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The persecution of Christians can be historically traced from the first century of the Christian era to the present day. Christian missionaries and converts to Christianity have both been targeted for persecution, sometimes to the point of being martyred for their faith, ever since the emergence of Christianity.
Early Christians were persecuted at the hands of both Jews, from whose religion Christianity arose, and the Romans who controlled many of the early centers of Christianity in the Roman Empire. Since the emergence of Christian states in Late Antiquity, Christians have also been persecuted by other Christians due to differences in doctrine which have been declared heretical. Early in the fourth century, the empire's official persecutions were ended by the Edict of Serdica in 311 and the practice of Christianity legalized by the Edict of Milan in 312. By the year 380, Christians had begun to persecute each other. The schisms of late antiquity and the Middle Ages – including the Rome–Constantinople schisms and the many Christological controversies – together with the later Protestant Reformation provoked severe conflicts between Christian denominations. During these conflicts, members of the various denominations frequently persecuted each other and engaged in sectarian violence. In the 20th century, Christian populations were persecuted, sometimes, they were persecuted to the point of genocide, by various states, including the Ottoman Empire and its successor state, which committed the Hamidian massacres, the Armenian genocide, the Assyrian genocide, and the Greek genocide, and atheist states such as those of the former Eastern Bloc.
The persecution of Christians has continued to occur during the 21st century. Christianity is the largest world religion and its adherents live across the globe. Approximately 10% of the world's Christians are members of minority groups which live in non-Christian-majority states. The contemporary persecution of Christians includes the genocide of Christians by the Islamic State and persecution by other terrorist groups, with official state persecution mostly occurring in countries which are located in Africa and Asia because they have state religions or because their governments and societies practice religious favoritism. Such favoritism is frequently accompanied by religious discrimination and religious persecution.
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2020 report, Christians in Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam are persecuted; these countries are labelled "countries of particular concern" by the United States Department of State, because of their governments' engagement in, or toleration of, "severe violations of religious freedom".: 2 The same report recommends that Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, the Central African Republic, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sudan, and Turkey constitute the US State Department's "special watchlist" of countries in which the government allows or engages in "severe violations of religious freedom".: 2
Much of the persecution of Christians in recent times is perpetrated by non-state actors which are labelled "entities of particular concern" by the US State Department, including the Islamist groups Boko Haram in Nigeria, the Houthi movement in Yemen, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province in Pakistan, al-Shabaab in Somalia, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Islamic State and Tahrir al-Sham in Syria, as well as the United Wa State Army and participants in the Kachin conflict in Myanmar.: 2
Main article: Persecution of Christians in the New Testament
Early Christianity began as a sect among Second Temple Jews. Inter-communal dissension began almost immediately. According to the New Testament account, Saul of Tarsus prior to his conversion to Christianity persecuted early Judeo-Christians. According to the Acts of the Apostles, a year after the Roman Crucifixion of Jesus, Stephen was stoned for his transgressions of the Jewish law. And Saul (who later converted and was renamed Paul) acquiesced, looking on and witnessing Steven's death. Later, Paul begins a listing of his own sufferings after conversion in 2 Corinthians 11: "Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned ..."
In 41 AD, Herod Agrippa, who already possessed the territory of Herod Antipas and Philip (his former colleagues in the Herodian Tetrarchy), obtained the title of King of the Jews, and in a sense, re-formed the Kingdom of Judea of Herod the Great (r. 37–4 BC). Herod Agrippa was reportedly eager to endear himself to his Jewish subjects and continued the persecution in which James the Great lost his life, Saint Peter narrowly escaped and the rest of the apostles took flight. After Agrippa's death in 44, the Roman procuratorship began (before 41 they were Prefects in Iudaea Province) and those leaders maintained a neutral peace, until the procurator Porcius Festus died in 62 and the high priest Ananus ben Ananus took advantage of the power vacuum to attack the Church and execute James the Just, then leader of Jerusalem's Christians.
The New Testament states that Paul was himself imprisoned on several occasions by the Roman authorities, stoned by the Pharisees and left for dead on one occasion, and was eventually taken to Rome as a prisoner. Peter and other early Christians were also imprisoned, beaten and harassed. The First Jewish Rebellion, spurred by the Roman killing of 3,000 Jews, led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the end of Second Temple Judaism (and the subsequent slow rise of Rabbinic Judaism).
Claudia Setzer asserts that, "Jews did not see Christians as clearly separate from their own community until at least the middle of the second century" but most scholars place the "parting of the ways" much earlier, with theological separation occurring immediately. Second Temple Judaism had allowed more than one way to be Jewish. After the fall of the Temple, one way led to rabbinic Judaism, while another way became Christianity; but Christianity was "molded around the conviction that the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, was not only the Messiah promised to the Jews, but God's son, offering access to God, and God's blessing to non-Jew as much as, and perhaps eventually more than, to Jews".: 189 While Messianic eschatology had deep roots in Judaism, and the idea of the suffering servant, known as Messiah Ephraim, had been an aspect since the time of Isaiah (7th century BCE), in the first century, this idea was seen as being usurped by the Christians. It was then suppressed, and did not make its way back into rabbinic teaching till the seventh century writings of Pesiqta Rabati.
The traditional view of the separation of Judaism and Christianity has Jewish-Christians fleeing, en masse, to Pella (shortly before the fall of the Temple in 70 AD) as a result of Jewish persecution and hatred. Steven D. Katz says "there can be no doubt that the post-70 situation witnessed a change in the relations of Jews and Christians". Judaism sought to reconstitute itself after the disaster which included determining the proper response to Jewish Christianity. The exact shape of this is not directly known but is traditionally alleged to have taken four forms: the circulation of official anti-Christian pronouncements, the issuing of an official ban against Christians attending synagogue, a prohibition against reading Christian writings, and the spreading of the curse against Christian heretics: the Birkat haMinim.
Main article: Neronian persecution
The first documented case of imperially supervised persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (54–68). In the Annals, Tacitus states that Nero blamed Christians for the Great Fire of Rome, and while it is generally believed to be authentic and reliable, some modern scholars have cast doubt on this view, largely because there is no further reference to Nero's blaming of Christians for the fire until the late 4th century. Suetonius mentions punishments inflicted on Christians, defined as men following a new and malefic superstition, but does not specify the reasons for the punishment; he simply lists the fact together with other abuses put down by Nero.: 269 It is widely agreed on that the Number of the beast in the Book of Revelation, adding up to 666, is derived from a gematria of the name of Nero Caesar, indicating that Nero was viewed as an exceptionally evil figure. Several Christian sources report that Paul the Apostle and Saint Peter both died during the Neronian persecution.
In the first two centuries Christianity was a relatively small sect which was not a significant concern of the Emperor. Rodney Stark estimates there were fewer than 10,000 Christians in the year 100. Christianity grew to about 200,000 by the year 200, which works out to about 0.36% of the population of the empire, and then to almost 2 million by 250, still making up less than 2% of the empire's overall population. According to Guy Laurie, the Church was not in a struggle for its existence during its first centuries. However, Bernard Green says that, although early persecutions of Christians were generally sporadic, local, and under the direction of regional governors, not emperors, Christians "were always subject to oppression and at risk of open persecution." Trajan's policy towards Christians was no different from the treatment of other sects, that is, they would only be punished if they refused to worship the emperor and the gods, but they were not to be sought out.
James L. Papandrea says there are ten emperors generally accepted to have sponsored state sanctioned persecution of Christians, though the first empire-wide government sponsored persecution was not until Decius in 249. One early account of a mass killing is the persecution in Lyon in which Christians were purportedly mass-slaughtered by being thrown to wild beasts under the decree of Roman officials for reportedly refusing to renounce their faith according to Irenaeus. In the 3rd century, Emperor Severus Alexander's household contained many Christians, but his successor, Maximinus Thrax, hating this household, ordered that the leaders of the churches should be put to death. According to Eusebius, this persecution sent Hippolytus of Rome and Pope Pontian into exile but other evidence suggests that the persecutions of were local to the provinces where they occurred rather than happening under the direction of the Emperor.
According to two different Christian traditions, Simon bar Kokhba, the leader of the second Jewish revolt against Rome (132–136 AD), who was proclaimed Messiah, persecuted the Christians: Justin Martyr claims that Christians were punished if they did not deny and blaspheme Jesus Christ, while Eusebius asserts that Bar Kokhba harassed them because they refused to join his revolt against the Romans.
Some early Christians sought out and welcomed martyrdom. According to Droge and Tabor, "in 185 the proconsul of Asia, Arrius Antoninus, was approached by a group of Christians demanding to be executed. The proconsul obliged some of them and then sent the rest away, saying that if they wanted to kill themselves there was plenty of rope available or cliffs they could jump off." Such enthusiasm for death is found in the letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch who was arrested and condemned as a criminal before writing his letters while on the way to execution. Ignatius casts his own martyrdom as a voluntary eucharistic sacrifice to be embraced.: 55
"Many martyr acts present martyrdom as a sharp choice that cut to the core of Christian identity – life or death, salvation or damnation, Christ or apostacy...": 145 Subsequently, the martyr literature has drawn distinctions between those who were enthusiastically pro-voluntary-martyrdom (the Montanists and Donatists), those who occupied a neutral, moderate position (the orthodox), and those who were anti-martyrdom (the Gnostics).: 145
The category of voluntary martyr began to emerge only in the third century in the context of efforts to justify flight from persecution. The condemnation of voluntary martyrdom is used to justify Clement fleeing the Severan persecution in Alexandria in 202 AD, and the Martyrdom of Polycarp justifies Polycarp's flight on the same grounds. "Voluntary martyrdom is parsed as passionate foolishness" whereas "flight from persecution is patience" and the end result a true martyrdom.: 155
Daniel Boyarin rejects use of the term "voluntary martyrdom", saying, "if martyrdom is not voluntary, it is not martyrdom". G. E. M. de Ste. Croix adds a category of "quasi-voluntary martyrdom": "martyrs who were not directly responsible for their own arrest but who, after being arrested, behaved with" a stubborn refusal to obey or comply with authority.: 153 Candida Moss asserts that De Ste. Croix's judgment of what values are worth dying for is modern, and does not represent classical values. According to her there was no such concept as "quasi-volunteer martyrdom" in ancient times.: 153
Main article: Decian persecution
In the reign of the emperor Decius (r. 249–251), a decree was issued requiring that all residents of the empire should perform sacrifices, to be enforced by the issuing of each person with a libellus certifying that they had performed the necessary ritual. It is not known what motivated Decius's decree, or whether it was intended to target Christians, though it is possible the emperor was seeking divine favors in the forthcoming wars with the Carpi and the Goths. Christians that refused to publicly offer sacrifices or burn incense to Roman gods were accused of impiety and punished by arrest, imprisonment, torture or execution. According to Eusebius, bishops Alexander of Jerusalem, Babylas of Antioch, and Fabian of Rome were all imprisoned and killed. The patriarch Dionysius of Alexandria escaped captivity, while the bishop Cyprian of Carthage fled his episcopal see to the countryside. The Christian church, despite no indication in the surviving texts that the edict targeted any specific group, never forgot the reign of Decius whom they labelled as that "fierce tyrant". After Decius died, Trebonianus Gallus (r. 251–253) succeeded him and continued the Decian persecution for the duration of his reign.
The accession of Trebonianus Gallus's successor Valerian (r. 253–260) ended the Decian persecution. In 257 however, Valerian began to enforce public religion. Cyprian of Carthage was exiled and executed the following year, while Pope Sixtus II was also put to death. Dionysius of Alexandria was tried, urged to recognize "the natural gods" in the hope his congregation would imitate him, and exiled when he refused.
Valerian was defeated by the Persians at the Battle of Edessa and himself taken prisoner in 260. According to Eusebius, Valerian's son, co-augustus, and successor Gallienus (r. 253–268) allowed Christian communities to use again their cemeteries and made restitution of their confiscated buildings. Eusebius wrote that Gallienus allowed the Christians "freedom of action".
