Now write what you have seen, what is, and what is to take place after this. – Revelation 1:19
Clockwise from upper left: Church burning in Peshawar, Pakistan; feminists attack a cathedral in San Juan, Argentina; cross burning in Pakistan – courtesy Abiz Nawaz; massacre of Christian students at Garissa University College in Kenya; army tank sale to Nicaragua; young Christians pray in a burned-out church in Egypt; RSS Hindu paramilitary rally in India.
Weekly Commentary – November 15-21, 2020
With this resumption of our reporting we have a small report (please click here to read): a shooting and beheadings in France, a beheading in Italy, churches burnt in Chile, and an anti-Christian proposal for the government in the United States.
Church of the Assumption, Santiago, Chile – courtesy Martin Bernetti, Getty Images
This week marks the ninth anniversary of the beginning of publication of Today’s Martyrs. Most readers will know that this is our first weekly publication in five months. Why this ‘sabbatical’?
There have been a host of reasons, but the one of interest to the reader is that the principal author has suffered from a kind of fatigue. Has nine years of stories of discrimination and persecution taken a toll? Not really, although it cannot be completely excluded. Another factor is that some original reporters of these stories – people who this writing is dependent upon – have quit the field, and so our news sources have become constrained: a disheartening fact.
However, the greatest factor in our ‘sabbatical’ of fatigue has been the ongoing social climate seen on the internet throughout the Anglophone world. We have always written about the ‘unreality’ of the thinking of those who hate Christianity, it has been a persistent theme here. What is new is the broad sense of unreality across the spectrum of politics, public health, public order, and even in our interpersonal relationships. We have watched as dozens of fellow Christians who we have greatly admired have fallen to these intellectual seductions and by their words have advanced untruths, often with declining charity. How far from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 have we fallen in 2020:
We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil; rather, always seek what is good for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.
While it is our opinion that events could be worse, and probably will get worse, the rate at which new untruths have been introduced to discourse seems to be slowing (even though we likely have not fully comprehended those now before us). Perhaps all of us are fatigued now. Perhaps we might really begin to pray without ceasing. Christian hope, after all, is a wonderful gift; let us ask for it!
Announcement – June 18, 2020
We have added two new reports on Christian persecution to our Reports page.
The first is the 2019 Report on International Religious Freedom, which has been issued by the U.S. Department of State Office of International Religious Freedom.
The second is entitled NIGERIA: UNFOLDING GENOCIDE? – An Inquiry by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief. This group is an unofficial committee of members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, what in the U.S. would be called a caucus.
Please share these links with anyone who you think might care. Thank you.
Weekly Commentary June 7-13, 2020
This week we have more death and dislocation in Nigeria. Much more.
We also have murder and attempted murder in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in Pakistan, and in India. The Indian case is particularly vicious: it is unusual for Christians to be premeditatively killed in India, but a 14-year old convert and aspiring minister was killed in just this way. There always are cases such as this that push against past restraints and open the door to the habituation of greater violence – that is, if horror and repentance does not follow.
Our report this week (please click here to read in full) finishes with a persecution account from China and discrimination stories from Pakistan and the United States. As usual, please pray for all involved.
Weekly Commentary May 31 – June 6, 2020
In Nigeria this past week a minister and his wife were killed while working on their farm. Their eight children escaped death because they saw the signs of the times and arranged for them to be moved to a safer location, but the ninth child had yet to be born and so died with them. If you follow the links in our report this week you will see that this minister was a doctoral student in the United States. What a loss!
A pastor in India was hospitalized in a coma after a beating.
A housewife in Egypt was reported to have been hospitalized after an attempted beheading while she was returning home with groceries. Six more women have been abducted in Egypt, one – a mother of three and mathematics teacher – appeared to have been drugged so that a video could be made of her renouncing Christianity.
Churches were vandalized in Turkey, Ukraine, and the United State, the last in a frenzy driven by a case of police brutality. Among the churches vandalized was a church in Los Angeles composed of Christians who had left the Mideast due to persecution there.
The events of this week demonstrate how quickly things can change, and how unprepared we are to adapt to such change. If a spiritual life were to give anything beneficial, it should give some small sense of peace. After praise and gratitude to God, our prayers should be directed toward all human needs, and the least of all of these is inner peace. Still, we need such peace now.
former church, Pontus, Argyroupoli area, Turkey – courtesy DHA
Holy Dormition Monastery, Odessa, Ukraine – courtesy Facebook
Cathedra of Sts. Sophia, Faith, Hope, and Love, Ternopil, Ukraine – courtesy tp.npu.gov.ua
Lewis Street Church of Christ, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA – courtesy Arkansas Democrat Gazette
Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon St. Peter Cathedral, Los Angeles, California, USA – courtesy fouxx and Rita Assaker Batouli
Weekly Commentary May 24-39, 2020
Pakistan has two particularly ugly stories this week (please click here to read the report in full). In one story a 17 year old girl with hearing and speech impediments was abducted from her home; police refused to file a report for two months. In the other story a man attempted to rape a 7 year old Christian girl while she was on her way to prepare for Easter at her grandmother’s home. Fortunately a Muslim neighbor heard her screams and rescued her. The man admitted to police that he had committed almost two dozen other such crimes, but the girl’s family is still under pressure to drop the charges.
