Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16
What is a martyr?
The word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’. Originally it was applied to a Christian who died for the faith, or who suffered grievously at the hands of persecutors. Some denominations prefer the term ‘confessor’ for those who suffer persecution short of death, but certainly today’s confessor may become tomorrow’s martyr.
Therefore Today’s Martyrs takes a more expansive view. Included in a broader definition of martyr are people who witness to the suffering of their friends and family. Also a primary goal of this site is to identify people who are at some risk of martyrdom and so give the reader cause to pray for them before that cup comes to them.
On rare occasions knowledgeable Christian reporters of events are included, both professional reporters and church leaders. The election of church leaders, especially in locations where persecution exists, is also reported.
Are all martyrs the victims of persecution?
Many if not most are, but not all. Today we also talk about ‘martyrs of charity’ who, for example, sicken or even die while helping the victims of epidemics, or mothers who risk their lives to save their unborn children.
Are all martyrs saints?
Definitely not, if by ‘saint’ we mean ‘good person’. Some people mentioned on this site have done things which cannot be counted among acts normally called Christian (including the toppling of genocidal dictators), but they still suffer because they are Christian or try to follow Christian tenets. Examples would include incarcerated criminals who are denied clergy before their executions, or the families of incarcerated criminals who are denied their bodies for Christian internment after their deaths in prison. Some are guilty of crimes but their punishments far exceed that of non-Christian criminals in their societies. Today’s Martyrs maintains that martyrs who become martyrs for the wrong reasons need prayers too.
Then again, some of these people have been canonized (a Catholic term), glorified (an Orthodox term), honored, or remembered by their traditions. Today’s Martyrs contends that ecumenism should lead all Christians to honor these actions in other denominations as their conscience allows.
Some of the incidents listed here are common crimes, how can these be considered to be acts of martyrdom?
Normally crimes against Christians are not counted. Exceptions exist. Crimes against Church ministers and crimes against church buildings are attacks on the entire Christian community regardless of motive. Also, crimes perpetrated by Muslims who likely believe themselves to be enforcing the Islamic requirement to collect jizya (tribute) from Christians or the allowance to take Christian women to enslave them [cf. Quran 4:3, 4:24, 23:1-6, 33:50, and 70:30] are reported. In some countries this sexual slavery and jizya vigilantism is epidemic, and the victims are victims because they are Christians – these common crimes are acts of persecution.
So, this site is anti-Muslim?
Not at all. In fact this site wherever possible reports on Muslims who stand up and protect Christians from their co-religious. It also reports on the Christians who stand up and attempt to protect Muslims from those who persecute them – the greatest example possibly that of the 1964 martyrdom of Fr. Herman Rasschaert. More recent examples can be found on the People page biographies here, here, here, and here.
On the other hand, this site will not deny the aggressive, legal, and supremacist elements within Islam that lead some Muslims to persecute Christians and others, including other Muslims. It also will not deny acts of persecution by anyone else, including Christians.
The fundamental bottom line for Today’s Martyrs is, to quote a convert from Islam, “Muslims are not the enemy, they are the prize”. Muslims are no different than the rest of us: ultimately, we are all called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
So, Today’s Martyrs mixes politics and religion?
Nearly all persecutors are political. Persecutors require power over their victims, and most power is political. We point out the truth as we can best find it.
I would not consider some of the people listed here to be Christian; why are they here?
The policy of Today’s Martyrs is to adopt the broadest possible definition of ‘Christian’. Generally, if someone professes their salvation through Jesus Christ then that person will be counted here, regardless of the exact theological dogmas of their faith. The reasons for this policy are humility and practicality – the practical being that the persecutors of those people today might just become your persecutors tomorrow. Persecutors generally don’t care about denominational labels, except when they are practicing ‘divide and conquer’ tactics.
This policy means that if the followers of the presbyter Arius had survived into the 20th century and been persecuted by the Nazis (Arians persecuted by Aryans) we would report on their suffering as fellow Christians.
This policy also means that people who adhere to Messianic Judaism will also be counted here as martyrs, despite the fact that they see themselves as Jews first and not Christians.
Of course, there are ‘syncretic Christians’ in various parts of the world who believe in a syncretic blend of Christian and non-Christian beliefs – see the biographies here and here for current examples of church leaders who have dealt with syncretism. Some of these syncretic Christians may become orthodox Christians tomorrow with additional catechesis or evangelization, so it is hard to draw a line with them. But, at some point a line does have to be drawn with syncretism; Today’s Martyrs will do so on a case by case basis as needed. One obvious standard is violence: a ‘Christian’ group which advocates violence that goes beyond the traditional Christian views of justifiable self-defense will likely result in Today’s Martyrs not reporting on members of that group.
Why do the entries on the emails and archives not describe the particular denomination of these martyrs?
Again, persecutors don’t care about such differences. When we want to know how individual Christians came to witness for Christ then yes, knowing their particular denominations can be of value, which is why this information is often mentioned in their biographies. Sometimes it helps to know the denomination of a particular church parish that suffers repeated attacks. Otherwise brevity and ecumenism will prevail and such matters will be left unsaid.
The denominational affiliations may not be listed, but it is possible to determine many of them, and I notice that some are more represented than others. Why?