Main article: Diocletianic Persecution
The Great Persecution, or Diocletianic Persecution, was begun by the senior augustus and Roman emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305) on 23 February 303. In the eastern Roman empire, the official persecution lasted intermittently until 313, while in the western Roman empire the persecution went unenforced from 306. According to Lactantius's De mortibus persecutorum ("on the deaths of the persecutors"), Diocletian's junior emperor, the caesar Galerius (r. 293–311) pressured the augustus to begin persecuting Christians. Eusebius of Caesarea's Church History reports that imperial edicts were promulgated to destroy churches and confiscate scriptures, and to remove Christian occupants of government positions, while Christian priests were to be imprisoned and required to perform sacrifice in ancient Roman religion. In the account of Eusebius, an unnamed Christian man (named by later hagiographers as Euethius of Nicomedia and venerated on 27 February) tore down a public notice of an imperial edict while the emperors Diocletian and Galerius were in Nicomedia (İzmit), one of Diocletian's capitals; according to Lactantius, he was tortured and burned alive. According to Lactantius, the church at Nicomedia (İzmit) was destroyed, while the Optatan Appendix has an account from the praetorian prefecture of Africa involving the confiscation of written materials which led to the Donatist schism. According to Eusebius's Martyrs of Palestine and Lactantius's De mortibus persecutorum, a fourth edict in 304 demanded that everyone perform sacrifices, though in the western empire this was not enforced.
An "unusually philosophical" dialogue is recorded in the trial proceedings of Phileas of Thmuis, bishop of Thmuis in Egypt's Nile Delta, which survive on Greek papyri from the 4th century among the Bodmer Papyri and the Chester Beatty Papyri of the Bodmer and Chester Beatty libraries and in manuscripts in Latin, Ethiopic, and Coptic languages from later centuries, a body of hagiography known as the Acts of Phileas. Phileas was condemned at his fifth trial at Alexandria under Clodius Culcianus, the praefectus Aegypti on 4 February 305 (the 10th day of Mecheir).
In the western empire, the Diocletianic Persecution ceased with the usurpation by two emperors' sons in 306: that of Constantine, who was acclaimed augustus by the army after his father Constantius I (r. 293–306) died, and that of Maxentius (r. 306–312) who was elevated to augustus by the Roman Senate after the grudging retirement of his father Maximian (r. 285–305) and his co-augustus Diocletian in May 305. Of Maxentius, who controlled Italy with his now un-retired father, and Constantine, who controlled Britain, Gaul, and Iberia, neither was inclined to continue the persecution. In the eastern empire however, Galerius, now augustus, continued Diocletian's policy. Eusebius's Church History and Martyrs of Palestine both give accounts of martyrdom and persecution of Christians, including Eusebius's own mentor Pamphilus of Caesarea, with whom he was imprisoned during the persecution.
When Galerius died in May 311, he is reported by Lactantius and Eusebius to have composed a deathbed edict – the Edict of Serdica – allowing the assembly of Christians in conventicles and explaining the motives for the prior persecution. Eusebius wrote that Easter was celebrated openly. By autumn however, Galerius's nephew, former caesar, and co-augustus Maximinus Daia (r. 310–313) was enforcing Diocletian's persecution in his territories in Anatolia and the Diocese of the East in response to petitions from numerous cities and provinces, including Antioch, Tyre, Lycia, and Pisidia. Maximinus was also encouraged to act by an oracular pronouncement made by a statue of Zeus Philios set up in Antioch by Theotecnus of Antioch, who also organized an anti-Christian petition to be sent from the Antiochenes to Maximinus, requesting that the Christians there be expelled. Among the Christians known to have died in this phase of the persecution are the presbyter Lucian of Antioch, the bishop Methodius of Olympus in Lycia, and Peter, the patriarch of Alexandria. Defeated in a civil war by the augustus Licinius (r. 308–324), Maximinus died in 313, ending the systematic persecution of Christianity as a whole in the Roman Empire. Only one martyr is known by name from the reign of Licinius, who issued the Edict of Milan jointly with his ally, co-augustus, and brother-in-law Constantine, which had the effect of resuming the toleration of before the persecution and returning confiscated property to Christian owners.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia states that "Ancient, medieval and early modern hagiographers were inclined to exaggerate the number of martyrs. Since the title of martyr is the highest title to which a Christian can aspire, this tendency is natural". Attempts at estimating the numbers involved are inevitably based on inadequate sources.
Main article: Persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire
The Christian church marked the conversion of Constantine the Great as the final fulfillment of its heavenly victory over the "false gods".: xxxii The Roman state had always seen itself as divinely directed, now it saw the first great age of persecution, in which the Devil was considered to have used open violence to dissuade the growth of Christianity, at an end. The orthodox catholic Christians close to the Roman state represented imperial persecution as an historical phenomenon, rather than a contemporary one. According to MacMullan, the Christian histories are colored by this "triumphalism".: 4
Peter Leithart says that, "[Constantine] did not punish pagans for being pagans, or Jews for being Jews, and did not adopt a policy of forced conversion".: 61 Pagans remained in important positions at his court.: 302 He outlawed the gladiatorial shows, destroyed some temples and plundered more, and used forceful rhetoric against non-Christians, but he never engaged in a purge.: 302 Maxentius' supporters were not slaughtered when Constantine took the capital; Licinius' family and court were not killed.: 304 However, followers of doctrines which were seen as heretical or causing schism were persecuted during the reign of Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, and they would be persecuted again later in the 4th century. The consequence of Christian doctrinal disputes was generally mutual excommunication, but once Roman government became involved in ecclesiastical politics, rival factions could find themselves subject to "repression, expulsion, imprisonment or exile" carried out by the Roman army.: 317
In 312, the Christian sect called Donatists appealed to Constantine to solve a dispute. He convened a synod of bishops to hear the case, but the synod sided against them. The Donatists refused to accept the ruling, so a second gathering of 200 at Arles, in 314, was called, but they also ruled against them. The Donatists again refused to accept the ruling, and proceeded to act accordingly by establishing their own bishop, building their own churches, and refusing cooperation.: 317 : xv This was a defiance of imperial authority, and it produced the same response Rome had taken in the past against such refusals. For a Roman emperor, "religion could be tolerated only as long as it contributed to the stability of the state".: 87 Constantine used the army in an effort to compel Donatist' obedience, burning churches and martyring some from 317 – 321.: ix, xv Constantine failed in reaching his goal and ultimately conceded defeat. The schism remained and Donatism continued.: 318 After Constantine, his youngest son Flavius Julius Constans, initiated the Macarian campaign against the Donatists from 346 – 348 which only succeeded in renewing sectarian strife and creating more martyrs. Donatism continued.: xvii
The fourth century was dominated by its many conflicts defining orthodoxy versus heterodoxy and heresy. In the Eastern Roman empire, known as Byzantium, the Arian controversy began with its debate of Trinitarian formulas which lasted 56 years.: 141 As it moved into the West, the center of the controversy was the "champion of orthodoxy", Athanasius. In 355 Constantius, who supported Arianism, ordered the suppression and exile of Athanasius, expelled the orthodox Pope Liberius from Rome, and exiled bishops who refused to assent to Athanasius's exile. In 355, Dionysius, bishop of Mediolanum (Milan) was expelled from his episcopal see and replaced by the Arian Christian Auxentius of Milan. When Constantius returned to Rome in 357, he consented to allow the return of Liberius to the papacy; the Arian Pope Felix II, who had replaced him, was then driven out along with his followers.
The last emperor of the Constantinian dynasty, Constantine's half-brother's son Julian (r. 361–363) opposed Christianity and sought to restore traditional religion, though he did not arrange a general or official persecution.
According to the Collectio Avellana, on the death of Pope Liberius in 366, Damasus, assisted by hired gangs of "charioteers" and men "from the arena", broke into the Basilica Julia to violently prevent the election of Pope Ursicinus. The battle lasted three days, "with great slaughter of the faithful" and a week later Damasus seized the Lateran Basilica, had himself ordained as Pope Damasus I, and compelled the praefectus urbi Viventius and the praefectus annonae to exile Ursicinus. Damasus then had seven Christian priests arrested and awaiting banishment, but they escaped and "gravediggers" and minor clergy joined another mob of hippodrome and amphitheatre men assembled by the pope to attack the Liberian Basilica, where Ursacinus's loyalists had taken refuge. According to Ammianus Marcellinus, on 26 October, the pope's mob killed 137 people in the church in just one day, and many more died subsequently. The Roman public frequently enjoined the emperor Valentinian the Great to remove Damasus from the throne of Saint Peter, calling him a murderer for having waged a "filthy war" against the Christians.
In the 4th century, the Terving king Athanaric in c. 375 ordered the Gothic persecution of Christians. Athanaric was perturbed by the spread of Gothic Christianity among his followers, and feared for the displacement of Gothic paganism.
It was not until the later 4th century reigns of the augusti Gratian (r. 367–383), Valentinian II (r. 375–392), and Theodosius I (r. 379–395) that Christianity would become the official religion of the empire with the joint promulgation of the Edict of Thessalonica, establishing Nicene Christianity as the state religion and as the state church of the Roman Empire on 27 February 380. After this began state persecution of non-Nicene Christians, including Arian and Nontrinitarian devotees.: 267
When Augustine became coadjutor Bishop of Hippo in 395, both Donatist and Catholic parties had, for decades, existed side-by-side, with a double line of bishops for the same cities, all competing for the loyalty of the people.: xv [a]: 334 Augustine was distressed by the ongoing schism, but he held the view that belief cannot be compelled, so he appealed to the Donatists using popular propaganda, debate, personal appeal, General Councils, appeals to the emperor and political pressure, but all attempts failed.: 242, 254 The Donatists fomented protests and street violence, accosted travelers, attacked random Catholics without warning, often doing serious and unprovoked bodily harm such as beating people with clubs, cutting off their hands and feet, and gouging out eyes while also inviting their own martyrdom.: 120–121 By 408, Augustine supported the state's use of force against them.: 107–116 Historian Frederick Russell says that Augustine did not believe this would "make the Donatists more virtuous" but he did believe it would make them "less vicious".: 128
Augustine wrote that there had, in the past, been ten Christian persecutions, beginning with the Neronian persecution, and alleging persecutions by the emperors Domitian, Trajan, "Antoninus" (Marcus Aurelius), "Severus" (Septimius Severus), and Maximinus (Thrax), as well as Decian and Valerianic persecutions, and then another by Aurelian as well as by Diocletian and Maximian. These ten persecutions Augustine compared with the 10 Plagues of Egypt in the Book of Exodus.[note 1] Augustine did not see these early persecutions in the same light as that of fourth century heretics. In Augustine's view, when the purpose of persecution is to "lovingly correct and instruct", then it becomes discipline and is just.: 2 Augustine wrote that "coercion cannot transmit the truth to the heretic, but it can prepare them to hear and receive the truth".: 107–116 He said the church would discipline its people out of a loving desire to heal them, and that, "once compelled to come in, heretics would gradually give their voluntary assent to the truth of Christian orthodoxy.": 115 He opposed the severity of Rome and the execution of heretics.: 768
It is his teaching on coercion that has literature on Augustine frequently referring to him as le prince et patriarche de persecuteurs (the prince and patriarch of persecutors).: 116 : 107 Russell says Augustine's theory of coercion "was not crafted from dogma, but in response to a unique historical situation" and is therefore context dependent, while others see it as inconsistent with his other teachings.: 125 His authority on the question of coercion was undisputed for over a millennium in Western Christianity, and according to Brown "it provided the theological foundation for the justification of medieval persecution.": 107–116
Callinicus I, initially a priest and skeuophylax in the Church of the Theotokos of Blachernae, became patriarch of Constantinople in 693 or 694.: 58–59 Having refused to consent to the demolition of a chapel in the Great Palace, the Theotokos ton Metropolitou, and having possibly been involved in the deposition and exile of Justinian II (r. 685–695, 705–711), an allegation denied by the Synaxarion of Constantinople, he was himself exiled to Rome on the return of Justinian to power in 705.: 58–59 The emperor had Callinicus immured.: 58–59 He is said to have survived forty days when the wall was opened to check his condition, though he died four days later.: 58–59
Violent persecutions of Christians began in earnest in the long reign of Shapur II (r. 309–379). A persecution of Christians at Kirkuk is recorded in Shapur's first decade, though most persecution happened after 341. At war with the Roman emperor Constantius II (r. 337–361), Shapur imposed a tax to cover the war expenditure, and Shemon Bar Sabbae, the Bishop of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, refused to collect it. Often citing collaboration with the Romans, the Persians began persecuting and executing Christians. Passio narratives describe the fate of some Christians venerated as martyrs; they are of varying historical reliability, some being contemporary records by eyewitnesses, others were reliant on popular tradition at some remove from the events. An appendix to the Syriac Martyrology of 411 lists the Christian martyrs of Persia, but other accounts of martyrs' trials contain important historical details on the workings of the Sassanian Empire's historical geography and judicial and administrative practices. Some were translated into Sogdian and discovered at Turpan.
