War, in the aftermath, massive punitive measures resulted in the flight of most of Kosovo's Catholic Albanian population into Hungary around Budapest, where most died of disease and starvation. After the Orthodox Serbian population subsequently also fled from Kosovo, the pasha of Ipek (Peja/Pec) forced Albanian Catholic mountaineers to repopulate Kosovo by deporting them to Kosovo, and also forced them adopt Islam. In the 17th and 18th centuries, South Albania also saw numerous instances of violence directed by local newly converted Muslims against those who remained Christian, ultimately resulting in many more conversions out of fear as well as flight by the Christian population to faraway lands.
The Dechristianisation of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of a campaign, conducted by various Robespierre-era governments of France beginning with the start of the French Revolution in 1789, to eliminate any symbol that might be associated with the past, especially the monarchy.
- the deportation of clergy and the condemnation of many of them to death,
- the closing, desecration and pillaging of churches, removal of the word "saint" from street names and other acts to banish Christian culture from the public sphere
- removal of statues, plates, and other iconography from places of worship
- destruction of crosses, bells and other external signs of worship
- the institution of revolutionary and civic cults, including the Cult of Reason and subsequently the Cult of the Supreme Being,
- the large-scale destruction of religious monuments,
- the outlawing of public and private worship and religious education,
- forced marriages of the clergy,
- forced abjuration of priesthood, and
- the enactment of a law on 21 October 1793 making all nonjuring priests and all persons who harbored them liable to death on sight.
The climax was reached with the celebration of the Goddess "Reason" in Notre Dame Cathedral on 10 November.
Under threat of death, imprisonment, military conscription or loss of income, about 20,000 constitutional priests were forced to abdicate or hand over their letters of ordination and 6,000 – 9,000 were coerced to marry, many ceasing their ministerial duties. Some of those who abdicated covertly ministered to the people. By the end of the decade, approximately 30,000 priests were forced to leave France, and thousands who did not leave were executed. Most of France was left without the services of a priest, deprived of the sacraments and any nonjuring priest faced the guillotine or deportation to French Guiana.
The March 1793 conscription requiring Vendeans to fill their district's quota of 300,000 enraged the populace, who took up arms as "The Catholic Army", "Royal" being added later, and fought for "above all the reopening of their parish churches with their former priests."
With these massacres came formal orders for forced evacuation; also, a 'scorched earth' policy was initiated: farms were destroyed, crops and forests burned and villages razed. There were many reported atrocities and a campaign of mass killing universally targeted at residents of the Vendée regardless of combatant status, political affiliation, age or gender. By July 1796, the estimated Vendean dead numbered between 117,000 and 500,000, out of a population of around 800,000. Some historians call these mass killings the first modern genocide, specifically because intent to exterminate the Catholic Vendeans was clearly stated, though others have rejected these claims.
Beginning in the late 17th century, Christianity was banned for at least a century in China by the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing dynasty after Pope Clement XI forbade Chinese Catholics from venerating their relatives or Confucius.
During the Northern Expedition, the Kuomintang incited anti-foreign, anti-Western sentiment. Portraits of Sun Yat-sen replaced the crucifix in several churches, KMT posters proclaimed "Jesus Christ is dead. Why not worship something alive such as Nationalism?". Foreign missionaries were attacked and anti-foreign riots broke out. In 1926, Muslim General Bai Chongxi attempted to drive out foreigners in Guangxi, attacking American, European, and other foreigners and missionaries, and generally making the province unsafe for foreigners. Westerners fled from the province, and some Chinese Christians were also attacked as imperialist agents.
From 1894 to 1938, there were many Uighur Muslim converts to Christianity. They were killed, tortured and jailed. Christian missionaries were expelled.
Relations between Muslims and Christians have occasionally been turbulent. With the advent of European colonialism in India throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Christians were systematically persecuted in a few Muslim ruled kingdoms in India. Modern-day persecution also exists and is carried out by Hindu nationalists. A report by Human Rights Watch stated that there is a rise in anti-Christian violence due to Hindu nationalism and Smita Narula, Researcher, Asia Division of Human Rights Watch stated "Christians are the new scapegoat in India's political battles. Without immediate and decisive action by the government, communal tensions will continue to be exploited for political and economic ends."
Muslim Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, took action against the Mangalorean Catholic community from Mangalore and the South Canara district on the southwestern coast of India. Tipu was widely reputed to be anti-Christian. He took Mangalorean Catholics into captivity at Seringapatam on 24 February 1784 and released them on 4 May 1799.
Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tipu gained control of Canara. He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates, and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route. There were no priests among the captives. Together with Fr. Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rs 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned. Tipu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches.
According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish soldier and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 of them, nearly 92 percent of the entire Mangalorean Catholic community, were captured. 7,000 escaped. Observer Francis Buchanan reports that 70,000 were captured, from a population of 80,000, with 10,000 escaping. They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the jungles of the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It was 210 miles (340 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks. According to British Government records, 20,000 of them died on the march to Seringapatam. According to James Scurry, a British officer, who was held captive along with Mangalorean Catholics, 30,000 of them were forcibly converted to Islam. The young women and girls were forcibly made wives of the Muslims living there and later distributed and sold in prostitution. The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears. According to Mr. Silva of Gangolim, a survivor of the captivity, if a person who had escaped from Seringapatam was found, the punishment under the orders of Tipu was the cutting off of the ears, nose, the feet and one hand.
The Archbishop of Goa wrote in 1800, "It is notoriously known in all Asia and all other parts of the globe of the oppression and sufferings experienced by the Christians in the Dominion of the King of Kanara, during the usurpation of that country by Tipu Sultan from an implacable hatred he had against them who professed Christianity."
Tipu Sultan's invasion of the Malabar Coast had an adverse impact on the Saint Thomas Christian community of the Malabar coast. Many churches in Malabar and Cochin were damaged. The old Syrian Nasrani seminary at Angamaly which had been the center of Catholic religious education for several centuries was razed to the ground by Tipu's soldiers. Many centuries-old religious manuscripts were lost forever. The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists to this date. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tipu's army set fire to the church at Palayoor and attacked the Ollur Church in 1790. Furthernmore, the Arthat church and the Ambazhakkad seminary was also destroyed. Over the course of this invasion, many Saint Thomas Christians were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Most of the coconut, arecanut, pepper and cashew plantations held by the Saint Thomas Christian farmers were also indiscriminately destroyed by the invading army. As a result, when Tipu's army invaded Guruvayur and adjacent areas, the Syrian Christian community fled Calicut and small towns like Arthat to new centres like Kunnamkulam, Chalakudi, Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikkara, etc. where there were already Christians. They were given refuge by Sakthan Tamburan, the ruler of Cochin and Karthika Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore, who gave them lands, plantations and encouraged their businesses. Colonel Macqulay, the British resident of Travancore also helped them.
Tipu's persecution of Christians also extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant amount of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the battle of Pollilur, 7,000 British men along with an unknown number of women were held captive by Tipu in the fortress of Seringapatnam. Of these, over 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes and several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the court as nautch girls or dancing girls. After the 10-year-long captivity ended, James Scurry, one of those prisoners, recounted that he had forgotten how to sit in a chair and use a knife and fork. His English was broken and stilted, having lost all his vernacular idiom. His skin had darkened to the swarthy complexion of negroes, and moreover, he had developed an aversion to wearing European clothes.
During the surrender of the Mangalore fort which was delivered in an armistice by the British and their subsequent withdrawal, all the Mestizos and remaining non-British foreigners were killed, together with 5,600 Mangalorean Catholics. Those condemned by Tipu Sultan for treachery were hanged instantly, the gibbets being weighed down by the number of bodies they carried. The Netravati River was so putrid with the stench of dying bodies, that the local residents were forced to leave their riverside homes.