Different Christian denominations have different beliefs regarding their commemoration of their martyrs, and this leads to differences in the creation and availability of records. We would be the first to acknowledge that this leads to reporting disparities. We wish that all Christian denominations would use similar processes in their commemorations – it would make our reporting much easier and more inclusive. Perhaps our work might inspire this?
Also, some denominations simply have more members than others. Demographics does affect representation.
Is the information here really accurate?
It is as accurate as possible. Christians are well aware of the minor discrepancies between the four Gospels. It can be honestly stated that Gospel differences are nothing compared to the differences in the accounts of the BBC, CNN, AP, and local news sources of the same current events – at least until the media begin to impose their ‘narratives’ on the stories. One would think that modern technology would minimize these conflicts, but years of research for Today’s Martyrs reports prove this is not true. The accounts on the Events pages can and do benefit from the consolidation of multiple versions of the stories that are discovered over time.
One exception is that Today’s Martyrs will occasionally repeat rumors that appear to be irrational, such as fear of mass poisonings. This is done so that the reader can appreciate the incredible pressure that some Christians are under in certain parts of the world. The reader will need to develop their own discernment regarding the truth of these rumors.
So, you list people here who are not ‘good Christians’, who repeat irrational rumors, and who otherwise fail to fully reach any ideal of martyrdom?
Yes we do. So what? Is there something wrong with praying for Christians who experience moments of weakness, confusion, or otherwise are slow to attain some ‘ideal’ raised by armchair martyrologists (or worse, critics who lack faith in Christ)? Yes, we’ll pray for you too, as we do for all of our readers.
What is a ‘Divine Liturgy’?
Eastern churches [Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic churches] that perform Eucharistic celebrations use this term to describe them. In the Latin-rite [Roman] Catholic church and sometimes in the Anglican and Lutheran churches the word ‘Mass’ is used, but properly understood a Mass is just a particular Divine Liturgy. The Church of the East [Assyrian and Chaldean churches] has a Divine Liturgy that it calls the ‘Holy Qurbana’. Many news reports change ‘Divine Liturgy’ to ‘Mass’ to ease understanding for U.S. readers; Today’s Martyrs does not. If the particular denomination is unknown then the terms ‘Liturgy’ or ‘Eucharist’ will be used, depending on location.
Why are some historical events listed, such as the Normandy invasion, but not others of similar magnitude?
Events such as the Normandy invasion are listed due to their impact on ordinary people. For example, the 1944 Allied invasion of France triggered mass executions of prisoners by the Germans. The 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union triggered mass executions of prisoners by the Soviets. A careful reading of the Events documents will uncover other examples.
One interesting example is the beginning of the Spanish Civil War: most historians agree on a particular date in July 1936, but these events documents show that clergy were being killed in smaller numbers for weeks preceding the ‘official’ beginning.
Why do you put national flags on your reports, just like a competing Christian web site does?
First, Today’s Martyrs does not compete with other Christian sites, as explained on the Home page and Links page. Second, for the first three years of publication Today’s Martyrs did not put flags or any other illustrations on our emails. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was the reason we began to add them.
When the Events pages were expanded into an archive of historical events it was quickly discovered that the sheer volume of documented atrocities in the first months of the Spanish Civil War was overwhelming, and not only emotionally. Christians outside Spain were also martyred during this time, but it was almost impossible to find them inside the hundreds of chronological pages of Spanish atrocities. This fact forced our hands: we had to add the national flags to help the reader distinguish among these victims. Scroll through this document (Warning! It is over 100 pages long) for one example. Consistency then required this be done everywhere.
Why do the Events pages begin in 1912?
Two reasons. First, 1912 was the centennial of our first full year of publication. Second, some historians have written that 1912 should be seen as the beginning of the modern era, with events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Balkan Wars which led to the First World War.
Why on the older Events pages do you use the modern names for countries?
Basically for reasons of continuity. Not everyone knows where Belarus is, and even fewer know that it was once the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. So a decision has been made to ease this issue for novice readers, and also to aid search functions. The same has been done for local names, but there are exceptions: Leningrad will be Leningrad during the years it carried that name – there is just too much history associated with it.
Continuity is also the reason why the Soviet Union is rarely mentioned on the historical Events documents. The USSR / Soviet Union name or flag is used only when it cannot be determined from accounts which Soviet republic was the location of an act of martyrdom.
You are not consistent with the location of Jerusalem! Sometime you write it is in Israel and sometimes it is in Palestine!
Guilty as charged. East Jerusalem is a disputed territory, even among Christians. Today’s Martyrs would prefer to stay neutral in this dispute. We have decided that when persecutors are Israeli we will write that East Jerusalem is in Israel, and when persecutors are Palestinian East Jerusalem will be in Palestine. This compromise is guaranteed to make no one happy, and so it it probably the best course of all.
Why is my country always near the top on the daily entries on the Events pages?
The countries on the Events documents are arranged in order of time zone, starting at the International Date Line and moving west with the rising of the sun. If you don’t like seeing your county at the top each day you can:
- Change your country’s time zones,
- Move the International Date Line,
- Reverse the earth’s rotation, so that the sun rises in the west, or
- Stop persecuting Christians.
Obviously #4 is the easiest to do, so why not just do it? You will get loyal, productive citizens who you will be able to depend upon for all of your country’s real needs. And you will get God’s blessings as well. Truly.