Under Yazdegerd I (r. 399–420) there were occasional persecutions, including an instance of persecution in reprisal for the burning of a Zoroastrian fire temple by a Christian priest, and further persecutions occurred in the reign of Bahram V (r. 420–438). Under Yazdegerd II (r. 438–457) an instance of persecution in 446 is recorded in the Syriac martyrology Acts of Ādur-hormizd and of Anāhīd. Some individual martyrdoms are recorded from the reign of Khosrow I (r. 531–579), but there were likely no mass persecutions. While according to a peace treaty of 562 between Khosrow and his Roman counterpart Justinian I (r. 527–565), Persia's Christians were granted the freedom of religion; proselytism was, however, a capital crime. By this time the Church of the East and its head, the Catholicose of the East, were integrated into the administration of the empire and mass persecution was rare.
The Sassanian policy shifted from tolerance of other religions under Shapur I to intolerance under Bahram I and apparently a return to the policy of Shapur until the reign of Shapur II. The persecution at that time was initiated by Constantine's conversion to Christianity which followed that of Armenian king Tiridates in about 301. The Christians were thus viewed with suspicions of secretly being partisans of the Roman Empire. This did not change until the fifth century when the Church of the East broke off from the Church of the West. Zoroastrian elites continued viewing the Christians with enmity and distrust throughout the fifth century with threat of persecution remaining significant, especially during war against the Romans.
Zoroastrian high priest Kartir, refers in his inscription dated about 280 on the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht monument in the Naqsh-e Rostam necropolis near Zangiabad, Fars, to persecution (zatan – "to beat, kill") of Christians ("Nazareans n'zl'y and Christians klstyd'n"). Kartir took Christianity as a serious opponent. The use of the double expression may be indicative of the Greek-speaking Christians deported by Shapur I from Antioch and other cities during his war against the Romans. Constantine's efforts to protect the Persian Christians made them a target of accusations of disloyalty to Sasanians. With the resumption of Roman-Sasanian conflict under Constantius II, the Christian position became untenable. Zoroastrian priests targeted clergy and ascetics of local Christians to eliminate the leaders of the church. A Syriac manuscript in Edessa in 411 documents dozens executed in various parts of western Sasanian Empire.
In 341, Shapur II ordered the persecution of all Christians. In response to their subversive attitude and support of Romans, Shapur II doubled the tax on Christians. Shemon Bar Sabbae informed him that he could not pay the taxes demanded from him and his community. He was martyred and a forty-year-long period of persecution of Christians began. The Council of Seleucia-Ctesiphon gave up choosing bishops since it would result in death. The local mobads – Zoroastrian clerics – with the help of satraps organized slaughters of Christians in Adiabene, Beth Garmae, Khuzistan and many other provinces.
Yazdegerd I showed tolerance towards Jews and Christians for much of his rule. He allowed Christians to practice their religion freely, demolished monasteries and churches were rebuilt and missionaries were allowed to operate freely. He reversed his policies during the later part of his reign however, suppressing missionary activities. Bahram V continued and intensified their persecution, resulting in many of them fleeing to the eastern Roman empire. Bahram demanded their return, beginning the Roman–Sasanian War of 421–422. The war ended with an agreement of freedom of religion for Christians in Iran with that of Mazdaism in Rome. Meanwhile, Christians suffered destruction of churches, renounced the faith, had their private property confiscated and many were expelled.
Yazdegerd II had ordered all his subjects to embrace Mazdeism in an attempt to unite his empire ideologically. The Caucasus rebelled to defend Christianity which had become integrated in their local culture, with Armenian aristocrats turning to the Romans for help. The rebels were however defeated in a battle on the Avarayr Plain. Yeghishe in his The History of Vardan and the Armenian War, pays a tribute to the battles waged to defend Christianity. Another revolt was waged from 481–483 which was suppressed. However, the Armenians succeeded in gaining freedom of religion among other improvements.
Accounts of executions for apostasy of Zoroastrians who converted to Christianity during Sasanian rule proliferated from the fifth to early seventh century, and continued to be produced even after collapse of Sasanians. The punishment of apostates increased under Yazdegerd I and continued under successive kings. It was normative for apostates who were brought to the notice of authorities to be executed, although the prosecution of apostasy depended on political circumstances and Zoroastrian jurisprudence. Per Richard E. Payne, the executions were meant to create a mutually recognised boundary between interactions of the people of the two religions and preventing one religion challenging another's viability. Although the violence on Christians was selective and especially carried out on elites, it served to keep Christian communities in a subordinate and yet viable position in relation to Zoroastrianism. Christians were allowed to build religious buildings and serve in the government as long as they did not expand their institutions and population at the expense of Zoroastrianism.
Khosrow I was generally regarded as tolerant of Christians and interested in the philosophical and theological disputes during his reign. Sebeos claimed he had converted to Christianity on his deathbed. John of Ephesus describes an Armenian revolt where he claims that Khusrow had attempted to impose Zoroastrianism in Armenia. The account, however, is very similar to the one of Armenian revolt of 451. In addition, Sebeos does not mention any religious persecution in his account of the revolt of 571. A story about Hormizd IV's tolerance is preserved by the historian al-Tabari. Upon being asked why he tolerated Christians, he replied, "Just as our royal throne cannot stand upon its front legs without its two back ones, our kingdom cannot stand or endure firmly if we cause the Christians and adherents of other faiths, who differ in belief from ourselves, to become hostile to us."
Main article: Sasanian conquest and occupation of Jerusalem
Several months after the Persian conquest in AD 614, a riot occurred in Jerusalem, and the Jewish governor of Jerusalem Nehemiah was killed by a band of young Christians along with his "council of the righteous" while he was making plans for the building of the Third Temple. At this time the Christians had allied themselves with the Eastern Roman Empire. Shortly afterward, the events escalated into a full-scale Christian rebellion, resulting in a battle against the Jews and Christians who were living in Jerusalem. In the battle's aftermath, many Jews were killed and the survivors fled to Caesarea, which was still being held by the Persian army.
The Judeo-Persian reaction was ruthless – Persian Sasanian general Xorheam assembled Judeo-Persian troops and went and encamped around Jerusalem and besieged it for 19 days. Eventually, digging beneath the foundations of the Jerusalem, they destroyed the wall and on the 19th day of the siege, the Judeo-Persian forces took Jerusalem.
According to the account of the Armenian ecclesiastic and historian Sebeos, the siege resulted in a total Christian death toll of 17,000, the earliest and thus most commonly accepted figure.: 207 Per Strategius, 4,518 prisoners alone were massacred near Mamilla reservoir. A cave containing hundreds of skeletons near the Jaffa Gate, 200 metres east of the large Roman-era pool in Mamilla, correlates with the massacre of Christians at hands of the Persians mentioned in the writings of Strategius. While reinforcing the evidence of massacre of Christians, the archaeological evidence seem less conclusive on the destruction of Christian churches and monasteries in Jerusalem.[failed verification]
According to the later account of Strategius, whose perspective appears to be that of a Byzantine Greek and shows an antipathy towards the Jews, thousands of Christians were massacred during the conquest of the city. Estimates based on varying copies of Strategos's manuscripts range from 4,518 to 66,509 killed. Strategos wrote that the Jews offered to help them escape death if they "become Jews and deny Christ", and the Christian captives refused. In anger the Jews allegedly purchased Christians to kill them. In 1989, a mass burial grave at Mamilla cave was discovered in by Israeli archeologist Ronny Reich, near the site where Strategius recorded the massacre took place. The human remains were in poor condition containing a minimum of 526 individuals.
From the many excavations carried out in the Galilee, it is clear that all churches had been destroyed during the period between the Persian invasion and the Arab conquest in 637. The church at Shave Ziyyon was destroyed and burnt in 614. Similar fate befell churches at Evron, Nahariya, 'Arabe and monastery of Shelomi. The monastery at Kursi was damaged in the invasion.
Main article: Religion in pre-Islamic Arabia
In AD 516, tribal unrest broke out in Yemen and several tribal elites fought for power. One of those elites was Joseph Dhu Nuwas or "Yousef Asa'ar", a Jewish king of the Himyarite Kingdom who is mentioned in ancient south Arabian inscriptions. Syriac and Byzantine Greek sources claim that he fought his war because Christians in Yemen refused to renounce Christianity. In 2009, a documentary that aired on the BBC defended the claim that the villagers had been offered the choice between conversion to Judaism or death and 20,000 Christians were then massacred by stating that "The production team spoke to many historians over a period of 18 months, among them Nigel Groom, who was our consultant, and Professor Abdul Rahman Al-Ansary, a former professor of archaeology at the King Saud University in Riyadh." Inscriptions documented by Yousef himself show the great pride that he expressed after killing more than 22,000 Christians in Zafar and Najran. Historian Glen Bowersock described this massacre as a "savage pogrom that the Jewish king of the Arabs launched against the Christians in the city of Najran. The king himself reported in excruciating detail to his Arab and Persian allies about the massacres that he had inflicted on all Christians who refused to convert to Judaism."
Since they are considered "People of the Book" in the Islamic religion, Christians under Muslim rule were subjected to the status of dhimmi (along with Jews, Samaritans, Gnostics, Mandeans, and Zoroastrians), which was inferior to the status of Muslims. Christians and other religious minorities thus faced religious discrimination and persecution in that they were banned from proselytising (for Christians, it was forbidden to evangelize or spread Christianity) in the lands invaded by the Arab Muslims on pain of death, they were banned from bearing arms, undertaking certain professions, and were obligated to dress differently in order to distinguish themselves from Arabs. Under the Islamic law (sharīʿa), Non-Muslims were obligated to pay the jizya and kharaj taxes, together with periodic heavy ransom levied upon Christian communities by Muslim rulers in order to fund military campaigns, all of which contributed a significant proportion of income to the Islamic states while conversely reducing many Christians to poverty, and these financial and social hardships forced many Christians to convert to Islam. Christians unable to pay these taxes were forced to surrender their children to the Muslim rulers as payment who would sell them as slaves to Muslim households where they were forced to convert to Islam.
According to the tradition of the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Muslim conquest of the Levant was a relief for Christians oppressed by the Western Roman Empire. Michael the Syrian, patriarch of Antioch, wrote later that the Christian God had "raised from the south the children of Ishmael to deliver us by them from the hands of the Romans". Various Christian communities in the regions of Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Armenia resented either the governance of the Western Roman Empire or that of the Byzantine Empire, and therefore preferred to live under more favourable economic and political conditions as dhimmi under the Muslim rulers. However, modern historians also recognize that the Christian populations living in the lands invaded by the Arab Muslim armies between the 7th and 10th centuries AD suffered religious persecution, religious violence, and martyrdom multiple times at the hands of Arab Muslim officials and rulers; many were executed under the Islamic death penalty for defending their Christian faith through dramatic acts of resistance such as refusing to convert to Islam, repudiation of the Islamic religion and subsequent reconversion to Christianity, and blasphemy towards Muslim beliefs.
When Amr ibn al-As conquered Tripoli in 643, he forced the Jewish and Christian Berbers to give their wives and children as slaves to the Arab army as part of their jizya.
