Events – Analysis
Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. – 2 Timothy 2:7
The information collected for these pages together makes for a story in and of itself. Together it is possible to see patterns in the numbers behind the many cases of individual martyrdom. For example, below is a chart of the number of pages in our Events documents, arranged by year:
This chart tells quite a story:
- The years 1914 through 1945 cover the Russian and Mexican revolutions, the Armenian, Assyrian, and Pontic Greek genocides, and the events of the Second World War. The constant rise of persecution can be seen in these years.
- The years 1936-38 show the spike in persecution of Christians known as the Spanish Civil War. This event remains the single largest documented persecution of Christians in the 20th century, largely due to its brevity – the immense savagery did not have time to fade before written accounts were set down, due to the relatively quick end to the civil war. Other persecutions were larger but were not as well documented or were spread over a larger time frame.
- The year 1955 saw an uptick due to some good news: the initial release of Christians from the Gulag following the ‘Khrushchev Thaw’ – initial because some would be re-arrested a few years later.
- The larger uptick in 1972-76 is due to the fall of South Vietnam and Cambodia, but most of all to the systematic documentation by Lithuanians of Soviet repression.
- The upswing of documented persecution in Islamic countries following the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003, in which persecution again reached the levels seen in the Second World War.
- Smaller bumps can be seen with the 1962-64 war in the Congo, the 1979-83 civil conflicts in Argentina, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Most of these events were not principally persecutions of Christians, but Christians as ministers and congregations were attacked in each case, or acted to resist the evil of their time and place.
- The last long term downtick was in 1985. The trend has been only upward since then.
One historical point: some people of the political Left castigate the Christians of the 1930’s for their failure to stop the rise of fascism and Nazism. Often the case is made that these Christians made a bargain with the devil by supporting fascism as a ‘bulwark’ against communism. There is some truth to the charge. Some Christians did support fascism and Nazism, although many more supported the less anti-clerical versions that existed in pre-Nazi Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Romania (the evils perpetrated by these regimes should not be minimized either: for example, the government of newly independent Poland persecuted both Polish Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholics by seizing churches for Latin-rite Catholics or by church demolitions).
But in truth there were comparatively few examples of violent anti-Christian persecution by the political Right prior to 1937. Look at the extent of the persecution that the chart reveals in the years prior to 1937, and recall that nearly all such violence was perpetrated by the political Left. The scale of this violence was monumental and impossible to ignore without special pleading and excusing. In conclusion, such considerations show that 1) such anti-Left biases by Christians did not appear unreasonable at the time, and 2) the anti-fascist and anti-Nazi actions of Christians such as Dietrich Bonhoffer and Pope Pius XI and their associates in the 1930’s become all the more remarkable and prophetic.
A few caveats about the chart:
- The 1917-1953 and 2003-present numbers will undoubtedly increase with further research, since available records have not been exhausted. The same is true of the other time periods, but probably to a lesser extent
- Since the focus of this site is of named individual Christians, those who anonymously suffered martyrdom are underrepresented on this chart. Many persecutions remain relatively undocumented, particularly in Asia.
- The pre-2012 numbers mainly reflect official records of arrests and executions. Beginning in 2012 unofficial (non-governmental) media accounts become available thanks to the internet, and so beatings, sexual assaults, and similar crimes against Christians then become available – that is, until the pages disappear from the internet. This explains the vertical line that extends past the top of the chart. It is likely that further research for these news sources would shift this vertical line leftward back to 2002-05.
This chart will be updated on at least a bi-monthly basis.
Events – Analysis