Tokugawa Ieyasu assumed control over Japan in 1600. Like Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he disliked Christian activities in Japan. The Tokugawa shogunate finally decided to ban Catholicism, in 1614 and in the mid-17th century it demanded the expulsion of all European missionaries and the execution of all converts. This marked the end of open Christianity in Japan. The Shimabara Rebellion, led by a young Japanese Christian boy named Amakusa Shirō Tokisada, took place in 1637. After the Hara Castle fell, the shogunate's forces beheaded an estimated 37,000 rebels and sympathizers. Amakusa Shirō's severed head was taken to Nagasaki for public display, and the entire complex at Hara Castle was burned to the ground and buried together with the bodies of all the dead.
Many of the Christians in Japan continued for two centuries to maintain their religion as Kakure Kirishitan, or hidden Christians, without any priests or pastors. Some of those who were killed for their Faith are venerated as the Martyrs of Japan.
Modern era (1815 to 1989)
In the Ottoman Empire
Relations between Muslims and Christians in the Ottoman Empire during the modern era were shaped in no small part by broader dynamics related to European colonial and neo-imperialist activity in the region, dynamics that frequently (though by no means always) generated tensions between the two. Too often, growing European influence in the region during the nineteenth century seemed to disproportionately benefit Christians, thus producing resentment on the part of many Muslims, likewise a suspicion that Christians were colluding with the European powers in order to weaken the Islamic world. Further exacerbating relations was the fact that Christians seemed to benefit disproportionately from efforts at reform (one aspect of which generally sought to elevate the political status of non-Muslims), likewise, the various Christian nationalist uprisings in the Empire's European territories, which often had the support of the European powers.
Since the time of the Austro-Turkish war (1683–1699) relations between Muslims and Christians in the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire gradually took more extreme forms and resulted in occasional calls by some Muslim religious leaders for the expulsion or extermination of local Christians. As a result of Ottoman oppression, the destruction of Churches and Monasteries, and violence against the non-Muslim civilian population, Serbian Christians and their church leaders, headed by Serbian Patriarch Arsenije III, sided with the Austrians in 1689 and again in 1737 under Serbian Patriarch Arsenije IV. In the following punitive campaigns, Ottoman forces conducted systematic atrocities against the Christian population in the Serbian regions, resulted in the Great Migrations of the Serbs.
Similar persecutions and forced migrations of Christian populations were induced by Ottoman forces during the 18th and 19th centuries in the European and Asian provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The Massacres of Badr Khan were conducted by Kurdish and Ottoman forces against the Assyrian Christian population of the Ottoman Empire between 1843 and 1847, resulting in the slaughter of more than 10,000 indigenous Assyrian civilians of the Hakkari region, with many thousands more being sold into slavery.
During the Bulgarian Uprising (1876) against Ottoman rule, and the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), the persecution of the Bulgarian Christian population was conducted by Ottoman soldiers. The principal locations were Panagurishte, Perushtitza, and Bratzigovo. Over 15,000 non-combatant Bulgarian civilians were killed by the Ottoman army between 1876 and 1878, with the worst single instance being the Batak massacre. During the war, whole cities including the largest Bulgarian one (Stara Zagora) were destroyed and most of their inhabitants were killed, the rest being expelled or enslaved. The atrocities included impaling and grilling people alive. Similar attacks were undertaken by Ottoman troops against Serbian Christians during the Serbian-Turkish War (1876–1878).
Between 1894 and 1896 a series of ethno-religiously motivated Anti-Christian pogroms known as the Hamidian massacres were conducted against the ancient Armenian and Assyrian Christian populations by the forces of the Ottoman Empire. The motives for these massacres were an attempt to reassert Pan-Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, resentment of the comparative wealth of the ancient indigenous Christian communities, and a fear that they would attempt to secede from the tottering Ottoman Empire. The massacres mainly took place in what is today southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria and northern Iraq. Assyrians and Armenians were massacred in Diyarbakir, Hasankeyef, Sivas and other parts of Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia, by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The death toll is estimated to have been as high as 325,000 people, with a further 546,000 Armenians and Assyrians made destitute by forced deportations of survivors from cities, and the destruction or theft of almost 2500 of their farmsteads towns and villages. Hundreds of churches and monasteries were also destroyed or forcibly converted into mosques. These attacks caused the death of over thousands of Assyrians and the forced "Ottomanisation" of the inhabitants of 245 villages. The Ottoman troops looted the remains of the Assyrian settlements and these were later stolen and occupied by south-east Anatolian tribes. Unarmed Assyrian women and children were raped, tortured and murdered. According to H. Aboona, the independence of the Assyrians was destroyed not directly by the Turks but by their neighbours under Ottoman auspices.
The Adana massacre occurred in the Adana Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire in April 1909. A massacre of Armenian and Assyrian Christians in the city of Adana and its surrounds amidst the Ottoman countercoup of 1909 led to a series of anti-Christian pogroms throughout the province. Reports estimated that the Adana Province massacres resulted in the death of as many as 30,000 Armenians and 1,500 Assyrians.
Between 1915 and 1921 the Young Turks government of the collapsing Ottoman Empire persecuted Eastern Christian populations in Anatolia, Persia, Northern Mesopotamia and The Levant. The onslaught by the Ottoman army, which included Kurdish, Arab and Circassian irregulars resulted in an estimated 3.4 million deaths, divided between roughly 1.5 million Armenian Christians, 0.75 million Assyrian Christians, 0.90 million Greek Orthodox Christians and 0.25 million Maronite Christians (see Great Famine of Mount Lebanon); groups of Georgian Christians were also killed. The massive ethnoreligious cleansing expelled from the empire or killed the Armenians and the Bulgarians who had not converted to Islam, and it came to be known as the Armenian Genocide, Assyrian Genocide, Greek Genocide. and Great Famine of Mount Lebanon. which accounted for the deaths of Armenian, Assyrian, Greek and Maronite Christians, and the deportation and destitution of many more. The Genocide led to the devastation of ancient indigenous Christian populations who had existed in the region for thousands of years.
Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact Countries
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks undertook a massive program to remove the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church from the government while outlawing antisemitism in Russian society, and promoting atheism. Tens of thousands of churches were destroyed or converted to other uses, and many members of the clergy were murdered, publicly executed and imprisoned for what the government termed "anti-government activities." An extensive educational and propaganda campaign was launched in order to convince people, especially children and youths, to abandon their religious beliefs. This persecution resulted in the intentional murder of 500,000 Orthodox followers by the government of the Soviet Union during the 20th century.
Under the doctrine of state atheism in the Soviet Union, a "government-sponsored program of forced conversion to atheism" was conducted by the Communists. The Communist Party destroyed churches, mosques and temples, ridiculed, harassed, incarcerated and executed religious leaders, flooded the schools and media with anti-religious teachings, and it introduced a belief system called "scientific atheism," with its own rituals, promises and proselytizers. Many priests were killed and imprisoned; thousands of churches were closed. In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists in order to intensify the persecution. The League of Militant Atheists was also a "nominally independent organization established by the Communist Party to promote atheism".
The state established atheism as the only scientific truth. Soviet authorities forbade the criticism of atheism and agnosticism until 1936 or of the state's anti-religious policies; such criticism could lead to forced retirement. Militant atheism became central to the ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and a high priority policy of all Soviet leaders. Christopher Marsh, a professor at the Baylor University writes that "Tracing the social nature of religion from Schleiermacher and Feurbach to Marx, Engles, and Lenin...the idea of religion as a social product evolved to the point of policies aimed at the forced conversion of believers to atheism."