Around the year 666 C.E Uqba ibn Nafi “conquered the southern Tunisian cities... slaughtering all the Christians living there." Muslim sources report him waging countless raids, often ending with the complete ransacking and mass enslavement of cities.
Archaeological evidence from North Africa in the region of Cyrenaica points to the destruction of churches along the route the Islamic conquerors followed in the late seventh century, and the remarkable artistic treasures buried along the routes leading to the North of Spain by fleeing Visigoths and Hispano-Romans during the early eighth century consist largely of religious and dynastic paraphernalia that the Christian inhabitants obviously wanted to protect from Muslim looting and desecration.
According to the Ḥanafī school of Islamic law (sharīʿa), the testimony of a Non-Muslim (such as a Christian or a Jew) was not considered valid against the testimony of a Muslim in legal or civil matters. Historically, in Islamic culture and traditional Islamic law, Muslim women have been forbidden from marrying Christian or Jewish men, whereas Muslim men have been permitted to marry Christian or Jewish women (see: Interfaith marriage in Islam). Christians under Islamic rule had the right to convert to Islam or any other religion, while conversely a murtad, or an apostate from Islam, faced severe penalties or even hadd, which could include the Islamic death penalty.
In general, Christians subject to Islamic rule were allowed to practice their religion with some notable limitations stemming from the apocryphal Pact of Umar. This treaty, supposedly enacted in 717 AD, forbade Christians from publicly displaying the cross on church buildings, from summoning congregants to prayer with a bell, from re-building or repairing churches and monasteries after they had been destroyed or damaged, and imposed other restrictions relating to occupations, clothing, and weapons. The Umayyad Caliphate persecuted many Berber Christians in the 7th and 8th centuries AD, who slowly converted to Islam.
In Umayyad al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula), the Mālikī school of Islamic law was the most prevalent. The martyrdoms of forty-eight Christian martyrs that took place in the Emirate of Córdoba between 850 and 859 AD are recorded in the hagiographical treatise written by the Iberian Christian and Latinist scholar Eulogius of Córdoba. The Martyrs of Córdoba were executed under the rule of Abd al-Rahman II and Muhammad I, and Eulogius' hagiography describes in detail the executions of the martyrs for capital violations of Islamic law, including apostasy and blasphemy.
After the Arab conquests a number of Christian Arab tribes suffered enslavement and forced conversion.
Some time in the early eighth century under the Umayyads, 63 out of a group of 70 Christian pilgrims from Iconium were captured, tortured, and executed under the orders of the Arab Governor of Ceaserea for refusing to convert to Islam (seven were forcibly converted to Islam under torture). Soon afterwards, sixty more Christian pilgrims from Amorium were crucified in Jerusalem.
The Almohads wreaked enormous destruction on the Christian population of Iberia. Tens of thousands of the native Christians in Iberia (Hispania) were deported from their ancestral lands to Africa by the Almoravids and Almohads.They suspected that the christians could pose as a fifth column that could potentially help their coreligionists in the north of Iberia. Many Christians died en route to north Africa during these expulsions. Christians under the Almoravids suffered persecutions and mass expulsions to Africa. In 1099 the Almoravids sacked the great church of the city of Granada. In 1101 Christians fled from the city of Valencia to the Catholic kingdoms. In 1106 the Almoravids deported Christians from Malaga to Africa. In 1126, after a failed Christian rebellion in Granada, the Almoravids expelled the city's entire Christian population to Africa. And in 1138, Ibn Tashufin forcibly took many thousands of Christians with him to Africa.
The oppressed Mozarabs sent emissaries to the king of Aragon, Alphonso 1st le Batailleur (1104–1134), asking him to come to their rescue and deliver them from the Almoravids. Following the raid the king of Aragon launched in Andalusia in 1125–26 in responding to the pleas of Grenada's Mozarabs, the latter were deported en masse to Morocco in the fall of 1126. Another wave of expulsions to africa took place 11 years later and as a result very very few Christians were left in Andalusia. Whatever was left of the Christian Catholic population in Granada was exterminated in the aftermath of a revolt against the Almohads in 1164. The Caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf boasted that he had left no church or synagogue standing in al-Andalus.
Muslim clerics in Al Andalus viewed Christians and Jews as unclean and dirty and feared that too much contact with them would contaminate Muslims. In Seville the faqih Ibn Abdun issued these regulations segregating people of the two faiths:
A Muslim must not massage a Jew or a Christian nor throw away his refuse nor clean his latrines. The Jew and the Christian are better fitted for such trades, since they are the trades of those who are vile. A Muslim should not attend to the animal of a Jew or of a Christian, nor serve him as a muleteer [neither Catholics nor Jews could ride horses; only Muslims could], nor hold his stirrup. If any Muslim is known to do this, he should be denounced.… No … [unconverted] Jew or Christian must be allowed to dress in the costume of people of position, of a jurist, or of a worthy man [this provision echoes the Pact of Umar]. They must on the contrary be abhorred and shunned and should not be greeted with the formula, “Peace be with you,” for the devil has gained mastery over them and has made them forget the name of God. They are the devil's party, “and indeed the devil's party are the losers” (Qur’an 57:22). They must have a distinguishing sign by which they are recognized to their shame [emphasis added].
George Limnaiotes, a monk on Mount Olympus known only from the Synaxarion of Constantinople and other synaxaria, was supposed to have been 95 years old when he was tortured for his iconodulism.: 43 In the reign of Leo III the Isaurian (r. 717–741), he was mutilated by rhinotomy and his head burnt.: 43
Germanus I of Constantinople, a son of the patrikios Justinian, a courtier of the emperor Heraclius (r. 610–641), having been castrated and enrolled in the cathedral clergy of Hagia Sophia when his father was executed in 669, was later bishop of Cyzicus and then patriarch of Constantinople from 715.: 45–46 In 730, in the reign of Leo III (r. 717–741), Germanus was deposed and banished, dying in exile at Plantanion (Akçaabat).: 45–46 Leo III also exiled the monk John the Psichaites, an iconodule, to Cherson, where he remained until after the emperor's death.: 57
According only to the Synaxarion of Constantinople, the clerics Hypatios and Andrew from the Thracesian thema were, during the persecution of Leo III, brought to the capital, jailed and tortured.: 49 The Synaxarion claims that they had the embers of burnt icons applied to their heads, subjected to other torments, and then dragged though the Byzantine streets to their public execution in the area of the city's VIIth Hill, the so-called Medieval Greek: ξηρόλοφος, romanized: Χērólophos, lit. 'dry hill' near the Forum of Arcadius.: 49
Andrew of Crete was beaten and imprisoned in Constantinople after having debated with the iconoclast emperor Constantine V (r. 741–775), possibly in 767 or 768, and then abused by the Byzantines as he was dragged through the city, dying of blood loss when a fisherman cut off his foot in the Forum of the Ox.: 19 The church of Saint Andrew in Krisei was named after him, though his existence is doubted by scholars.: 19
Having defeated and killed the emperor Nikephoros I (r. 802–811) at the Battle of Pliska in 811, the First Bulgarian Empire's khan, Krum, also put to death a number of Roman soldiers who refused to renounce Christianity, though these martyrdoms, known only from the Synaxarion of Constantinople, may be entierely legendary.: 66–67 In 813 the Bulgarians invaded the thema of Thrace, led by Krum, and the city of Adrianople (Edirne) was captured.: 66 Krum's successor Dukum died shortly after Krum himself, being succeeded by Ditzevg, who killed Manuel the archbishop of Adrianople in January 815.: 66 According to the Synaxarion of Constantinople and the Menologion of Basil II, Ditzevg's own successor Omurtag killed some 380 Christians later that month.: 66 The victims included the archbishop of Develtos, George, and the bishop of Thracian Nicaea, Leo, as well as two strategoi called John and Leo. Collectively these are known as the Martyrs of Adrianople.: 66
The Byzantine monk Makarios, of the Pelekete monastery in Bithynia, having already refused an enviable position at court offered by the iconoclast emperor Leo IV the Khazar (r. 775–780) in return for the repudiation of his iconodulism, was expelled from the monastery by Leo V the Armenian (r. 813–820), who also imprisoned and exiled him.: 65
The patriarch Nikephoros I of Constantinople dissented from the iconoclast Council of Constantinople of 815 and was exiled by Leo V as a result.: 74–75 He died in exile in 828.: 74–75
In spring 816, the Constantinopolitan monk Athanasios of Paulopetrion was tortured and exiled for his iconophilism by the emperor Leo V.: 28 In 815, during the reign of Leo V, having been appointed hegoumenos of the Kathara Monastery in Bithynia by the emperor Nikephoros I, John of Kathara was exiled and imprisoned first in Pentadactylon, a stronghold in Phrygia, and then in the fortress of Kriotauros in the Bucellarian thema.: 55–56 In the reign of Michael II he was recalled, but exiled again under Theophilos, being banished to Aphousia (Avşa) where he died, probably in 835.: 55–56
Eustratios of Agauros, a monk and hegumenos of the Agauros Monastery at the foot of Mount Trichalikos, near Prusa's Mount Olympus in Bithynia, was forced into exile by the persecutions of Leo V and Theophilos (r. 829–842).: 37–38 Leo V and Theophilos also persecuted and exiled Hilarion of Dalmatos, the son of Peter the Cappadocian, who had been made hegumenos of the Dalmatos Monastery by the patriarch Nikephoros I.: 48–49 Hilarion was allowed to return to his post only in the regency of Theodora.: 48–49 The same emperors also persecuted Michael Synkellos, an Arab monk of the Mar Saba monastery in Palestine who, as the syncellus of the patriarch of Jerusalem, had travelled to Constantinople on behalf of the patriarch Thomas I.: 70–71 On the Triumph of Orthodoxy, Michael declined the ecumenical patriarchate and became instead the hegumenos of the Chora Monastery.: 70–71
According to Theophanes Continuatus, the Armenian monk and iconographer of Khazar origin Lazarus Zographos refused to cease painting icons in the second official iconoclast period.: 61–62 Theophilos had him tortured and his hands burned with heated irons, though he was released at the intercession of the empress Theodora and hidden at the Monastery of John the Baptist tou Phoberou, where he was able to paint an image of the patron saint.: 61–62 After the death of Theophilos, and the Triumph of Orthodoxy, Lazarus re-painted the representation of Christ on the Chalke Gate of the Great Palace of Constantinople.: 61–62
Symeon Stylites of Lesbos was persecuted for his iconodulism in the second period of official iconoclasm. He was imprisoned and exiled, returning to Lesbos only after the vernation of icons was restored in 842.: 32–33 The bishop George of Mytilene, who may have been Symeon's brother, was exiled from Constantinople in 815 on account of his iconophilia. He spent the last six years of his life in exile on an island, probably one of the Princes' Islands, dying in 820 or 821.: 42–43 George's relics were taken to Mytilene to be venerated after the restoration of iconodulism to orthodoxy under the patriarch Methodios I, during which the hagiography of George was written.: 42–43
The bishop Euthymius of Sardis was the victim of several iconoclast Christian persecutions. Euthymius had previously been exiled to Pantelleria by the emperor Nikephoros I (r. 802–811), recalled in 806, led the iconodule resistance against Leo V (r. 813–820), and exiled again to Thasos in 814.: 38 After his recall to Constantinople in the reign of Michael II (r. 820–829), he was again imprisoned and exiled to Saint Andrew's Island, off Cape Akritas (Tuzla, Istanbul).: 38 According to the hagiography of by the patriarch Methodios I of Constantinople, who claimed to have shared Euthymius's exile and been present at his death, Theoktistos and two other imperial officials personally whipped Euthymius to death on account of his iconodulism; Theoktistos was active in the persecution of iconodules under the iconoclast emperors, but later championed the iconodule cause.: 38, 68–69 : 218 Theoktistos was later venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, listed in the Synaxarion of Constantinople.: 217–218 The last of the iconoclast emperors, Theophilos (r. 829–842), was posthumously rehabilitated by the iconodule Orthodox Church on the intervention of his wife Theodora, who claimed he had had a deathbed conversion to iconodulism in the presence of Theoktistos and had given 60 Byzantine pounds of gold to each of his victims in his will.: 219 The rehabilitation of the iconoclast emperor was a precondition of his widow for convoking the Council of Constantinople in March 843, at which the veneration of icons was restored to orthodoxy and which became celebrated as the Triumph of Orthodoxy.: 219
Evaristos, a relative of Theoktistos Bryennios and a monk of the Monastery of Stoudios, was exiled to the Thracian Chersonese (Gallipoli peninsula) for his support of his hegumenos Nicholas and his patron the patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople when the latter was deposed by Photios I in 858.: 41, 72–73 Both Nicholas and Evaristos went into exile.: 41, 72–73 Only after many years was Evaristos allowed to return to Constantinople to found a monastery of his own.: 41, 72–73 The hegumenos Nicholas, who had accompanied Evaristos to the Chersonese, was restored to his post at the Stoudios Monastery.: 72–73 A partisan of Ignatios of Constantinople and a refugee from the Muslim conquest of Sicily, the monk Joseph the Hymnographer was banished to Cherson from Constantinople on the elevation of Ignatios's rival Photios in 858. Only after the end of Photios's patriarchate was Joseph allowed to return to the capital and become the cathedral skeuophylax of Hagia Sophia.: 57–58
Euthymius, a monk, senator, and synkellos favored by Leo VI (r. 870–912), was first made a hegumenos and then in 907 patriarch of Constantinople by the emperor. When Leo VI died and Nicholas Mystikos was recalled to the patriarchal throne, Euthymius was exiled.: 38–40
The Abbasid Caliphate was less tolerant of Christianity than had been the Umayyad caliphs. Nonetheless, Christian officials continued to be employed in the government, and the Christians of the Church of the East were often tasked with the translation of Ancient Greek philosophy and Greek mathematics. The writings of al-Jahiz attacked Christians for being too prosperous, and indicates they were able to ignore even those restrictions placed on them by the state. In the late 9th century, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Theodosius, wrote to his colleague the patriarch of Constantinople Ignatios that "they are just and do us no wrong nor show us any violence".
