The Rise of Christian Martyrdom

Some years ago, while studying theology, a professor of mine noted that more Christians were martyred in the 20th Century than in any other century. Whether his statement was true or not, it certainly startled me. It reminded me that while I may enjoy the luxury of living my faith freely, others are not so fortunate.

The news of recent weeks of the slaughter of Christians in Libya, Kenya and so many other places in Africa and the Middle East are profoundly disturbing. The stories challenge me to consider the sacrifices that I might be willing to make for my faith. Am I willing to give everything for Christ, his Gospel and the Church?

My pastor further challenged me last Sunday during his homily for Easter. Reflecting on the horrific execution of young women in Kenya, he noted that while those of us gathered were about to go to our Sunday brunches, many in the world were marching to their deaths because they believed in Christ. To say the least, his words left a lump in my throat and me wondering why I was so worried about my own Sunday meal preparations when I should be concerned more about living my faith more seriously in a world plagued by injustice.
While I am horrified, enraged, and challenged by the martyrdom of so many innocent men, women and children, I realize that their death was not in vain, as the Church Father Tertullian reminds us that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” Periods of martyrdom have always renewed the Church in ages past. Perhaps the martyrs of today will give birth to a new age in the life of the Church.

This does not dismiss the need for us to defend and protect our brothers and sisters from slaughter. Nor should it allow us to go happily along our way without any commitment to truly live the Gospel today. It should, however, compel us to sing the praises of those holy women and men through a faith well lived. May their witness renew our commitment to Christ and all God’s people today.

– Don Beyers, Relationship Manager & Acquisitions Editor


Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out, by Kevin Clarke is a tribute to one of Catholicism’s greatest champions. This biography traces the events leading up to the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero at a chapel altar in San Salvador. To read more about Romero’s heroic example and to purchase this book, click here.

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