Before and after the October Revolution of 7 November 1917 (25 October Old Calendar) there was a movement within the Soviet Union to unite all of the people of the world under Communist rule (see Communist International). This included the Eastern European bloc countries as well as the Balkan States. Since some of these Slavic states tied their ethnic heritage to their ethnic churches, both the people and their churches were targeted for ethnic and political genocide by the Soviets and their form of State atheism. The Soviets' official religious stance was one of "religious freedom or tolerance", though the state established atheism as the only scientific truth (see also the Soviet or committee of the All-Union Society for the Dissemination of Scientific and Political Knowledge or Znanie which was until 1947 called The League of the Militant Godless and various Intelligentsia groups). Criticism of atheism was strictly forbidden and sometimes resulted in imprisonment. Some of the more high-profile individuals who were executed include Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd, Priest and scientist Pavel Florensky and Bishop Gorazd Pavlik.
Across Eastern Europe following World War II, the parts of the Nazi Empire conquered by the Soviet Red Army and Yugoslavia became one-party Communist states and the project of coercive conversion to atheism continued. The Soviet Union ended its war time truce with the Russian Orthodox Church, and extended its persecutions to the newly Communist Eastern bloc: "In Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and other Eastern European countries, Catholic leaders who were unwilling to be silent were denounced, publicly humiliated or imprisoned by the Communists. Leaders of the national Orthodox Churches in Romania and Bulgaria had to be cautious and submissive", wrote Geoffrey Blainey. While the churches were generally not treated as severely as they had been in the USSR, nearly all of their schools and many of their churches were closed, and they lost their formally prominent roles in public life. Children were taught atheism, and clergy were imprisoned by the thousands. In the Eastern Bloc, Christian churches, along with Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques were forcibly "converted into museums of atheism." According to James M. Nelson a psychology professor at East Carolina University, the total number of Christian victims under the Soviet regime may have been around 12 million, while Todd Johnson and Gina Zurlo of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary at Boston University estimate a figure of 15–20 million.
The Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions towards particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed. It is estimated that 500,000 Russian Orthodox Christians were martyred in the gulags by the Soviet government, excluding the members of other Christian denominations who were also tortured or killed.
Along with execution, some other actions against Orthodox priests and believers included torture, being sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals. In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed.
The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful worshippers. A very large segment of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. In the period between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to less than 500. Between 1917 and 1940, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested. The widespread persecution and internecine disputes within the church hierarchy lead to the seat of Patriarch of Moscow being vacant from 1925 to 1943.
After Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church in order to intensify patriotic support for the war effort. By 1957, about 22,000 Russian Orthodox churches had become active. But in 1959, Nikita Khrushchev initiated his own campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced the closure of about 12,000 churches. By 1985, fewer than 7,000 churches remained active.
In the Soviet Union, in addition to the methodical closure and destruction of churches, the charitable and social work formerly done by ecclesiastical authorities was taken over by the state. As with all private property, Church owned property was confiscated by the state and converted to public use. The few places of worship left to the Church were legally viewed as state property which the government permitted the church to use. After the advent of state funded universal education, the Church was not permitted to carry on educational, instructional activity for children. For adults, only training for church-related occupations was allowed. With the exception of sermons during the celebration of the divine liturgy, it could not instruct the faithful or evangelise the youth. Catechism classes, religious schools, study groups, Sunday schools and religious publications were all declared illegal and banned. This caused many religious tracts to be circulated as illegal literature or samizdat. This persecution continued, even after the death of Stalin until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church has recognized a number of New Martyrs as saints, some of whom were executed during the Mass operations of the NKVD under directives like NKVD Order No. 00447.
19th- and 20th-century Mexico
In the 19th century, Mexican President Benito Juárez confiscated church lands. The Mexican government's campaign against the Catholic Church after the Mexican Revolution culminated in the 1917 constitution which contained numerous articles which Catholics perceived as violating their civil rights: outlawing monastic religious orders, forbidding public worship outside of church buildings, restricted religious organizations' rights to own property, and taking away basic civil rights of members of the clergy (priests and religious leaders were prevented from wearing their habits, were denied the right to vote, and were not permitted to comment on public affairs in the press and were denied the right to trial for violation of anticlerical laws). When the first embassy of the Soviet Union in any country was opened in Mexico, the Soviet ambassador remarked that "no other two countries show more similarities than the Soviet Union and Mexico".
When the Church publicly condemned the anticlerical measures which had not been strongly enforced, the atheist President Plutarco Calles sought to vigorously enforce the provisions and enacted additional anti-Catholic legislation known as the Calles Law. At this time, some in the United States government, considering Calles' regime Bolshevik, started to refer to Mexico as "Soviet Mexico".
Weary of the persecution, in many parts of the country a popular rebellion called the Cristero War began (so named because the rebels felt they were fighting for Christ himself). The effects of the persecution on the Church were profound. Between 1926 and 1934 at least 40 priests were killed. Where there were 4,500 priests serving the people before the rebellion, in 1934 there were 334 priests licensed by the government to serve fifteen million people, the rest having been eliminated by emigration, expulsion and assassination. By 1935, 17 states had no priest at all. In the second Cristero rebellion (1932), the Cristeros took particular exception to the socialist education, which Calles had also implemented but which President Cardenas had added to the 1917 Mexican Constitution.
The Latter Day Saint Movement, (Mormons) have been persecuted since their founding in the 1830s. This persecution drove them from New York and Ohio to Missouri, where they continued to suffer violent attacks. In 1838, Gov. Lilburn Boggs declared that Mormons had made war on the state of Missouri, and "must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state" At least 10,000 were expelled from the State. In the most violent of the altercations at this time, the Haun's mill Massacre, 17 were murdered by an anti-Mormon mob and 13 were wounded. The Extermination Order signed by Governor Boggs was not formally invalidated until 25 June 1976, 137 years after being signed.
The Mormons subsequently fled to Nauvoo, Illinois, where hostilities again escalated. In Carthage, Ill., where Joseph Smith was being held on the charge of treason, a mob stormed the jail and killed him. Smith's brother, Hyrum, was also killed. After a succession crisis, most united under Brigham Young, who organized an evacuation from the United States after the federal government refused to protect them. 70,000 Mormon pioneers crossed the Great Plains to settle in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas. After the Mexican–American War, the area became the US territory of Utah. Over the next 63 years, several actions by the federal government were directed against Mormons in the Mormon Corridor, including the Utah War, the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, the Poland Act, Reynolds v. United States, the Edmunds Act, the Edmunds–Tucker Act, and the Reed Smoot hearings.
Queen Ranavalona I (reigned 1828–1861) issued a royal edict prohibiting the practice of Christianity in Madagascar, expelled British missionaries from the island, and sought to stem the growth of conversion to Christianity within her realm. Far more, however, were punished in other ways: many were required to undergo the tangena ordeal, while others were condemned to hard labor or the confiscation of their land and property, and many of these consequently died. The tangena ordeal was commonly administered to determine the guilt or innocence of an accused person for any crime, including the practice of Christianity, and involved ingestion of the poison contained within the nut of the tangena tree (Cerbera odollam). Survivors were deemed innocent, while those who perished were assumed guilty.
In 1838, it was estimated that as many as 100,000 people in Imerina died as a result of the tangena ordeal, constituting roughly 20% of the population. contributing to a strongly unfavorable view of Ranavalona's rule in historical accounts. Malagasy Christians would remember this period as ny tany maizina, or "the time when the land was dark". Persecution of Christians intensified in 1840, 1849 and 1857; in 1849, deemed the worst of these years by British missionary to Madagascar W.E. Cummins (1878), 1,900 people were fined, jailed or otherwise punished in relation to their Christian faith, including 18 executions.
The Second Republic proclaimed in 1931 attempted to establish a regime with a separation between State and Church as it had happened in France (1905). When established, the Republic passed a number of laws that prompted progress in education, but also challenged the power of the Church, entrenched values and traditional public ceremonies. A process of political polarisation had characterised the Spanish Second Republic, party divisions became increasingly embittered and questions of religious identity came to assume a major political significance. Different Church institutions presented the situation resulting from the proclamation of the 2nd Republic as an anti-Catholic, Masonic, Jewish, and Communist international conspiracy that heralded a clash between God and atheism, chaos and harmony, Good and Evil. The Church's high-ranking officials like Isidro Goma, bishop of Tudela, reminded their Christian subjects of their obligation to vote "for the righteous", and their priests to "educate the consciences."