Elias of Heliopolis, having moved to Damascus from Heliopolis (Ba'albek), was accused of apostasy from Christianity after attending a party held by a Muslim Arab, and was forced to flee Damascus for his hometown, returning eight years later, where he was recognized and imprisoned by the "eparch", probably the jurist al-Layth ibn Sa'd.: 34 After refusing to convert to Islam under torture, he was brought before the Damascene emir and relative of the caliph al-Mahdi (r. 775–785), Muhammad ibn-Ibrahim, who promised good treatment if Elias would convert.: 34 On his repeated refusal, Elias was tortured and beheaded and his body burnt, cut up, and thrown into the river Chrysorrhoes (the Barada) in 779 AD.: 34
According to the Synaxarion of Constantinople, the hegumenos Michael of Zobe and thirty-six of his monks at the Monastery of Zobe near Sebasteia (Sivas) were killed by a raid on the community.: 70 The perpetrator was the "emir of the Hagarenes", "Alim", probably Ali ibn-Sulayman, an Abbasid governor who raided Roman territory in 785 AD.: 70 Bacchus the Younger was beheaded in Jerusalem in 786–787 AD. Bacchus was Palestinian, whose family, having been Christian, had been converted to Islam by their father.: 29–30 Bacchus however, remained crypto-Christian and undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, upon which he was baptized and entered the monastery of Mar Saba.: 29–30 Reunion with his family prompted their reconversion to Christianity and Bacchus's trial and execution for apostasy under the governing emir Harthama ibn A'yan.: 29–30
After the 838 Sack of Amorium, the hometown of the emperor Theophilos (r. 829–842) and his Amorian dynasty, the caliph al-Mu'tasim (r. 833–842) took more than forty Roman prisoners.: 41–42 These were taken to the capital, Samarra, where after seven years of theological debates and repeated refusals to convert to Islam, they were put to death in March 845 under the caliph al-Wathiq (r. 842–847).: 41–42 Within a generation they were venerated as the 42 Martyrs of Amorium. According to their hagiographer Euodius, probably writing within a generation of the events, the defeat at Amorium was to be blamed on Theophilos and his iconoclasm.: 41–42 According to some later hagiographies, including one by one of several Middle Byzantine writers known as Michael the Synkellos, among the forty-two were Kallistos, the doux of the Koloneian thema, and the heroic martyr Theodore Karteros.: 41–42
During the 10th-century phase of the Arab–Byzantine wars, the victories of the Romans over the Arabs resulted in mob attacks on Christians, who were believed to sympathize with the Roman state. According to Bar Hebraeus, the catholicus of the Church of the East, Abraham III (r. 906–937), wrote to the grand vizier that "we Nestorians are the friends of the Arabs and pray for their victories". The attitude of the Nestorians "who have no other king but the Arabs", he contrasted with the Greek Orthodox Church, whose emperors he said "had never cease to make war against the Arabs. Between 923 and 924, several Orthodox churches were destroyed in mob violence in Ramla, Ascalon, Caesarea Maritima, and Damascus. In each instance, according to the Arab Melkite Christian chronicler Eutychius of Alexandria, the caliph al-Muqtadir (r. 908–932) contributed to the rebuilding of ecclesiastical property.
During the late 700s in the Abbasid Empire, Muslims destroyed two churches and a monastery near Bethlehem and slaughtered its monks. In 796, Muslims burned another twenty monks to death. In the years 809 and 813 AD, multiple monasteries, convents, and churches were attacked in and around Jerusalem; both male and female Christians were gang raped and massacred. In 929, on Palm Sunday, another wave of atrocities broke out; churches were destroyed and Christians slaughtered. al-Maqrizi records that in the year 936, “the Muslims in Jerusalem made a rising and burnt down the Church of the Resurrection [the Holy Sepulchre] which they plundered, and destroyed all they could of it".
According to the Synaxarion of Constantinople, Dounale-Stephen, having journeyed to Jerusalem, continued his pilgrimage to Egypt, where he was arrested by the local emir and, refusing to relinquish his beliefs, died in jail c. 950.: 33–34 </ref>
When Abd Allah ibn Tahir went to besiege Kaisum, the fortress of Nasr: "There had been great oppression in the whole country because the inhabitants [christian dhimmis] were forced to bring provisions to the camp; and in every place it was a time of famine and a dearth of all sorts of things." In order to rotect themselves from their attackers cannons, Nasr ibn Shabath and his Arab troops used a stratagem that had already been tried at the siege of Balis (using christian women and children as human shields): they forced Christian women and their children to mount the walls so that they were exposed as targets for the Persians. Nasr used the same tactics at the second siege of Kaisum.
The caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (r. 996–1021) engaged in a persecution of Christians. Al-Hakim was "half-insane", and had perpetrated the only general persecution of Christians by Muslims until the Crusades. Al-Hakim's mother was a Christian, and he had been raised mainly by Christians, and even through the persecution al-Hakim employed Christian ministers in his government. Between 1004 and 1014, the caliph produced legislation to confiscate ecclesiastical property and burn crosses; later, he ordered that small mosques be built atop church roofs, and later still decreed that churches were to be burned. The caliph's Jewish and Muslim subjects were subjected to similarly arbitrary treatment. As part of al-Hakim's persecution, thirty thousand churches were reportedly destroyed, and in 1009 the caliph ordered the demolition of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, on the pretext that the annual Holy Fire miracle on Easter was a fake. The persecution of al-Hakim and the demolition of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre prompted Pope Sergius IV to issue a call for soldiers to expel the Muslims from the Holy Land, while European Christians engaged in a retaliatory persecution of Jews, whom they conjectured were in some way responsible for al-Hakim's actions. In the second half of the eleventh century, pilgrims brought home news of how the rise of the Turks and their conflict with the Egyptians increased the persecution of Christian pilgrims.
In 1013, at the intervention of the emperor Basil II (r. 960–1025), Christians were given permission to leave Fatimid territory. In 1016 however, the caliph was proclaimed divine, alienating his Muslim subjects by banning the hajj and the fast of ramadan, and causing him to again favor the Christians. In 1017, al-Hakim issued an order of toleration regarding Christians and Jews, while the following year confiscated ecclesiastical property was returned to the Church, including the construction materials seized by the authorities from demolished buildings.
In 1027, the emperor Constantine VIII (r. 962–1028) concluded a treaty with Salih ibn Mirdas, the emir of Aleppo, allowing the emperor to repair the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and permitting the Christians forced to convert to Islam under al-Hakim to return to Christianity. Though the treaty was re-confirmed in 1036, actual building on the shrine began only in the later 1040s, under the emperor Constantine IX Monomachos (r. 1042–1055). According to al-Maqdisi, the Christians seemed largely in control of the Holy Land, and the emperor himself was rumored, according to Nasir Khusraw, to have been among the many Christian pilgrims that came to the Holy Sepulchre.
Sultan Alp Arslan pledged: “I shall consume with the sword all those people who venerate the cross, and all the lands of the Christians shall be enslaved.” Alp Arslan ordered the Turks:
Henceforth all of you be like lion cubs and eagle young, racing through the countryside day and night, slaying the Christians and not sparing any mercy on the Roman nation
According to French historian J. Laurent, hundreds of thousands of the native Anatolian Christians were reported to have been massacred or enslaved during the invasions of Anatolia by the Seljuk Turks.
Destruction and desecration of Churches became very widesspread during the turkic invasions of Anatolia which caused enormous damage to the ecclesiastical foundations throughout Asia minor:
Even before the battle of Manzikert, Turkish raids resulted in the pillaging of the famous churches of St. Basil at caesareia and of the Archangel Michael at Chonae. In the decade following 1071 the destruction of churches and the fligh the clergy became widespread. churches were often pillaged and destroyed. The churches of St. Phocas in Sinope and . Nicholas at Myra, both important centers of pilgrimage, were destroyed. The monasteries of Mt. Latrus, Strobilus, and elanoudium on the western coast were sacked and the monks driven out during the early invasions, so that the monasti undations in this area were completely abandoned until the Byzantine reconquest and the extensive support of successive Byzantine emperors once more reconstituted them. Greeks were forced to surround the church of St. John at Ephesus with walls to protect it from the Turks. The disruption of active religious life in the Cappadocian cave-monastic communies is also indicated for the twelfth century.
News of the great tribulation and persecutions of the eastern Christians reached European Christians in the west in the few years after the battle of manzikert. A frankish eyewitness says: "Far and wide they [Muslim Turks] ravaged cities and castles together with their settlements. Churches were razed down to the ground. Of the clergyman and monks whom they captured, some were slaughtered while others were with unspeakable wickedness given up, priests and all, to their dire dominion and nuns—alas for the sorrow of it!—were subjected to their lusts." Persecution of Christians in the middle east was not a new occurrence but under the seljuks it reached apocalyptic levels to the point that the Byzantines called for help from the Western Europeans. In a letter to count Robert of Flanders, Byzantine emperor Alexios I Komnenos writes:
The holy places are desecrated and destroyed in countless ways. Noble matrons and their daughters, robbed of everything, are violated one after another, like animals. Some [of their attackers] shamelessly place virgins in front of their own mothers and force them to sing wicked and obscene songs until they have finished having their ways with them... men of every age and description, boys, youths, old men, nobles, peasants and what is worse still and yet more distressing, clerics and monks and woe of unprecedented woes, even bishops are defiled with the sin of sodomy and it is now trumpeted abroad that one bishop has succumbed to this abominable sin.
In a poem, Malik Danishmend boasts: "I am Al Ghazi Danishmend, the destroyer of churches and towers". Destruction and pillaging of churches figure prominently in his poem. Another part of the poem talks about the simultaneous conversion of 5,000 people to Islam and the murder of 5,000 others.
