The most persecuted religious body on the planet

Contrary to popular belief, Christian persecution is not simply the result of radical Islamic terrorism. In fact, the largest segment of martyrdoms in the 20th century took place in the Soviet Union.

According to Vatican analyst John Allen, Jr., author of the newly released The Global War on Christians, these Christians are indisputably “the most persecuted religious body on the planet.” Too often, he explains in detail, their persecution is either silent or misunderstood.

In his 18th-century classic The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, English historian Edward Gibbon famously attributed the fall of the Roman Empire primarily to the rise of the Christian religion.

The Christian belief in eternal life, paired with the gospel teachings on love of neighbor and the demand to turn the other cheek, were responsible, Gibbon believed, for the weakening of the Roman peoples’ concern with this earthly state.

In his account, Gibbon observed, “When the promise of eternal happiness was proposed to mankind on condition of adopting the faith, and of observing the precepts, of the Gospel, it is no wonder that so advantageous an offer should have been accepted by great numbers of every religion, of every rank, and of every province in the Roman empire.

“The ancient Christians were animated by a contempt for their present existence, and by a just confidence of immortality, of which the doubtful and imperfect faith of modern ages cannot give us any adequate notion.”

While Gibbon’s interpretation of this history has been widely debated, one thing remains undeniable: the influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire forever changed the rest of the world. Critics argue about whether this influence has been for good or ill, but what’s clear is that it has mattered significantly.

Christians now represent almost a third of the world population. And among the 2.2 billion Christians around the globe, over 100 million are the victims of religious persecution. Continue reading.

Book: The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, by John L. Allen, Jr (Image Books, October 2013)

Review by Christopher White, the Director of Education and Programs at the Center for Bioethics and Culture.

Source: The Catholic World Report

Image: The daughters of Pakistani Christian woman Asia Bibi hold a photo of their mother outside their residence in Ittanwalai, Pakistan, in November 2010. CNS photo/Adrees Latif, Reuters

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