A similar approach is attested in 1912, when the bishop of Almería José Ignacio de Urbina (founder of the National anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic League) announced 'a decisive battle that must be unleashed' between the "light" and "darkness." Since the early stages of the 2nd Spanish Republic, far-right forces imbued with an ultra-Catholic spirit attempted to overthrow the Republic. Carlists, Africanistas, and Catholic theologians fostered an atmosphere of social and racial hatred in their speeches and writings.
Stanley Payne suggested that persecution of right-wingers and people associated with Catholic church before and at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War involved the murder of priests and other clergy, as well as thousands of lay people, by sections of nearly all the leftist groups, while a killing spree unleashed also across the Nationalist zone. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, and especially in the early months of the conflict, individual clergymen and entire religious communities were executed by leftists, which included communists and anarchists. The death toll of the clergy alone included 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarians, 2,364 monks and friars and 283 nuns, for a total of 6,832 clerical victims.
In addition to murders of clergy and the faithful, destruction of churches and desecration of sacred sites and objects were widespread. On the night of 19 July 1936 alone, some fifty churches were burned. In Barcelona, out of the 58 churches, only the Cathedral was spared, and similar desecrations occurred almost everywhere in Republican Spain.
Exceptions were Biscay and Gipuzkoa where the Christian Democratic Basque Nationalist Party, after some hesitation, supported the Republic while halting persecution in the areas held by the Basque Government. All Catholic churches in the Republican zone were closed. The desecration was not limited to Catholic churches, as synagogues and Protestant churches were also pillaged and closed, but some small Protestant churches were spared. The rising Franco's regime would keep Protestant churches and synagogues closed, as he only permitted Catholic church.
Payne called the terror the "most extensive and violent persecution of Catholicism in Western History, in some way even more intense than that of the French Revolution." The persecution drove Catholics to the Nationalists, even more than would have been expected, as these defended their religious interests and survival.
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of the Catholic Church
Hitler and the Nazis received some support from Christian communities, mainly due to their common cause against the anti-religious Communists, as well as their mutual Judeophobia and anti-Semitism. Once in power, the Nazis moved to consolidate their power over the German churches and bring them in line with Nazi ideals. Some historians say that Hitler had a general covert plan, which some say existed even before the Nazis' rise to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich, which was to be accomplished through control and subversion of the churches and which would be completed after the war. The Third Reich founded its own version of Christianity called Positive Christianity which made major changes in the interpretation of the Bible by saying that Jesus Christ was the son of God, but not a Jew and it also argued that Jesus despised Jews, and the Jews were the ones who were solely responsible for Jesus's death. Thus, the Nazi government consolidated religious power, using its allies in order to consolidate the Protestant churches into the Protestant Reich Church. The syncretist project of Positive Christianity was abandoned in 1940.
Like other intelligentsia, Christian leaders were sometimes persecuted for their anti-Nazi political activities. Between 1939 and 1945, an estimated 3,000 members, 18% of the Polish clergy, were murdered for their suspected ties to the Polish Resistance or left-wing groups, or for sheltering Jews (punishable by death).
Outside mainstream Christianity, the Jehovah's Witnesses were targets of Nazi Persecution, for their refusal to swear allegiance to the Nazi government. In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s, Jehovah's Witnesses refused to renounce their political neutrality and they were placed in concentration camps as a result. The Nazi government gave detained Jehovah's Witnesses the option of release if they signed a document which indicated their renouncement of their faith, their submission to state authority, and their support of the German military. Historian Hans Hesse said, "Some five thousand Jehovah's Witnesses were sent to concentration camps where they alone were 'voluntary prisoners', so termed because the moment they recanted their views, they could be freed. Some lost their lives in the camps, but few renounced their faith".
The Nazi Dissolution of the Bruderhof was also carried out by the Nazi government because the Bruderhof refused to pledge allegiance to Hitler. In 1937 their property was confiscated and the group fled to England.
At times, political and religious animosity against Jehovah's Witnesses has led to mob action and government oppression in various countries, including Cuba, the United States, Canada and Singapore. The religion's doctrine of political neutrality has led to the imprisonment of members who refused conscription (for example in Britain during World War II and afterwards during the period of compulsory national service).
Religion in Albania was subordinated to the interests of Marxism during the rule of the country's communist party when all religions were suppressed. This was used to justify the communist stance of state atheism from 1967 to 1991. The Agrarian Reform Law of August 1945 nationalized most of the property which belonged to religious institutions, including the estates of mosques, monasteries, orders, and dioceses. Many clergy and believers were tried and some of them were executed. All foreign Roman Catholic priests, monks, and nuns were expelled in 1946. Churches, cathedrals and mosques were seized by the military and converted into basketball courts, movie theaters, dance halls, and the like; with members of the Clergy being stripped of their titles and imprisoned. Around 6,000 Albanians were disappeared by agents of the Communist government, with their bodies having never been found or identified. Albanians continued to be imprisoned, tortured and killed for their religious practices well into 1991.
Religious communities or branches that had their headquarters outside the country, such as the Jesuit and Franciscan orders, were henceforth ordered to terminate their activities in Albania. Religious institutions were forbidden to have anything to do with the education of the young, because that had been made the exclusive province of the state. All religious communities were prohibited from owning real estate and they were also prohibited from operating philanthropic and welfare institutions and hospitals. Enver Hoxha's overarching goal was the eventual destruction of all organized religion in Albania, despite some variance in approach.
Current situation (1989 to present)
According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Christians are the most persecuted group in the contemporary world. The Holy See has reported that over 100,000 Christians are violently killed annually because of some relation to their faith. According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. Of the 100–200 million Christians alleged to be under assault, the majority are persecuted in Muslim-dominated nations. Paul Vallely has said that Christians suffer numerically more than any other faith group or any group without faith in the world. Of the world's three largest religions Christians are allegedly the most persecuted with 80% of all acts of religious discrimination being directed at Christians who only make up 33% of the world's population.
Every year, the Christian non-profit organization Open Doors publishes the World Watch List – a list of the top 50 countries which it designates as the most dangerous for Christians. The 2018 World Watch List has the following countries as its top ten: North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, Eritrea, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Iran.
In the Muslim world
Christians have faced increasing levels of persecution in the Muslim world. Muslim-majority nations in which Christian populations have suffered acute discrimination, persecution, repression, violence and in some cases death, mass murder or ethnic cleansing include; Iraq, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Qatar, Kuwait, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives.
Furthermore, any Muslim person—including any person born into a Muslim family or any person who became a Muslim at a given point in his or her life—who converts to Christianity or re-converts to it, is considered an apostate. Apostasy, the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or deed, including conversion to Christianity, is punishable as a crime under applications of the Sharia (countries in the graph). There are, however, cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly without declaring his/her apostasy. As a result, they are practising Christians, but they are still legally Muslims, and they can face the death penalty according to the Sharia. Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2014, because the government of Sudan classified her as a Muslim, even though she was raised as a Christian.
A report by the international catholic charity organisation Aid to the Church in Need said that the religiously motivated ethnic cleansing of Christians is so severe that they are set to disappear completely from parts of the Middle-East within a decade.
A report commissioned by the British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and published in May 2019 stated that the level and nature of persecution of Christians in the Middle East "is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.” The report coted Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia where "the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage." The report attributed the sources of persecution to both extremist groups and the failure of state institutions.
In Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old citizen, was charged in 2006 with rejecting Islam, a crime punishable by death under Sharia law. He has since been released into exile in the West under intense pressure from Western governments. In 2008, the Taliban killed a British charity worker, Gayle Williams, "because she was working for an organization which was preaching Christianity in Afghanistan" even though she was extremely careful not to try to convert Afghans.