Michael the Syrian wrote: “As the Turks were ruling the lands of Syria and Palestine, they inflicted injuries on Christians who went to pray in Jerusalem, beat them, pillaged them, and levied the poll tax [jizya]. Every time they saw a caravan of Christians, particularly of those from Rome and the lands of Italy, they made every effort to cause their death in diverse ways". Such was the fate German pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1064. According to one of the surviving pilgrims:
Accompanying this journey was a noble abbess of graceful body and of a religious outlook. Setting aside the cares of the sisters committed to her and against the advice of the wise, she undertook this great and dangerous pilgrimage. The pagans captured her, and the sight of all, these shameless men raped her until she breathed her last, to the dishonor of all Christians. Christ's enemies performed such abuses and others like them on the christians.
In the Middle Ages, the crusades were promoted as defensive response of Christianity against persecution of Eastern Christianity in the Levant. Western Catholic contemporaries believed the First Crusade was a movement against Muslim attacks on Eastern Christians and Christian sites in the Holy Land. In the mid-11th century, relations between the Byzantine Empire and the Fatimid Caliphate and between Christians and Muslims were peaceful, and there had not been persecution of Christians since the death of al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah. As a result of the migration of Turkic peoples into the Levant and the Seljuk Empire's wars with the Fatimid Caliphate in the later 11th century, reports of Christian pilgrims increasingly mentioned persecution of Christians there. Similarly, accounts sent to the West of the Byzantines' medieval wars with various Muslim states alleged persecutions of Christians and atrocities against holy places. Western soldiers were encouraged to take up soldiering against the empire's Muslim enemies; a recruiting bureau was even established in London. After the 1071 Battle of Manzikert, the sense of Byzantine distress increased and Pope Gregory VII suggested that he himself would ride to the rescue at the head of an army, claiming Christians were being "slaughtered like cattle". In the 1090s, the emperor Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118) issued appeals for help against the Seljuks to western Europe. In 1091 his ambassadors told the king of Croatia Muslims were destroying sacred sites, while his letter to Robert I, Count of Flanders, deliberately described emotively the rape and maltreatment of Christians and the sacrilege of the Jerusalem shrines.
Pope Urban II, who convoked the First Crusade at the 1095 Council of Clermont, spoke of the defense of his co-religionists in the Levant and the protection of the Christian holy places, while ordinary crusaders are also known to have been motivated by the notion of persecution of Christians by Muslims. According to Fulcher of Chartres, the pope described his holy wars as being contra barbaros, 'against the barbarians', while the pope's own letters indicate that the Muslims were barbarians fanatically persecuting Christians. The same idea, expressed in similar language, was evident in the writings of the bishop Gerald of Cahors, the abbot Guibert of Nogent, the priest Peter Tudebode, and the monk Robert of Reims. Outside the clergy, the Gesta Francorum's author likewise described the Crusaders' opponents as persecuting barbarians, language not used for non-Muslim non-Christians. These authors, together with Albert of Aix and Baldric of Dol, all referred to the Arabs, Saracens, and Turks as barbarae nationes, 'barbarian races'. Peter the Venerable, William of Tyre, and The Song of Roland all took the view that Muslims were barbarians, and in calling for the Third Crusade, Pope Gregory VIII expounded on the Muslim threat from Saladin, accusing the Muslims of being "barbarians thirsting for the blood of Christians". In numerous instances Pope Innocent III called on the Catholics to defend the Holy Land in a holy war against the impugnes barbariem paganorum, 'attacks of the pagan barbarians'. Crusaders believed that by fighting off the Muslims, the persecution of Christians would abate, in accordance to their god's will, and this ideology – much promoted by the Crusader-era propagandists – was shared at every level of literate medieval western European society.
According to Guibert of Nogent, a Catholic writer, the persecution suffered by the Eastern Christians and the attacks on the empire by the Turks were caused by the Christians' own doctrinal errors. He claimed that "Since they deviate from faith in the Trinity, so that hitherto they who are in filth become filthier, gradually they have come to the final degradation of having taken paganism upon themselves as the punishment for the sin proceeding from this, they have lost the soil of their native land to invading foreigners ...". Western Christians considered the Byzantine position in the filioque controversy to be heresy and akin to Arianism; Guibert claimed that heresy was an Eastern practice, almost unknown in the Latin West. Further blame was attached to the Eastern Christians by the crusaders for the Crusade of 1101's defeats in Asia Minor; Alexios Komnenos was accused of having collaborated with the Turks to attack the crusaders. The Norman prince Bohemond, citing the supposed transgressions of the emperor and the Eastern Church, which the pope had declared heretic and whose doctrinal errors Bohemond blamed on Alexios, seized the Muslim-held and formerly Byzantine city of Antioch (Antakya) for himself after the Siege of Antioch and subsequent Battle of Antioch left Kerbogha defeated, becoming Bohemond I of the Principality of Antioch. This contravention of the agreement to return conquered lands to the emperor's control, was justified in the crusaders' letter to Pope Urban II by the statement that the Greek Christians were heretics. Later, Bohemond took the opportunity of a crusade to attack Dyrrachium (Durrës), justifying his attack on the Christians in a letter to Pope Paschal II enumerating Alexios's faults and blaming him for the East–West Schism and for having taken the imperial throne by force. Besides Guibert, other crusader writers to accuse Eastern Christians of sabotaging the crusade include Raymond of Aguilers, Albert of Aix, Baldric of Dol, and the author of the Gesta Francorum. Alexios's departure from the crusade, followed by the departure of his envoy Tatikios, was seen as proof of the Eastern Christians' treachery. Though Fulcher of Chartres displayed a positive assessment of Eastern Christianity, he too accused the emperor of attacking Christian pilgrims, and of being a "tyrant".
When First Crusade's Siege of Jerusalem ended successfully for the crusaders, the patriarchate of Jerusalem was vacant, and the crusaders elevated a Latin patriarch without reference to either the Roman Catholic or the Eastern Orthodox churches. An Orthodox candidate for the patriarchate was forced to flee to Constantinople. Only when Saladin's Siege of Jerusalem was concluded and the city was returned to Muslim control were the Orthodox Christians allowed to practise in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Crusade scholars continue to debate crusading, its causes, and its effects, so scholarship in this field repeatedly undergoes revision and reconsideration.: 96 Many early crusade scholars saw the source-histories as simple recitations of how events actually transpired, but by the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, scholarship was increasingly skeptical of that assumption. By 1935, Carl Erdmann published Die Entstehung des Kreuzzugsgedankens (The Origin of the Idea of Crusade), changing the direction of crusader studies more than any other single work by focusing on the ideology of crusade. This ideology indicated the crusades were essentially defensive, which meant that soldiers were there to provide protection for pilgrims and fellow Christians in the East and to reclaim formerly Christian lands lost to Islamic expansion and forced conversion. This ideology remained throughout the Middle Ages despite the failure to finalize these goals.: 3 fn 10, 6, 10, 13 Constable adds that those "scholars who see the crusades as the beginning of European colonialism and expansionism would have surprised people at the time. Crusaders would not have denied some selfish aspects... but the predominant emphasis was on the defense and recovery of lands that had once been Christian and on the self-sacrifice rather than the self-seeking of the participants".: 15
Historian Robert Irwin points out that “Christians living under Muslim rule suffered during the crusading period. They were suspected of acting as spies or fifth columns for the Franks and later the Mongols as well.” According to Coptic chronicles, Saladin had many Christians in Egypt crucified in revenge against his Crusader enemies.
In 1951, Steven Runciman, a Byzantinist who saw the crusades in terms of East-West relations, wrote in the conclusion of his crusade history, that the "Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance".: 3, 9–10 Giles Constable says it is this view of the crusades that is most common among the populace.: 3 The problem with this view, according to political science professor Andrew R. Murphy, is that such concepts as intolerance were not part of eleventh century thinking about relationships for any of the various groups involved in or affected by the crusades, neither the Latins, the Byzantines, the Turks, the Baybars, nor others.: xii–xvii Instead, concepts of tolerance began to grow during the crusades from efforts to define legal limits and the nature of co-existence, and these ideas grew among both Christians and Muslims.: xii
These wars produced multiple massacres perpetrated by both sides. According to Mary Jane Engh's definition of religious persecution, which identifies it as "the repressive action initiated or condoned by authorities against their own people on religious grounds," it is not possible to term these acts of war as religious persecution.
After the collapse of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Fall of Acre, the last of the Crusaders' possessions in Asia in 1291, one of the main Christian military orders was suppressed from 1307 on trumped-up charges by the papacy. The Knights Templar were accused of sodomy, heresy, and corruption and the members were persecuted. In the crusades waged against non-Muslims, including Christians described as heretics, Catholic participants were promised the same spiritual rewards as were believed to be received by those who fought against Muslims in the Holy Land.
Pope Innocent III, with the king of France, Philip Augustus, began the military campaign known as the Albigensian Crusade between 1209 and 1226 against other Christians known as Cathars.: 46, 47 Scholars disagree, using two distinct lines of reasoning, on whether the war that followed was religious persecution from the Pope or a land grab by King Philip.: 50 Historian Laurence W. Marvin says the Pope exercised "little real control over events in Occitania".: 258 Four years after the Massacre at Beziers in 1213, the Pope cancelled crusade indulgences and called for an end to the campaign.: 58 The campaign continued anyway. The Pope was not reversed until the Fourth Lateran council re-instituted crusade status two years later in 1215; afterwards, the Pope removed it yet again.: 229, 235 The campaign continued in what Marvin refers to as "an increasingly murky moral atmosphere" for the next 16 years: there was technically no longer any crusade, no indulgences or dispensational rewards for fighting it, the papal legates exceeded their orders from the Pope, and the army occupied lands of nobles who were in the good graces of the church.: 216 The Treaty of Paris that ended the campaign left the Cathars still in existence, but awarded rule of Languedoc to Louis' descendants.: 235
The Northern (or Baltic crusades), went on intermittently from 1147 to 1316, and the primary trigger for these wars was not religious persecution but instead was the noble's desire for territorial expansion and material wealth in the form of land, furs, amber, slaves, and tribute.: 5, 6 The princes wanted to subdue these pagan peoples and stop their raiding by conquering and converting them, but ultimately, Iben Fonnesberg-Schmidt says, the princes were motivated by their desire to extend their power and prestige, and conversion was not always an element of their plans.: 24 When it was, conversion by these princes was almost always as a result of conquest, either by the direct use of force or indirectly when a leader converted and required it of his followers as well.: 23, 24 "While the theologians maintained that conversion should be voluntary, there was a widespread pragmatic acceptance of conversion obtained through political pressure or military coercion.": 24 The Church's acceptance of this led some commentators of the time to endorse and approve it, something Christian thought had never done before.: 157–158 : 24
During the Ilkhanate, massacres were perpetrated by Hulagu Khan against the Assyrians, particularly in and around the ancient Assyrian city of Arbela (modern Erbil).
Bar Hebraeus provided this contemporary assessment of the Mongols attitudes toward their Christian subjects after their conversion to Islam: “And having seen very much modesty and other habits of this kind among Christian people, certainly the Mongols loved them greatly at the beginning of their kingdom, a time ago somewhat short. But their love hath turned to such intense hatred that they cannot even see them with their eyes approvingly, because they have all alike become Muslims". Things became worse when the khan, Mahmud Ghazan, (who converted to Islam in 1295) yielded to “popular pressure which compelled him to persecute Christians,” and culminated in the following ordinance: “The churches shall be uprooted, and the altars overturned, and the celebrations of the Eucharist shall cease, and the hymns of praise, and the sounds of calls to prayer shall be abolished; and the heads of the Christians, and the heads of the congregations of the Jews, and the great men among them, shall be killed" 
Empowered by this ordinance and believing “that everyone who did not abandon Christianity and deny his faith should be killed,” Muslim mobs ran amok, slaughtering and wreaking havoc among Christian populations. In Armenia, church services were banned and local authorities ordered to tattoo a black mark on the shoulder of every male Christian and to pluck out the beards and inflict other humiliations on every Christian man. “When few Christians defected [to Islam] in response to these measures, the Khan then ordered that all Christian men be castrated and have one eye put out which caused many deaths in this era before antibiotics, but did lead to many conversions” to Islam.