A Pakistani family which had fled to Thailand to escape persecution has finally been granted asylum in Australia, but the father has yet to be released from overcrowded detention.
In China a Christian was detained for delivering a meal to the home of another Christian.
Please read our report and remember all those who suffer from persecution both great and small.
Weekly Commentary May 17-23, 2020
It sounds like a bad joke: how many nuns does it take to be found dead in water wells before anyone notices?
The answer, it would seem, is about twenty.
A young novice, a nun-in-training, was found dead in a convent’s well in early May, in the Indian state of Kerala. The initial reports gave no reason to have seen it as an anti-Christian act, but now another nun has written a report in which she stated that since 1987 almost 20 nuns and novices have been found dead in wells in convents in Kerala state. In the most recent case this poor young woman was found with the lower part of her clothing missing. In this case, and in all cases since 1987, the state authorities have declared the nuns died of ‘natural causes’.
Other deaths in our report this week (please click here to read in full) include the murder of two Christians in Kenya along with the Muslim who tried to protect them, and the murder of an abducted elderly woman in Turkey. No named Christians were reported to have been killed in Nigeria, but lethal attacks were reported and one Nigerian Christian wrote that 620 Christians had been killed there so far in 2020 – as of today we have names on our reports of only 71 of them.
Christians were sexually assaulted in Nigeria and Bangladesh.
A 21-year old Iranian covert has been sentenced to a flogging on a spurious charge of breach of peace. Her name is Fatemeh “Mary” Mohammadi, and we commend her to you for your prayers: she appears to be one of those rare people who fully combines spirit and truth, in that she accurately sees the events around her and has the strength to stand for the truth. Pray that God may protect her.
A pastor from the United States was finally cleared of falsified charges that he evaded India’s currency laws when he brought money into the country, but he still had to leave the money behind and pay more fees before he was allowed to leave. He was innocent of law-breaking but not innocent of Christianity.
Churches were physically attacked or destroyed in Egypt and the United States.
Please redouble your prayers for Christians in these lands, in China, and everywhere.
St Mary Church, Ghobrial, Alexandria, Egypt – courtesy Copts United
St Karas Church, Koum Faraj, Abul Matamir, Behira province, Egypt – courtesy Copts United
First Pentecostal Church, Holly Springs, Mississippi, USA – courtesy The Southern Reporter
Weekly Commentary May 10-16, 2020
Who has ever heard of ‘the leftovers of the sword’?
The phrase ‘the leftovers of the sword’ gained some visibility when Turkish President Erdogan used it earlier this month in a speech attacking his political opponents. It turns out that this common Turkish phrase references the small number of Christians who survived the successive genocides of a century ago. They are the leftovers of swords that President Erdogan and many others claim were never used. A Turkish columnist and academic at Columbia University in New York City, Dr. Ohannes Kilicdagi (who is not a practicing Christian), wrote the obvious response:
Think about a country that actively uses a phrase like ‘leftover of the sword’ in the political culture and language. It is used by the highest authorities. But the same authorities of the same country claim that ‘there is no massacre in our history’. If there is not, then where does this phrase come from? Who does it refer to?
The only conclusion is that such ‘authorities’ and their political adherents are shameless liars.
Other stories in our report this week (click here to read in full) include:
- Another attempt by Turkish media to implicate Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I (another leftover) in the 2016 attempted coup. We have listed several such recent attempts against his reputation and one possibly against his life for perspective.
- In more COVID-19 pandemic news, Indian Christians were unable to receive aid, and U.S. Christians were told that they should not give aid. A church in Pakistan, unused due to the pandemic, was attacked. A U.S. missionary pilot was killed in an Indonesian air crash while flying medical supplies to remote clinics.
- Nigerians continue to be slaughtered. Nigerian children continue to be slaughtered.
There was one miraculous story from Nigeria: a family of four was shot by Muslim gunmen. Every bullet missed vital organs. The father, a minister and high school headmaster, publicly thanked God.
In Myanmar (formerly Burma) the wife and three children of a minister who had been abducted and declared dead over a year ago found him walking into their village, very much alive! Can we possibly imagine the emotions of that moment?! The elation was tempered by the condition of his release: he was to abandon his flock and relocate elsewhere, under pain of death.