On the night of 26–27 March 1996, seven monks from the monastery of Tibhirine in Algeria, belonging to the Roman Catholic Trappist Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.), were kidnapped in the Algerian Civil War. They were held for two months and were found dead on 21 May 1996. The circumstances of their kidnapping and death remain controversial; the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) allegedly took responsibility for both, but the then French military attaché, retired General Francois Buchwalter, reports that they were accidentally killed by the Algerian army in a rescue attempt, and claims have been made that the GIA itself was a cat's paw of Algeria's secret services (DRS).
A Muslim gang allegedly looted and burned to the ground, a Pentecostal church in Tizi Ouzou on 9 January 2010. The pastor was quoted as saying that worshipers fled when local police supposedly left a group of local protestors unchecked. Many Bibles were burnt.
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of Coptic Christians
Foreign missionaries are allowed in the country if they restrict their activities to social improvements and refrain from proselytizing. Particularly in Upper Egypt, the rise in extremist Islamist groups such as the Gama'at Islamiya during the 1980s was accompanied by increased attacks on Copts and on Coptic Orthodox churches; these have since declined with the decline of those organizations, but still continue. The police have been accused of siding with the attackers in some of these cases.
There have been periodic acts of violence against Christians since, including attacks on Coptic Orthodox churches in Alexandria in April 2006, and sectarian violence in Dahshur in July 2012. From 2011 to 2013, more than 150 kidnappings, for ransom, of Christians had been reported in the Minya governorate. Christians have been convicted for "contempt of religion", such as poet Fatima Naoot in 2016.
Although Christians are minority in Indonesia, Christianity is one of the six official religions of Indonesia and religious freedom is permitted. But there are some religious tensions and persecutions in the country, and most of the tensions and persecutions are civil and not by state.
In January 1999 tens of thousands died when Muslim gunmen terrorized Christians who had voted for independence in East Timor. These events came toward the end of the East Timor genocide, which began around 1975.
In Indonesia, religious conflicts have typically occurred in Western New Guinea, Maluku (particularly Ambon), and Sulawesi. The presence of Muslims in these traditionally Christian regions is in part a result of the transmigrasi program of population re-distribution. Conflicts have often occurred because of the aims of radical Islamist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiah or Laskar Jihad to impose Sharia, with such groups attacking Christians and destroying over 600 churches. In 2005 three Christian girls were beheaded as retaliation for previous Muslim deaths in Christian-Muslim rioting. The men were imprisoned for the murders, including Jemaah Islamiyah's district ringleader Hasanuddin. On going to jail, Hasanuddin said, "It's not a problem (if I am being sentenced to prison), because this is a part of our struggle." Later in November 2011, another fight between Christians against Muslims happen in Ambon. Muslims allegedly set fire to several Christian houses, forcing the occupants to leave the buildings.
In December 2011, a second church in Bogor, West Java was ordered to halt its activities by the local mayor. Another Catholic church had been built there in 2005. Previously a Christian church, GKI Taman Yasmin, had been sealed. Local authorities refused to lift a ban on the activities of the church, despite an order from the Supreme Court of Indonesia. Local authorities have persecuted the Christian church for three years. While the state has ordered religious toleration, it has not enforced these orders.
In Aceh Province, the only province in Indonesia with autonomous Islamic Shari'a Law, 20 churches in Singkil Regency face threat of demolition due to gubernatorial decree requires the approval of 150 worshippers, while the ministrial decree also requires the approval of 60 local residents of different faiths. On 30 April 2012, all the 20 churches (17 Protestant churches, 2 Catholic churches and one place of worship belonging to followers of a local nondenominational faith) have been closed down by order, from the Acting Regent which also ordered members of the congregations to tear down the churches by themselves. Most of the churches slated for demolition were built in the 1930s and 1940s. The regency has 2 churches open, both built after 2000.
On 9 May 2017, Christian governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has been sentenced to two years in prison by the North Jakarta District Court after being found guilty of committing a criminal act of blasphemy.
Though Iran recognizes Assyrian and Armenian Christians as ethnic and religious minorities (along with Jews and Zoroastrians) and they have representatives in the Parliament, they are nonetheless forced to adhere to Iran's strict interpretation of Islamic law. After the 1979 Revolution, Muslim converts to Christianity (typically to Protestant Christianity) have been arrested and sometimes executed. Youcef Nadarkhani is an Iranian Christian pastor who was arrested on charges of apostasy in October 2009 and was subsequently sentenced to death. In June 2011 the Iranian Supreme Court overruled his death sentence on condition that he recant, which he refused to do. In a reversal on 8 September 2012 he was acquitted of the charges of apostasy and extortion, and sentenced to time served for the charge of "propaganda against the regime," and immediately released.
According to UNHCR, although Christians (almost exclusively ethnic Assyrians and Armenians) now represent less than 5% of the total Iraqi population, they make up 40% of the refugees now living in nearby countries.
In 1987, the last Iraqi census counted 1.4 million Christians. They were tolerated under the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, who even made one of them, Tariq Aziz his deputy. However persecution by Saddam Hussein continued against the Christians on an ethnic, cultural and racial level, as the vast majority are Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic-speaking Ethnic Assyrians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians). The Assyro-Aramaic language and script was repressed, the giving of Hebraic/Aramaic Christian names or Akkadian/Assyro-Babylonian names forbidden (Tariq Aziz's real name was Michael Youhanna for example), and Saddam exploited religious differences between Assyrian denominations such as Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Assyrian Pentecostal Church and Ancient Church of the East, in an attempt to divide them. Many Assyrians and Armenians were ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages under the al Anfal Campaign in 1988, despite this campaign being aimed primarily at Kurds.
In 2004, five churches were destroyed by bombing, and Christians were targeted by kidnappers and Islamic extremists, leading to tens of thousands of Christians fleeing to Assyrian regions in the north or leaving the country altogether.
In 2006, the number of Assyrian Christians dropped to between 500,000 and 800,000, of whom 250,000 lived in Baghdad. An exodus to the Assyrian homeland in northern Iraq, and to neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey left behind closed parishes, seminaries and convents. As a small minority, who until recently were without a militia of their own, Assyrian Christians were persecuted by both Shi'a and Sunni Muslim militias, Kurdish Nationalists, and also by criminal gangs.
As of 21 June 2007, the UNHCR estimated that 2.2 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighbouring countries, and 2 million were displaced internally, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month. A 25 May 2007 article notes that in the past seven months 69 people from Iraq have been granted refugee status in the United States.
In 2007, Chaldean Catholic Church priest Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Dawid, Wahid Hanna Esho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed in the ancient city of Mosul. Ganni was driving with his three deacons when they were stopped and demanded to convert to Islam, when they refused they were shot. Ganni was the pastor of the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul and a graduate from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome in 2003 with a licentiate in ecumenical theology. Six months later, the body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop of Mosul, was found buried near Mosul. He was kidnapped on 29 February 2008 when his bodyguards and driver were killed. See 2008 attacks on Christians in Mosul for more details.
In 2010 there was an attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic cathedral of Baghdad, Iraq, that took place during Sunday evening Mass on 31 October 2010. The attack left at least 58 people dead, after more than 100 had been taken hostage. The al-Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgent group The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack; though Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, amongst others condemned the attack.
During the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq issued a decree in July that all indigenous Assyrian Christians in the area of its control must leave the lands they have occupied for 5000 years, be subject to extortion in the form of a special tax of approximately $470 per family, convert to Islam, or be murdered. Many of them took refuge in nearby Kurdish-controlled regions of Iraq. Christian homes have been painted with the Arabic letter ن (nūn) for Nassarah (an Arabic word Christian) and a declaration that they are the "property of the Islamic State". On 18 July, ISIS militants seemed to have changed their minds and announced that all Christians would need to leave or be killed. Most of those who left had their valuable possessions stolen by the Islamic terrorists. According to Patriarch Louis Sako, there are no Christians remaining in the once Christian dominated city of Mosul for the first time in the nation's history, although this situation has not been verified.