The consideration which the Mongols bestowed on the Christians (particularly the Nestorians) singled them out for the hatred of the Muslims. In 1261, Muslims of Mosul pillaged and killed all those who did not convert to Islam. Several monks and community leaders and others from the common people recanted. The Kurds then descended from the mountains and attacked the Christians of the region, massacring many of them; they pillaged the convent of Mar Matai, only withdrawing after extorting a heavy ransom from the monks.
Advocates of lay piety called for church reform and met with persecution from the Popes.: 248–250 John Wycliffe (1320–1384) urged the church to give up ownership of property, which produced much of the church's wealth, and to once again embrace poverty and simplicity. He urged the church to stop being subservient to the state and its politics. He denied papal authority. John Wycliff died of a stroke, but his followers, called Lollards, were declared heretics.: 249 After the Oldcastle rebellion many were killed.: 12, 13
Jan Hus (1369–1415) accepted some of Wycliff's views and aligned with the Bohemian Reform movement which was also rooted in popular piety. In 1415, Hus was called to the Council of Constance where his ideas were condemned as heretical and he was handed over to the state and burned at the stake.: 130, 135–139 : 250
The Fraticelli, who were also known as the "Little Brethren" or "Spiritual Franciscans", were dedicated followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. These Franciscans honored their vow of poverty and saw the wealth of the Church as a contributor to corruption and injustice when so many lived in poverty. They criticized the worldly behavior of many churchmen.: 28, 50, 305 Thus, the Brethren were declared heretical by John XXII (1316–1334) who was called "the banker of Avignon".: 131
The leader of these brethren, Bernard Délicieux (c. 1260–1270 – 1320) was well known as he had spent much of his life battling the Dominican-run inquisitions. He confessed, after torture and threat of excommunication, to the charge of opposing the inquisitions, and was defrocked and sentenced to life in prison, in chains, in solitary confinement, and to receive nothing but bread and water. The judges attempted to ameliorate the harshness of this sentence due to his age and frailty, but Pope John XXII countermanded them and delivered the friar to Inquisitor Jean de Beaune. Délicieux died shortly thereafter in early 1320.: 191, 196–198
when Sultan Baybars took Antioch from the Crusaders he wrote a letter to Christians boasting of the atrocities they would have seen his soldiers commit had they been there:
You would have seen your knights prostrate beneath the horses’ hooves, your houses stormed by pillagers and ransacked by looters, your wealth weighed by the quintal, your women sold four at a time and bought for a dinar of your own money! You would have seen the crosses in your churches smashed, the pages of the false Testaments scattered, the Patriarchs’ tombs overturned. You would have seen your Muslim enemy trampling on the place where you celebrate the Mass, cutting the throats of monks, priests and deacons upon the altars, bringing sudden death to the Patriarchs and slavery to the royal princes. You would have seen fire running through your palaces, your dead burned in this world before going down to the fires of the next, your palace lying unrecognizable, the Church of St. Paul and that of the Cathedral of St. Peter pulled down and destroyed; then you would have said, “Would that I were dust, and that no letter had ever brought me such tidings!”
Timur (Tamerlane) instigated large scale massacres of Christians in Mesopotamia, Persia, Asia Minor and Syria in the 14th century AD. Most of the victims were indigenous Assyrians and Armenians, members of the Assyrian Church of the East and Orthodox Churches, which led to the decimation of the hitherto majority Assyrian population in northern Mesopotamia and the abandonment of the ancient Assyrian city of Assur. Tamerlane virtually exterminated the Church of the East, which had previously been a major branch of Christianity but afterwards became largely confined to a small area now known as the Assyrian Triangle.
The Protestant Reformation and the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation provoked a number of persecutions of Christians by other Christians and the European wars of religion, including the Eighty Years' War, the French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years' War, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the Savoyard–Waldensian wars, and the Toggenburg War. There were false allegations of witchcraft and numerous witch trials in the early modern period.
Beginning in the late 17th century and for at least a century, Christianity was banned in China by the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing dynasty after Pope Clement XI forbade Chinese Catholics from venerating their relatives, Confucius, the Buddha or Guanyin.
The Boxer rebellion targeted foreign and Chinese Christians. Beginning in 1899, Boxers spread violence across Shandong and the North China Plain, attacking or murdering Christian missionaries and Chinese Christians. They decided the "primary devils" were the Christian missionaries, and the "secondary devils" were the Chinese converts to Christianity. Both had to recant or be driven out or killed. Boxers burned Christian churches, killed Chinese Christians and intimidated Chinese officials who stood in their way. Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic missionaries and their Chinese parishioners were massacred throughout northern China, some by Boxers and others by government troops and authorities. Yuxian implemented a brutal anti-foreign and anti-Christian policy. The Baptist Missionary Society, based in England, opened its mission in Shanxi in 1877. In 1900 all its missionaries there were killed, along with all 120 converts. By the summer's end, more foreigners and as many as 2,000 Chinese Christians had been put to death in the province. Journalist and historical writer Nat Brandt has called the massacre of Christians in Shanxi "the greatest single tragedy in the history of Christian evangelicalism." During the Boxer Rebellion as a whole, a total of 136 Protestant missionaries and 53 children were killed, and 47 Catholic priests and nuns, 30,000 Chinese Catholics, 2,000 Chinese Protestants, and 200 to 400 of the 700 Russian Orthodox Christians in Beijing were estimated to have been killed. Collectively, the Protestant dead were called the China Martyrs of 1900.
The Muslim unit Kansu Braves which was serving in the Chinese army attacked Christians.
During the Northern Expedition, the Kuomintang incited anti-foreign, anti-Western sentiment. Portraits of Sun Yat-sen replaced the crucifix in several churches, KMT posters proclaimed that "Jesus Christ is dead. Why not worship something alive such as Nationalism?" Foreign missionaries were attacked and anti-foreign riots broke out. In 1926, Muslim General Bai Chongxi attempted to drive out foreigners in Guangxi, attacking American, European, and other foreigners and missionaries, and generally making the province unsafe for foreigners. Westerners fled from the province, and some Chinese Christians were also attacked as imperialist agents.
From 1894 to 1938, many Uighur Muslims converted to Christianity. They were killed, tortured and jailed. Christian missionaries were expelled.
Main articles: Dechristianisation of France during the French Revolution and Revolt in the Vendée
The Dechristianisation of France during the French Revolution is a conventional description of a campaign, conducted by various Robespierre-era governments of France beginning with the start of the French Revolution in 1789, to eliminate any symbol that might be associated with the past, especially the monarchy.
The program included the following policies:
The climax was reached with the celebration of the Goddess "Reason" in Notre-Dame de Paris, the Parisian cathedral, on 10 November.
Under threat of death, imprisonment, military conscription or loss of income, about 20,000 constitutional priests were forced to abdicate or hand over their letters of ordination and 6,000 – 9,000 were coerced to marry, many ceasing their ministerial duties. Some of those who abdicated covertly ministered to the people. By the end of the decade, approximately 30,000 priests were forced to leave France, and thousands who did not leave were executed. Most of France was left without the services of a priest, deprived of the sacraments and any nonjuring priest faced the guillotine or deportation to French Guiana.
The March 1793 conscription requiring Vendeans to fill their district's quota of 300,000 enraged the populace, who took up arms as "The Catholic Army", "Royal" being added later, and fought for "above all the reopening of their parish churches with their former priests."
With these massacres came formal orders for forced evacuation; also, a 'scorched earth' policy was initiated: farms were destroyed, crops and forests burned and villages razed. There were many reported atrocities and a campaign of mass killing universally targeted at residents of the Vendée regardless of combatant status, political affiliation, age or gender. By July 1796, the estimated Vendean dead numbered between 117,000 and 500,000, out of a population of around 800,000.
Main article: Martyrs of Japan
Tokugawa Ieyasu assumed control over Japan in 1600. Like Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he disliked Christian activities in Japan. The Tokugawa shogunate finally decided to ban Catholicism in 1614, and in the mid-17th century it demanded the expulsion of all European missionaries and the execution of all converts. This marked the end of open Christianity in Japan. The Shimabara Rebellion, led by a young Japanese Christian boy named Amakusa Shirō Tokisada, took place in 1637. After the Hara Castle fell, the shogunate's forces beheaded an estimated 37,000 rebels and sympathizers. Amakusa Shirō's severed head was taken to Nagasaki for public display, and the entire complex at Hara Castle was burned to the ground and buried together with the bodies of all the dead.
Many of the Christians in Japan continued for two centuries to maintain their religion as Kakure Kirishitan, or hidden Christians, without any priests or pastors. Some of those who were killed for their Faith are venerated as the Martyrs of Japan.
Christianity was later allowed during the Meiji era. The Meiji Constitution of 1890 introduced separation of church and state and permitted freedom of religion.
Muslim Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, took action against the Mangalorean Catholic community from Mangalore and the South Canara district on the southwestern coast of India. Tipu was widely reputed to be anti-Christian. He took Mangalorean Catholics into captivity at Seringapatam on 24 February 1784 and released them on 4 May 1799.
Soon after the Treaty of Mangalore in 1784, Tipu gained control of Canara. He issued orders to seize the Christians in Canara, confiscate their estates, and deport them to Seringapatam, the capital of his empire, through the Jamalabad fort route. There were no priests among the captives. Together with Fr. Miranda, all the 21 arrested priests were issued orders of expulsion to Goa, fined Rs 2 lakhs, and threatened death by hanging if they ever returned. Tipu ordered the destruction of 27 Catholic churches.
According to Thomas Munro, a Scottish soldier and the first collector of Canara, around 60,000 of them, nearly 92 percent of the entire Mangalorean Catholic community, were captured. 7,000 escaped. Observer Francis Buchanan reports that 70,000 were captured, from a population of 80,000, with 10,000 escaping. They were forced to climb nearly 4,000 feet (1,200 m) through the jungles of the Western Ghat mountain ranges. It was 210 miles (340 km) from Mangalore to Seringapatam, and the journey took six weeks. According to British Government records, 20,000 of them died on the march to Seringapatam. According to James Scurry, a British officer, who was held captive along with Mangalorean Catholics, 30,000 of them were forcibly converted to Islam. The young women and girls were forcibly made wives of the Muslims living there and later distributed and sold in prostitution. The young men who offered resistance were disfigured by cutting their noses, upper lips, and ears.
Tipu Sultan's invasion of the Malabar Coast had an adverse impact on the Saint Thomas Christian community of the Malabar coast. Many churches in Malabar and Cochin were damaged. The old Syrian Nasrani seminary at Angamaly which had been the center of Catholic religious education for several centuries was razed to the ground by Tipu's soldiers. Many centuries-old religious manuscripts were lost forever. The church was later relocated to Kottayam where it still exists to this date. The Mor Sabor church at Akaparambu and the Martha Mariam Church attached to the seminary were destroyed as well. Tipu's army set fire to the church at Palayoor and attacked the Ollur Church in 1790. Furthernmore, the Arthat church and the Ambazhakkad seminary was also destroyed. Over the course of this invasion, many Saint Thomas Christians were killed or forcibly converted to Islam. Most of the coconut, arecanut, pepper and cashew plantations held by the Saint Thomas Christian farmers were also indiscriminately destroyed by the invading army. As a result, when Tipu's army invaded Guruvayur and adjacent areas, the Syrian Christian community fled Calicut and small towns like Arthat to new centres like Kunnamkulam, Chalakudi, Ennakadu, Cheppadu, Kannankode, Mavelikkara, etc. where there were already Christians. They were given refuge by Sakthan Tamburan, the ruler of Cochin and Karthika Thirunal, the ruler of Travancore, who gave them lands, plantations and encouraged their businesses. Colonel Macqulay, the British resident of Travancore also helped them.
Tipu's persecution of Christians also extended to captured British soldiers. For instance, there were a significant amount of forced conversions of British captives between 1780 and 1784. Following their disastrous defeat at the battle of Pollilur, 7,000 British men along with an unknown number of women were held captive by Tipu in the fortress of Seringapatnam. Of these, over 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes, and several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the court as nautch girls or dancing girls. After the 10-year-long captivity ended, James Scurry, one of those prisoners, recounted that he had forgotten how to sit in a chair and use a knife and fork. His English was broken and stilted, having lost all his vernacular idiom. His skin had darkened to the swarthy complexion of negroes, and moreover, he had developed an aversion to wearing European clothes.