Please continue your prayers. Miracles do happen, after all.
Weekly Commentary May 3-9, 2020
Aside from the usual Chinese stories of arrests and the death of elderly clergy after a long life of faithful service in the face of persecution in our report this week (click here to read in full) there are two stories of Western persecution.
First, Australian authorities appear to be preparing for more action against Cardinal George Pell. Pell was freed last month from prison after the High Court in Canberra unanimously ruled that the court which had convicted him of child sex abuse did so despite failing to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has now released a report claiming that Pell should have known of sexual abuse by others, with the implication that he perjured himself when he denied knowledge of such crimes. The report presented no evidence to back the claim, but that did not stop the Victoria state police from opening a new investigation of the 78-year old cardinal archbishop.
It appears that the Australian authorities have in mind a replay of the trial of Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson, who was charged by police in March 2015 with concealing a serious offence regarding child sexual abuse (alleged by a former priest who had been convicted of pedophilia to have happened 30 years earlier!), and was convicted in May 2018; this conviction was overturned on appeal when the appellate court ruled – five days before Pell’s child abuse conviction – that there was no evidence that a crime had been committed. At this point justice in one Western constitutional democracy has begun to appear not unlike the show trials in the Eastern European Communist regimes of the 1950’s, with only the appellate courts relatively free of taint.
The second story involves libel against Br. Rene Stockman, the Superior General of the Brothers of Charity, a Catholic religious order which two centuries ago founded a now-worldwide chain of hospitals for the mentally ill. The hospitals in Belgium for years have been under the control of a separate corporation called the Brothers of Charity Group (or Organization). This corporation in 2016-2017 bowed to the prevailing secular winds and decided to allow its patients to be euthanized. Br. Stockman and most of the monks of his order fought this decision, as detailed in a Today’s Martyrs biography of him, but they did not prevail. Last month the Vatican issued a ruling that the corporation could no longer call itself Catholic, and Br. Stockman then stated that he would attempt the remove the ‘Brothers of Charity’ name from the corporation. The leadership of the corporation has not only refused to relinquish the name, but has now accused Br. Stockman of coveting hospital assets in an attempt to finance missionary activity in Africa! They all but insinuated that modern Belgians are too intelligent and educated and that only backward Africans would want to join a religious life of charity and prayer! This is the third Great Lie to come out of the corporate leadership and their media enablers, the first was their ‘Christian’ justification for euthanasia and the second was their 2017 assertion that the Brothers of Charity religious order supported the new euthanasia policy.
The Father of Lies is quite active in the world today. Please pray that truth will prevail. Please help make it prevail.
Weekly Commentary April 26 – May 2, 2020
Ten Nigerians were reported to have died at the hands of Islamic militants in our report this week (please click here to read in full); a local tribal chief gave a sense of perspective for us all: “With this coronavirus people are suffering, but this killing is more dangerous than the coronavirus”. COVID-19 also figures as an excuse for persecution in a case in Indonesia, and in the persecution of Christians attempting online worship in China. Other stories of repression by the governments of China (one involving a Christian with radiation sickness!) and Vietnam round out our report. All of these people need our prayers, please remember them.
Weekly Commentary April 19-25, 2020
Is there a war against Christians? Yes, quite literally in some places.
In our report this week (click here to read in full) there is an account of Myanmar Air Force bombings of Christian villages. The government claimed that separatists from neighboring Rakhine state had crossed the border into Chin state and occupied the villages, but no one was able to confirm that. Chin state is 75% Christian.
The Myanmar army has pushed Muslim separatists from Rakhine state across the border into Bangladesh where they, their families, and other victims of repression have filled refugee camps. There are a handful of Christian converts among these refugees: a Christian pastor and his 14-year old daughter were abducted by their fellow tribesmen, and it is feared he is dead and she has been forced into an Islamic marriage.
We also have stories from Iran and the Cuban vacation island paradise. Please continue your prayers.
Weekly Commentary April 12-18, 2020
Another Christian has been identified as released from prison in Iran due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
That is the end of the good news. In other news (click here to read our report in full) we have thirty six Christians murdered in three African countries: Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Nigeria. The Kenyan story is a repeat, since close family of the victims have now been identified. In Nigeria local Christians have said that the Muslim gunmen have been taking advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown to hunt Christians, including a baby and the elderly.
The last story from Uganda is the opposite of a lockdown, it is a liberation, though with a price. A mother of nine left Islam and converted to Christianity, and over a few weeks all of her children decided to do the same. Her husband was furious when he found out, and he beat her, but then he saw Jesus in a dream and converted. The entire family was driven from their home and land when it was discovered. This is not an unusual story in the Islamic world, in the last few decades that have been dozens if not hundreds of such stories of dream-based conversions (for a particularly moving story of this type see The Price to Pay: A Muslim Risks All to Follow Christ by Joseph Fadelle). Please pray for more conversions from every ideology and lukewarmness that impedes our salvation.