During an attack on the Assyrian Christian town of Qaraqosh, a 5-year-old boy, who's the son of a founding member of St. George's Anglican Church in Baghdad, was slaughtered by Islamic State terrorists, better known as ISIS, who cut the boy in half.
In Malaysia, although Islam is the official religion, Christianity is tolerated under Article 3 and Article 11 of the Malaysian constitution. But at some point, the spread of Christianity is a particular sore point for the Muslim majority, the Malaysian government has also persecuted Christian groups who were perceived to be attempting to proselytize Muslim audiences. Those showing interest in the Christian faith or other faith practices not considered orthodox by state religious authorities are usually sent either by the police or their family members to state funded Faith Rehabilitation Centres (Malay: Pusat Pemulihan Akidah) where they are counseled to remain faithful to Islam and some states have provisions for penalties under their respective Shariah legislations for apostasy from Islam.
It has been the practice of the church in Malaysia to not actively proselytize to the Muslim community. Christian literature is required by law to carry a caption "for non-Muslims only". Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia allows the states to prohibit the propagation of other religions to Muslims, and most (with the exception of Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territories) have done so. There is no well-researched agreement on the actual number of Malaysian Muslim converts to Christianity in Malaysia. According to the latest population census released by the Malaysian Statistics Department, there are none, according to Ustaz Ridhuan Tee, they are 135 and according to Tan Sri Dr Harussani Zakaria, they are 260,000. See also Status of religious freedom in Malaysia.
There are, however, cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith without declaring his/her apostasy openly. In effect, they are practicing Christians, but legally Muslims.
In the 11 Northern states of Nigeria that have introduced the Islamic system of law, the Sharia, sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians have resulted in many deaths, and some churches have been burned. More than 30,000 Christians were displaced from their homes in Kano, the largest city in northern Nigeria.
The Boko Haram Islamist group has bombed churches and killed numerous Christians who they regard as kafirs (infidels). Some Muslim aid organisations in Nigeria reportedly reserve aid for Muslims displaced by Boko Haram. Christian Bishop William Naga reported to Open Doors UK that, "They will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians."
In Pakistan, 1.5% of the population are Christian. Pakistani law mandates that "blasphemies" of the Qur'an are to be met with punishment. At least a dozen Christians have been given death sentences, and half a dozen murdered after being accused of violating blasphemy laws. In 2005, 80 Christians were behind bars due to these laws. The Pakistani-American author Farahnaz Ispahani has called treatment of Christians in Pakistan a "drip-drip genocide."
Ayub Masih, a Christian, was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death in 1998. He was accused by a neighbor of stating that he supported British writer Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses. Lower appeals courts upheld the conviction. However, before the Pakistan Supreme Court, his lawyer was able to prove that the accuser had used the conviction to force Masih's family off their land and then acquired control of the property. Masih has been released.
In October 2001, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a Protestant congregation in the Punjab, killing 18 people. The identities of the gunmen are unknown. Officials think it might be a banned Islamic group.
In March 2002, five people were killed in an attack on a church in Islamabad, including an American schoolgirl and her mother.
On 25 September 2002, two terrorists entered the "Peace and Justice Institute", Karachi, where they separated Muslims from the Christians, and then murdered seven Christians by shooting them in the head. All of the victims were Pakistani Christians. Karachi police chief Tariq Jamil said the victims had their hands tied and their mouths had been covered with tape.
In November 2005, 3,000 Muslims attacked Christians in Sangla Hill in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches. The attack was over allegations of violation of blasphemy laws by a Pakistani Christian named Yousaf Masih. The attacks were widely condemned by some political parties in Pakistan.
On 5 June 2006, a Pakistani Christian, Nasir Ashraf, was assaulted for the "sin" of using public drinking water facilities near Lahore.
One year later, in August 2007, a Christian missionary couple, Rev. Arif and Kathleen Khan, were gunned down by Muslim terrorists in Islamabad. Pakistani police believed that the murders was committed by a member of Khan's parish over alleged sexual harassment by Khan. This assertion is widely doubted by Khan's family as well as by Pakistani Christians.
In August 2009, six Christians, including four women and a child, were burnt alive by Muslim militants and a church set ablaze in Gojra, Pakistan when violence broke out after alleged desecration of a Qur'an in a wedding ceremony by Christians.
On 8 November 2010, a Christian woman from Punjab Province, Asia Noreen Bibi, was sentenced to death by hanging for violating Pakistan's blasphemy law. The accusation stemmed from a 2009 incident in which Bibi became involved in a religious argument after offering water to thirsty Muslim farm workers. The workers later claimed that she had blasphemed the Muhammed. Until 2019, Bibi was in solitary confinement. A cleric had offered $5,800 to anyone who killed her. As of May 2019, Bibi and her family have left Pakistan and now reside in Canada.
On 2 March 2011, the only Christian minister in the Pakistan government was shot dead. Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities, was in his car along with his niece. Around 50 bullets struck the car. Over 10 bullets hit Bhatti. Before his death, he had publicly stated that he was not afraid of the Taliban's threats and was willing to die for his faith and beliefs. He was targeted for opposing the anti-free speech "blasphemy" law, which punishes insulting Islam or its Prophet. A fundamentalist Muslim group claimed responsibility.
On 27 March 2016, a suicide bomber from a Pakistani Taliban faction killed at least 60 people and injured 300 others in an attack at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, and the group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it intentionally targeted Christians celebrating Easter Sunday.
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state that practices Wahhabism and restricts all other religions, including the possession of religious items such as the Bible, crucifixes, and Stars of David. Christians are arrested and lashed in public for practicing their faith openly. Strict sharia is enforced. Muslims are forbidden to convert to another religion. If one does so and does not recant, they can be executed.
Christians in Somalia face persecution associated with the ongoing civil war in that country.
In 1992 there were mass arrests and torture of local priests. Prior to partition, southern Sudan had a number of Christian villages. These were subsequently wiped out by Janjaweed militias.
Syria has been home to Christianity from the 1st to 3rd centuries CE onwards. The majority of Syrian Christians are once Western Aramaic speaking but now largely Arabic speaking Arameans-Syriacs, with smaller minorities of Eastern Aramaic speaking Assyrians and Armenians also extant. While religious persecution has been relatively low level compared to other Middle Eastern nations, many of the Christians have been pressured into identifying as Arab Christians, with the Assyrian and Armenian groups retaining their native languages.
On 17 October 1850 the Muslim majority began rioting against the Uniate Catholics – a minority that lived in the communities of Judayda, in the city of Aleppo.
In FY 2016, when the US dramatically increased the number of refugees admitted from Syria, the US let in 12,587 refugees from the country. Less than 1% were Christian according to the Pew Research Center analysis of State Department Refugee Processing Center data.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is still in a difficult position. Turkish law requires the Ecumenical Patriarch to be an ethnic Greek who holds Turkish citizenship since birth, although most members of Turkey's Greek minority have been expelled. The state's expropriation of church property is an additional difficulty faced by the Church of Constantinople. In November 2007, a 17th-century chapel of Our Lord's Transfiguration at the Halki seminary was almost totally demolished by the Turkish forestry authority. There was no advance warning given for the demolition work and it was only stopped after appeals were filed by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The difficulties currently experienced by the Assyrians and Armenian Orthodox minorities in Turkey are the result of an anti-Armenian and anti-Christian attitude which is espoused by ultra-nationalist groups such as the Grey Wolves. According to the Minority Rights Group, the Turkish government recognizes Armenians and Assyrians as minorities but in Turkey, this term is used to denote second-class status.} In the aftermath of the Sheikh Said rebellion, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East were subjected to harassment by Turkish authorities, on the grounds that some Assyrians allegedly collaborated with the rebelling Kurds. Consequently, mass deportations took place and Assyrian Patriarch Mar Ignatius Elias III was expelled from the Mor Hananyo Monastery which was turned into a Turkish barrack. The patriarchal seat was then temporarily transferred to Homs.
