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It's often claimed that 100,000 Christians are killed every year because of their religion. Earlier this year, the Vatican called it a credible number. But is it?
"Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that every year an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are killed because of some relation to their faith," Vatican spokesman Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi announced in a radio address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in May.
On the internet, the statistic has taken on a life of its own, popping up all over the place, sometimes with an additional detail - that these 100,000 lives are taken by Muslims.
The number comes originally from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the US state of Massachusetts, which publishes such a figure each year in its Status of Global Mission.
Its researchers started by estimating the number of Christians who died as martyrs between 2000 and 2010 - about one million by their reckoning - and divided that number by 10 to get an annual number, 100,000.
But how do they reach that figure of one million?
When you dig down, you see that the majority died in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
More than four million are estimated to have been killed in that war between 2000 and 2010, and CSGC counts 900,000 of them - or 20% - as martyrs.
Over 10 years, that averages out at 90,000 per year.
So when you hear that 100,000 Christians are dying for their faith, you need to keep in mind that the vast majority - 90,000 - are people who were killed in DR Congo.
This means we can say right away that the internet rumours of Muslims being behind the killing of 100,000 Christian martyrs are nonsense. The DRC is a Christian country. In the civil war, Christians were killing Christians.
"The genocide in Rwanda was based on the systematic killing of an ethnic group in an attempt to completely wipe them out and it had nothing to do with the beliefs or the worship or the people who were killed," says Ian Linden, author of Church and Revolution in Rwanda, and associate professor in the study of religion at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.
"The civil wars in the DRC were the consequences of a failed state, disintegrated military force so that militias had almost full power because of the weapons they had. They were indiscriminately killing and raping and plundering and it's very difficult to describe any of that killing as creating martyrdom."
"One has to see that there is no scientific number at the moment. It has not been researched and all experts in this area are very hesitant to give a figure," he says.
"We are starting a research project with several universities worldwide on this topic and there we start with a guess of 7-8,000 Christians killed as martyrs each year."
But to some extent this number crunching is besides the point for author John Allen.
"I think it would be good to have reliable figures on this issue, but I don't think it ultimately matters in terms of the point of my book, which is to break through the narrative that tends to dominate discussion in the West - that Christians can't be persecuted because they belong to the world's most powerful church.
Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year?
Here I thought in order for someone to become a Christian martyr they had to die because of their faith. Am I wrong in thinking that? Are you saying anyone who dies from violence becomes a martyr of whatever faith they held?
16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
Some Roman Catholic writers (such as Thomas Cahill) continue to use a system of degrees of martyrdom that was developed in early Christianity. Some of these degrees bestow the title of martyr on those who sacrifice large elements of their lives alongside those who sacrifice life itself. These degrees were mentioned by Pope Gregory I in Homilia in Evangelia, he wrote of "three modes of martyrdom, designated by the colors, red, blue (or green), and white."
A believer was bestowed the title of red martyr due to either torture or violent death by religious persecution. The term "white martyrdom" was used by the Church Father Jerome, "for those such as desert hermits who aspired to the condition of martyrdom through strict asceticism." Blue (or green) martyrdom "involves the denial of desires, as through fasting and penitent labors without necessarily implying a journey or complete withdrawal from life".
Also along these lines are the terms "wet martyr" (a person who has shed blood or been executed for the faith) and "dry martyr" which is a person who "had suffered every indignity and cruelty" but not shed blood, nor suffered execution.