Weekly Commentary April 5-11, 2020
Good news this week (click here to read our report in full)! First, Cardinal George Pell was released from a prison in Melbourne after having spent over a year there following his conviction on spurious sex abuse charges. The Australian High Court in Canberra unanimously ruled that the jury erred by not finding him not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The media personalities responsible for the two-decade defamation campaign against Pell showed no remorse, rather they doubled down on their persecution by calling the High Court ruling irresponsible in the face of their evidence. The usually pugnacious Pell was rather subdued upon achieving freedom, he said that he would not pursue charges of malicious prosecution: “I hold no ill will to my accuser. I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel”.
In a second good story, seven Christians were temporarily released from prison in Iran as part of anti-COVID-19 pandemic efforts. They were reportedly one-third of all imprisoned Christians in the country; the others remained imprisoned due to the severity of their sentences.
We have two more COVID-19 related stories. Many Christians in Pakistan are migrant workers, and they are now unemployed due to the lockdowns there. Local NGOs have been charged with supplying food to the unemployed, but they are refusing to supply food to non-Muslims. In Egypt concern has been raised for a young Christian who was jailed in November 2019 for posting videos to YouTube of the evictions of Christians from their homes; he suffers from asthma and so his release from jail has been sought, so far unsuccessfully.
We conclude with a story from China concerning the detention of a priest for refusing to join the official government sanctioned church.
Please continue your prayers of thanksgiving and your prayers of supplication and deliverance. God bless you!
Weekly Commentary March 29 – April 4, 2020
We have thirteen stories this week (please click here to read our full report) from seven countries, four of which are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three stories are not of martyrdom per se, but rather fall under the category of people who are at some risk of martyrdom, including knowledgeable Christian reporters.
One of the stories has a positive outcome, the release of a pastor’s wife from prison in Cuba. Her husband is still imprisoned.
Two stories, one from China and one from Egypt, are ‘deep background’ stories of the general plight of Christians in those nations.
Several stories come to us from Palestine of persecution there, both in the Bethlehem area and in Gaza.
The pandemic-influenced stories are:
- A hotel chef in China has now been deprived of a livelihood by both lockdowns and police harassment
- A Christian member of parliament in Lebanon tweeted a list of books she recommended for people to read while homebound under lockdown. One book on her list, The Last Days of Muhammad, is controversial among Muslims, with some approving and others not. The tweet prompted clerical condemnations, and so she issued a retraction. We can only pray that the opponents of the book will not seek vengeance against her in the future
- Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York City threatened to permanently close churches and synagogues that have refused to obey pandemic closure orders. A number of prominent Christians objected to this unconstitutional threat, and we have quoted the one critic with a national platform (and who supported the temporary closures as a public health necessity). As an aside, it should be noted that DeBlasio did not threaten permanent closure of the city’s open mosques, despite the fact that nearly 90 city Muslims have died as of this writing.
- A missionary nun from India who belonged to Mother Teresa’s order has died of the disease after distributing food parcels to infected poor people in Wales.
This last story brings up a theme that has been a constant in the history of Christianity. Many Christians, like this nun in Wales, have died in the last two thousand years after ministering to the sick as Jesus commanded, either in epidemics or during the normal course of human events. All who do so while knowingly risking their lives are true martyrs, and modern circumstances do not change that. What modern knowledge has changed is the necessity that such risks be taken. We know much more about contagion and we have the material means to protect church ministers from spreading infection among their flock and each other, at least until material shortages develop and medical personal protection equipment becomes reserved for healthcare workers – at which point more risks could be justified. From a Christian perspective it is a beautiful thing that this nun in Wales risked her life to feed the poor, but it is also a tragedy that the poor can no longer depend on her and on her sisters who all became sick and were placed under quarantine in their convent.
The Church in her desire to advance her ministry has always adopted better ways which the greater society has invented. She immediately took advantage of the newly invented bound codex to spread the Gospel and so largely bypassed the use of scrolls, and then adopted the printing press, radio, television, and the internet. Bicycles, automobiles and even aircraft have been adopted to aid missionaries and other ministers in their work. The Church herself invented the concept of the modern hospital. It stands to reason that this is not our last pandemic and so the Church will likely have to stockpile personal protection equipment and train and certify her ministers in their use if she is to continue to gain access to hospitals and otherwise serve the sick and dying on their last steps to Heaven. Please pray that we will continue to find the wisdom that will be necessary for such transition and growth.