In February 2006, Father Andrea Santoro was murdered in Trabzon. on 18 April 2007 in the Zirve Publishing House, Malatya, TurkeyTemplate:Broken Link Three employees of the Bible publishing house were attacked, tortured and murdered by five Sunni Muslim assailants.
The Christian presence in Yemen dates back to the fourth century AD when a number of Himyarites embrace Christianity due to the efforts of Theophilos the Indian. Currently, there are no official statistics on their numbers, but they are estimated to be between 3,000 and 25,000 people, and most of them are either refugees or temporary residents. Freedom of worship, conversion from Islam and establishing facilities dedicated for worship are not recognized as rights in the country's Constitution and laws. At the same time, Wahabbi activities linked to Al-Islah was being facilitated, financed and encouraged from multiple fronts including the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance, which says that its tasks "to contribute to the development of Islamic awareness and circulation of the publication Education and Islamic morals and consolidation in the life of public and private citizens."
The Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa has worked in Aden since 1992, and it has three other centers in Sana'a, Taiz and Hodeidah. Three Catholic nuns were killed in Hodeidah in 1998, two of them were from India and the third was from the Philippines at the hands of a member of Al-Islah named Abdullah al-Nashiri, who argued that they were calling Muslims to convert to Christianity. In 2002, three Americans were killed in Baptists Hospital at the hands of another Al-Islah member named Abed Abdul Razak Kamel. Survivors say that the suspect (Al-Islah) was "a political football" who had been raised by Islamists, who talked about it often in mosques and who described hospital workers as "spies." But they emphasized that these views are only held by a minority of Yemenis. In December 2015, an old Catholic church in Aden was destroyed.
Since the escalation of the Yemeni crisis in March 2015, six priests from John Bosco remained, and twenty workers for charitable missions in the country, described by Pope Francis by the courage to fortitude amid war and conflict. He called the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia to pray for all the oppressed and tortured, expelled from their homes, and killed unjustly. In all cases, regardless of the values and ethics of the warring forces in Yemen on religious freedom, it is proved that the Missionaries of Charity were not active in the field of evangelization according to the testimonies of beneficiaries of its services.
On 4 March 2016, an incident named Mother Teresa's Massacre in Aden occurred, 16 were killed including 4 Indian Catholic nuns, 2 from Rwanda, and the rest were from India and Kenya, along with a YemenI, 2 Guards, a cook, 5 Ethiopian women, and all of them were volunteers. One Indian priest named Tom Ozhonaniel was kidnapped. The identities of the attackers are unknown, and media outlets published a statement attributed to Ansar al-Sharia, one of the many jihadist organizations currently active in the country, but the group denies its involvement in the incident.
Bhutan is a conservative Buddhist country. Article 7 of the 2008 constitution guarantees religious freedom, but also forbids conversion "by means of coercion or inducement". According to Open Doors, to many Bhutanese this hinders the ability of Christians to proselytize.
- In 2002: According to a 2002 report cited by the Bhutanese Christians Services Centre NGO, "the 65,000 Christians [in the country] have only one church at their disposal."
- In 2006: According to Mission Network News, "it's illegal for a Buddhist to become a Christian and church buildings are forbidden. (...) Christians in Bhutan are only allowed to practice their faith at home. Those who openly choose to follow Christ can be expelled from Bhutan and stripped of their citizenship."
- In 2007: According to Gospel for Asia, "the government has recently begun clamping down on Christians by barring some congregations from meeting for worship. This has caused at least two Gospel for Asia-affiliated churches to temporarily close their doors. (...) Under Bhutan law, it is illegal to attempt to convert people from the country's two predominant religions [Buddhism and Hinduism]."
- Since 2008: According to the "Open Doors" ONG, "Persecution in Buddhist Bhutan mainly comes from the family, the community, and the monks who yield a strong influence in the society. Cases of atrocities (i.e. beatings) have been decreasing in number; this may continue as a result of major changes in the country, including the implementation of a new constitution guaranteeing greater religious liberty."
During the Cultural Revolution, Christian churches, monasteries, and cemeteries were closed down and sometimes converted to other uses, looted, and destroyed.
The communist government of the People's Republic of China tries to maintain tight control over all religions, so the only legal Christian Churches (Three-Self Patriotic Movement and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association) are those under the Communist Party of China control. Churches which are not controlled by the government are shut down, and their members are imprisoned. Gong Shengliang, head of the South China Church, was sentenced to death in 2001. Although his sentence was commuted to a jail sentence, Amnesty International reports that he has been tortured. A Christian lobby group says that about 300 Christians caught attending unregistered house churches were in jail in 2004.
In January 2016, a prominent Christian church leader Rev Gu Yuese who criticised the mass removal of church crucifixes by the government was arrested for "embezzling funds". Chinese authorities have taken down hundreds of crosses in Zhejiang Province known as "China's bible belt". Gu led China's largest authorised church with capacity of 5,000 in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang.
The Associated Press reported in 2018 that China's President Xi Jinping "is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.", which has involved "destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith".
Muslims in India who convert to Christianity have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims. In Jammu and Kashmir, a Christian convert and missionary, Bashir Tantray, was killed, allegedly by Islamic militants in 2006. A Christian priest, K.K. Alavi, a 1970 convert from Islam, thereby raised the ire of his former Muslim community and received many death threats. An Islamic terrorist group named "The National Development Front" actively campaigned against him. In the southern state of India, Kerala which has an ancient pre-Islamic community of Eastern Rite Christians, Islamic Terrorists chopped off the hand of Professor T.J. Joseph due to allegation of blasphemy of Muhammad.
The organisations involved in persecution of Christians have stated that the violence is an expression of "spontaneous anger" of "vanvasis" against "forcible conversion" activities undertaken by missionaries. These claims have been disputed by Christians a belief described as mythical and propaganda by Sangh Parivar; the opposing organisations objects in any case to all conversions as a "threat to national unity". Religious scholar Cyril Veliath of Sophia University stated that the attacks by Hindus on Christians were the work of individuals motivated by "disgruntled politicians or phony religious leaders" and where religion is concerned the typical Hindu is an "exceptionally amicable and tolerant person (...) Hinduism as a religion could well be one of the most accommodating in the world. Rather than confront and destroy, it has a tendency to welcome and assimilate." According to Rudolf C Heredia, religious conversion was a critical issue even before the creation of the modern state. Mohandas K. Gandhi opposed the Christian missionaries calling them as the remnants of colonial Western culture. He claimed that by converting into Christianity, Hindus have changed their nationality.
In its controversial annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians." The report listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. In 1997, twenty-four such incidents were reported. Recent waves of anti-conversion laws passed by some Indian states like Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh is claimed to be a gradual and continuous institutionalization of Hindutva by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US State Department.
North Korea leads the list of the 50 countries in which Christians are persecuted the most at the current time according to a watchlist by Open Doors. It is currently estimated that more than 50,000 Christians are locked inside concentration camps because of their faith, where they are systematically subjected to mistreatment such as unrestrained torture, mass-starvation and even imprisonment and death by asphyxiation in gas chambers. This means that 20% of North Korea's Christian community lives in concentration camps. The number of Christians who are being murdered for their faith seems to be increasing as time goes on because in 2013 the death toll was 1,200 and in 2014, this figure doubled, rendering it close to 2,400 martyred Christians. North Korea has earned the top spot 12 years in a row.
The establishment of French Indochina once led to a high Christian population. Regime changes throughout the 19th and 20th centuries led to increased persecutions of minority religious groups. The Center for Public Policy Analysis has claimed that killings, torture or imprisonment and forced starvation of local groups are common in parts of Vietnam and Laos. In more recent years they have said there is growing persecution of Christians.
