Persecution due to people’s faith  

Dear Sir, — I read with interest your article regarding Coun Michael Unett’s urging Alsager Town Council to fly a rainbow flag to “send out a positive message” about LGBT and Pride months. I was also surprised how many countries persecute LGBT people.
It may also come as a shock that many millions are still persecuted for their faith around the world — Christians, Muslims, Jews and other groups.
Even more shockingly, a report in the Independent in January 2017 estimated that globally, 900,000 Christians were “martyred” over the last decade for their faith (source: Centre for the Study of Global Christianity).
The UN has designated 22nd August as international day commemorating the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief. Can I therefore urge Coun Unett to consider this also? — Yours faithfully, 


While Christian persecution does take place — see this week’s church news page — the figure of 900,000 martyred over the decade before 2017 is not correct.
The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity has a history of producing figures that are (to be kind) used wrongly. It takes rough estimates of Christians who died over a decade and divides by ten. It does not differentiate between Christians who are simply murdered and Christians who are martyred because of their faith. When the BBC’s More Or Less last studied this, it cited Martin Luther King, murdered because he was black and not because of his faith; he was a murdered Christian and would be counted by the centre but was not murdered because of being Christian.
Around two thirds of the deaths the centre reports are as a result of tribal conflict; nearly half of all the deaths came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. To be fair to the centre, it does explain its methodology and use of statistics in its reports, but people using those figures (such as Fox News) do not explain the context.
There were 1,207 Christians killed for faith-related reasons in 2016 according to Open Doors, which collects accurate figures, although it admits its figure is low: it only uses verified deaths. Some people estimate a high end of 10,000 martyrs a year.
Half of all killings are in Nigeria (see our church news this week) and some Nigerian Christians are murdered because they are Christian. However, the situation there is complex and there is a farmer-herder conflict. Most of Boko Haram’s victims are Muslim, “not least because the insurgency takes place in a predominantly Muslim part of the country,” according to magazine Foreign Affairs.
Open Door includes all forms of persecution. The worst nations in its world watch list of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution are North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Iran and India.
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