- History of Christian thought on persecution and tolerance
- Anti-Christian sentiment
- Christian persecution complex
- Christian Solidarity Worldwide
- Christian martyrs
- International Christian Concern, a Christian human rights NGO whose mission is to help persecuted Christians
- Religious pluralism
- Voice of the Martyrs
- Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 3035
- 2010 East Texas Church Burnings
- Category:Christian martyrs
- Wand 1990, p. 12.
- Wand 1990, p. 13.
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- Ide, Arthur Frederick; Smith, John Paul (1985). Martyrdom of Women: A Study of Death Psychology in the Early Christian Church to 301 CE. Garland: Tangelwuld. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-930383-49-7. apud deMause, Lloyd (2002). "Ch. 9. The Evolution of Psyche and Society. Part III.". The Emotional Life of Nations. New York: Karnac. ISBN 1-892746-98-0.
Both Christians and Jews "engaged in a contest and reflection about the new-fangled practice of martyrdom,"191 even unto suicide...and Augustine spoke of "the mania for self-destruction" of early Christians.192 But the Christians, following Tertullian's dicta that "martyrdom is required by God," forced their own martyrdom so they could die in an ecstatic trance: "Although their tortures were gruesome, the martyrs did not suffer, enjoying their analgesic state."195
192. Arthur J. Droge and James D. Tabor, A Noble Death: Suicide and Martyrdom Among Christians and Jews in Antiquity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 5.
193. Arthur F. Ide, Martyrdom of Women: A Study of Death Psychology in the Early Christian Church to 301 CE. Garland: Tangelwuld, 1985, p. 21.
194. Ibid., p. 136.
195. Ibid., pp. 146, 138.
- Boyarin, Daniel. Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, p. 40
- Droge, Arthur J.; Tabor, James D. (November 1992). A Noble Death: Suicide and Martyrdom Among Christians and Jews in Antiquity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-06-062095-0. Misquoted as Groge and Tabor (1992:136) by C. Douzinas in Closs Stephens, Angharad; Vaughan-Williams, Nick; Douzinas, C. (2009). Terrorism and the Politics of Response. Oxon and New York: Routledge. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-415-45506-0.
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- Joel Thomas Walker (2006). The Legend of Mar Qardagh: Narrative and Christian Heroism in Late Antique Iraq. University of California Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780520932197.
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- Anton Minkov. Conversion to Islam in the Balkans. pp. 41–42.
- Zhelyazkova, Antonina. ‘’Albanian Identities’’. Pages 15–16, 19.
- Zhelyazkova, Antonina. ‘’Albanian Identities’’. Sofia, 2000: International Center for Minority Studies and Intercultural Relations. Page 15-16
- Zhelyazkova Antonina. Albanian Identies. "...If the tax levied on the Christians in the Albanian communities in the 16th century amounted to about 45 akçes, in the middle of the 17th century it ran up to 780 akçes a year. In order to save the clans from hunger and ruin, the Albanian elders advised the people in the villages to adopt Islam...Nevertheless, the willingness of the Gegs to support the campaigns of the Catholic West against the Empire, did not abate.... men in Albania, Christians, but also Muslims, were ready to take arms, given the smallest help from the Catholic West.... the complex dual religious identity of the Albanians become clear. Emblematic is the case of the Crypto-Christians inhabiting the inaccessible geographical area...""
- Pahumi, Nevila (2007). "The Consolidation of Albanian Nationalism". Page 18: "The pasha of Ipek forcibly removed Catholic inhabitants of northern Albania into the plains of southern Serbia after a failed Serb revolt in 1689 and the flight of many Serbs to the Habsburg Empire. The transferred villagers were forced to convert over to Islam."
- Ramet 1998, p. 210. "Then, in 1644, war broke out between Venice and the Ottoman empire. At the urging of the clergy, many Albanian Catholics sided with Venice. The Ottomans responded with severe repressions, which in turn drove many Catholics to embrace Islam (although a few elected to join the Orthodox Church instead)... Within the span of twenty-two years (1649–71) the number of Catholics in the diocese of Alessio fell by more than 50 percent, while in the diocese of Pulati (1634–71) the number of Catholics declined from more than 20,000 to just 4,045. In general, Albanian insurrections during the Ottoman-Venetian wars of 1644–69 resulted in stiff Ottoman reprisals against Catholics in northern Albania and significantly accelerated Islamization... In general, a pattern emerged. When the, Ottoman empire was attacked by Catholic powers, local Catholics were pressured to convert, and when the attack on the Ottoman empire came from Orthodox Russia, the pressure was on local Orthodox to change faith. In some cases Islamization was only superficial, however, and in the nineteenth century many villages and some entire districts remained "crypto-Catholic" in spite of the adopting the externals of Islamic culture."
- Ramet 1998, p. 203. "The Ottoman conquest between the end of the fourteenth century and the mid-fifteenth century introduced a third religion – Islam – but the Turks did not at first use force in its expansion, and it was only in the 1600s that large-scale conversion to Islam began – chiefly, at first, among Albanian Catholics."; p.204. "The Orthodox community enjoyed broad toleration at the hands of the Sublime Porte until the late eighteenth century."; p. 204. "In the late eighteenth century Russian agents began stirring up the Orthodox subjects of the Ottoman empire against the Sublime Porte. In the Russo-Turkish wars of 1768–74 and 1787–91 Orthodox Albanians rose against the Turks. In the course of the second revolt the "New Academy" in Voskopoje was destroyed (1789), and at the end of the second Russo-Turkish war more than a thousand Orthodox fled to Russia on Russian warships. As a result of these revolts, the Porte now applied force to Islamicize the Albanian Orthodox population, adding economic incentives to provide positive stimulus. In 1798 Ali Pasha of Janina led Ottoman forces against Christian believers assembled in their churches to celebrate Easter in the villages of Shen Vasil and Nivica e Bubarit. The bloodbath unleashed against these believers frightened Albanian Christians in other districts and inspired a new wave of mass conversions to Islam."
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Forced Conversion under Atheistic Regimes: It might be added that the most modern example of forced "conversions" came not from any theocratic state, but from a professedly atheist government — that of the Soviet Union under the Communists.
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Peris, Daniel (1998). Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780801434853. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
Created in 1925, the League of the Militant Godless was the nominally independent organization established by the Communist Party to promote atheism.
- Daniel Peris Storming the Heavens: The Soviet League of the Militant Godless Cornell University Press 1998 ISBN 978-0-8014-3485-3
- Antireligioznik (The Antireligious, 1926–41), Derevenskii Bezbozhnik (The Godless Peasant, 1928–1932), and Yunye Bezbozhniki (The Young Godless, 1931–1933).
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Before 1937, the Soviet regime had closed thousands of churches and removed tens of thousands of religious leaders from positions of influence. By the midthirties, Soviet elites set out to conduct a mass liquidation of all religious organizations and leaders... officers in the League of Militant Atheists found themselves in a bind to explain the widespread persistence of religious belief in 1937.... The latest estimates indicate that thousands of individuals were executed for religious crimes and hundreds of thousands of religious believers were imprisoned in labor camps or psychiatric hospitals.
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Churches, when not destroyed, might find themselves converted into museums of atheism.
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Churches, synagogues, mosques and monasteries were shut down in the immediate wake of the Revolution. Many were converted to secular uses or Museums of Atheism (antichurches), whitewashed and their fittings removed.
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From kindergarten onward children are indoctrinated with an aggressive form of atheism and trained to hate and distrust foreigners and to denounce parents who follow religious practices at home.
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Communist Atheism. Official doctrine of the Soviet regime, also called "scientific atheism." It was aggressively applied to Moldova, immediately after the 1940 annexation, when churches were profaned, clergy were assaulted, and signs and public symbols of religion were prohibited, and it was again applied throughout the subsequent decades of the Soviet regime, after 1944. … The St. Theodora Church in downtown Chişinău was converted into the city's Museum of Scientific Atheism,
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Persecution of Christians.|
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