Main article: Christianity in the Ottoman Empire
Historian Warren Treadgold gives a summary on the historical background highlighting the cumulative effects of the relentless Turkish Muslim depredations against the Byzantine Empire in its Anatolian heartland by the late 14th century:
As the Turks raided and conquered, they enslaved many Christians, selling some in other Muslim regions and hindering the rest from practicing their faith. Conversions [to islam], Turkish migration, and Greek outmigration increasingly endangered the Greek minority in central Asia Minor. When the Turks overran Western Anatolia, they occupied the countryside first, driving the Greeks into the cities, or away to Europe, or the islands. By the time the Anatolian cities fell, the land around them was already largely Turkish [and Islamic].
In accordance with the traditional custom which was practiced at the time, Sultan Mehmed II allowed his troops and his entourage to engage in unbridled pillaging and looting in the city of Constantinople for three full days shortly after it was captured. Once the three days passed, he claimed its remaining contents for himself. However, at the end of the first day, he proclaimed that the looting should cease because he felt profound sadness when he toured the looted and enslaved city. Hagia Sophia was not exempted from the pillage and looting and specifically became its focal point as the invaders believed it to contain the greatest treasures and valuables of the city. Shortly after the defence of the Walls of Constantinople collapsed and the Ottoman troops entered the city victoriously, the pillagers and looters made their way to the Hagia Sophia and battered down its doors before storming in.
Throughout the period of the siege of Constantinople, the worshippers who were trapped in the city participated in the Divine Liturgy and they also recited the Prayer of the Hours at the Hagia Sophia and the church formed a safe-haven and a refuge for many of those worshippers who were unable to contribute to the city's defence, which comprised women, children, elderly, the sick and the wounded. Being trapped in the church, the many congregants and yet more refugees inside became spoils-of-war to be divided amongst the triumphant invaders. The building was desecrated and looted, with the helpless occupants who sought shelter within the church being enslaved. While most of the elderly and the infirm/wounded and sick were killed, and the remainder (mainly teenage males and young boys) were chained up and sold into slavery.
The women of Constantinople also suffered from rape at the hands of Ottoman forces. According to Barbaro, "all through the day the Turks made a great slaughter of Christians through the city". According to historian Philip Mansel, widespread persecution of the city's civilian inhabitants took place, resulting in thousands of murders and rapes, and 30,000 civilians being enslaved or forcibly deported. George Sphrantzes says that people of both genders were raped inside Hagia Sophia.
Since the time of the Austro-Turkish war (1683–1699), relations between Muslims and Christians who lived in the European provinces of the Ottoman Empire gradually deteriorated[vague] and this deterioration in interfaith relations occasionally resulted in calls for the expulsion or extermination of local Christian communities by some Muslim religious leaders. As a result of Ottoman oppression, the destruction of Churches and Monasteries, and violence against the non-Muslim civilian population, Serbian Christians and their church leaders, headed by Serbian Patriarch Arsenije III, sided with the Austrians in 1689 and again in 1737 under Serbian Patriarch Arsenije IV. In the following punitive campaigns, Ottoman forces conducted systematic atrocities against the Christian population in the Serbian regions, resulted in the Great Migrations of the Serbs.
Main article: Islamization of Albania
Before the late 16th century, Albania's population remained overwhelmingly Christian, despite the fact that it was under Ottoman rule, unlike the more diverse populations of other regions of the Ottoman Empire, such as Bosnia, Bulgaria and Northern Greece, the mountainous Albania was a frequent site of revolts against Ottoman rule, often at an enormous human cost, such as the destruction of entire villages. In response, the Ottomans abandoned their usual policy of tolerating Christians in favor of a policy which was aimed at reducing the size of Albania's Christian population through Islamization, beginning in the restive Christian regions of Reka and Elbasan in 1570.
The pressures which resulted from this campaign included particularly harsh economic conditions which were imposed on Albania's Christian population; while earlier taxes on the Christians were around 45 akçes a year, by the middle of the 17th century the rate had been multiplied by 27 to 780 akçes a year. Albanian elders often opted to save their clans and villages from hunger and economic ruin by advocating village-wide and region-wide conversions to Islam, with many individuals frequently continuing to practice Christianity in private.
A failed Catholic rebellion in 1596 and the Albanian population's support of Austro-Hungary during the Great Turkish War, and its support of the Venetians in the 1644 Venetian-Ottoman War as well as the Orlov Revolt were all factors which led to punitive measures in which outright force was accompanied by economic incentives depending on the region, and ended up forcing the conversion of large Christian populations to Islam in Albania. In the aftermath of the Great Turkish War, massive punitive measures were imposed on Kosovo's Catholic Albanian population and as a result of them, most members of it fled to Hungary and settled around Buda, where most of them died of disease and starvation.
After the Orthodox Serbian population's subsequent flight from Kosovo, the pasha of Ipek (Peja/Pec) forced Albanian Catholic mountaineers to repopulate Kosovo by deporting them to Kosovo, and also forced them adopt Islam. In the 17th and 18th centuries, South Albania also saw numerous instances of violence which was directed against those who remained Christian by local newly converted Muslims, ultimately resulting in many more conversions out of fear as well as flight to faraway lands by the Christian population.
Religion in Albania was subordinated to the interests of Marxism during the rule of the country's communist party when all religions were suppressed. This policy was justified by the communist stance of state atheism from 1967 to 1991. The Agrarian Reform Law of August 1945 nationalized most of the property which belonged to religious institutions, including the estates of mosques, monasteries, religious orders, and dioceses. Many clergy and believers were tried and some of them were executed. All foreign Roman Catholic priests, monks, and nuns were expelled from Albania in 1946. The military seized Churches, cathedrals and mosques and converted them into basketball courts, movie theaters, dance halls, and the like; and members of the Clergy were stripped of their titles and imprisoned. Around 6,000 Albanians were disappeared and murdered by agents of the Communist government, and their bodies were never found or identified. Albanians continued to be imprisoned, tortured and killed for their religious practices well into 1991.
Religious communities or branches of them which had their headquarters outside the country, such as the Jesuit and Franciscan orders, were henceforth ordered to terminate their activities in Albania. Religious institutions were forbidden to have anything to do with the education of the young, because that activity had been made the exclusive province of the state. All religious communities were prohibited from owning real estate and they were also prohibited from operating philanthropic and welfare institutions and hospitals. Enver Hoxha's overarching goal was the eventual destruction of all organized religions in Albania, despite some variance in his approach to it.
See also: Christianity in Iraq
The Assyrians were subjected to another series of persecutions during the Simele massacre of 1933, with the death of approximately 3000 Assyrian civilians in the Kingdom of Iraq at the hands of the Royal Iraqi Army.
In 1987, the last Iraqi census counted 1.4 million Christians. They were tolerated under the secular regime of Saddam Hussein, who even made one of them, Tariq Aziz his deputy. However, Saddam Hussein's government continued to persecute the Christians on an ethnic, cultural and racial basis, because the vast majority are Mesopotamian Eastern Aramaic-speaking Ethnic Assyrians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians). The Assyro-Aramaic language and script was repressed, the giving of Hebraic/Aramaic Christian names or Akkadian/Assyro-Babylonian names was forbidden (for example Tariq Aziz's real name was Michael Youhanna ), and Saddam exploited religious differences between Assyrian denominations such as Chaldean Catholics, the Assyrian Church of the East, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Pentecostal Church and the Ancient Church of the East, in an attempt to divide them. Many Assyrians and Armenians were ethnically cleansed from their towns and villages during the al Anfal Campaign in 1988, despite the fact that this campaign was primarily directed against the Kurds.
Queen Ranavalona I (reigned 1828–1861) issued a royal edict prohibiting the practice of Christianity in Madagascar, expelled British missionaries from the island, and sought to stem the growth of conversion to Christianity within her realm. Far more, however, were punished in other ways: many were required to undergo the tangena ordeal, while others were condemned to hard labor or the confiscation of their land and property, and many of these consequently died. The tangena ordeal was commonly administered to determine the guilt or innocence of an accused person for any crime, including the practice of Christianity, and involved ingestion of the poison contained within the nut of the tangena tree (Cerbera odollam). Survivors were deemed innocent, while those who perished were assumed guilty.
In 1838, it was estimated that as many as 100,000 people in Imerina died as a result of the tangena ordeal, constituting roughly 20% of the population. contributing to a strongly unfavorable view of Ranavalona's rule in historical accounts. Malagasy Christians would remember this period as ny tany maizina, or "the time when the land was dark". Persecution of Christians intensified in 1840, 1849 and 1857; in 1849, deemed the worst of these years by British missionary to Madagascar W.E. Cummins (1878), 1,900 people were fined, jailed or otherwise punished in relation to their Christian faith, including 18 executions.
Main articles: Nazism, Nazi Germany, Religion in Nazi Germany, Religious aspects of Nazism, Religious views of Adolf Hitler, German Christians (movement), Positive Christianity, Kirchenkampf, Nazi persecution of the Catholic Church in Germany, and Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Nazi Germany
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of the Catholic Church
Hitler and the Nazis received some support from certain Christian fundamentalist communities, mainly due to their common cause against the anti-religious Communists, as well as their mutual Judeophobia and antisemitism. Once in power, the Nazis moved to consolidate their power over the German churches and bring them in line with Nazi ideals. Some historians say that Hitler had a general covert plan, which some of them say existed even before the Nazis' rise to power, to destroy Christianity within the Reich, which was to be accomplished through Nazi control and subversion of the churches and it would be completed after the war.[excessive citations] The Third Reich founded its own version of Christianity which was called Positive Christianity, a Nazi version of Christianity which made major changes in the interpretation of the Bible by arguing that Jesus Christ was the son of God, but he was not a Jew, arguing that Jesus despised Jews and Judaism, and arguing that the Jews were the ones who were solely responsible for Jesus's death.
Outside mainstream Christianity, the Jehovah's Witnesses were targets of Nazi Persecution, for their refusal to swear allegiance to the Nazi government. In Nazi Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s, Jehovah's Witnesses refused to renounce their political neutrality and as a result, they were imprisoned in concentration camps. The Nazi government gave detained Jehovah's Witnesses the option of release if they signed a document which indicated their renunciation of their faith, their submission to state authority, and their support of the German military. Historian Hans Hesse said, "Some five thousand Jehovah's Witnesses were sent to concentration camps where they alone were 'voluntary prisoners', so termed because the moment they recanted their views, they could be freed. Some lost their lives in the camps, but few renounced their faith."
Main articles: Christianity in the Ottoman Empire, Persecution of Eastern Orthodox Christians § Persecution in the Ottoman Empire, Late Ottoman genocides, Armenian genocide, Seyfo, Great Famine of Mount Lebanon, and Greek genocide
See also: 1843 and 1846 massacres in Hakkari
During the modern era, relations between Muslims and Christians in the Ottoman Empire were largely shaped by broader dynamics which were related to European colonial and neo-imperialist activities in the region, dynamics which frequently (though by no means always) generated tensions between the two communities. Too often, growing European influence in the region during the nineteenth century seemed to disproportionately benefit Christians, thus, it triggered resentment on the part of many Muslims, likewise, many Muslims suspected that Christians and the European powers were plotting to weaken the Islamic world. Further exacerbating relations was the fact that Christians seemed to disproportionately benefit from efforts at reform (one aspect of which generally sought to elevate the political status of non-Muslims), likewise, the various Christian nationalist uprisings in the Empire's European territories, which often had the support of the European powers.
Persecutions and forced migrations of Christian populations were induced by Ottoman forces during the 19th century in the European and Asian provinces of the Ottoman Empire. The Massacres of Badr Khan were conducted by Kurdish and Ottoman forces against the Assyrian Christian population of the Ottoman Empire between 1843 and 1847, resulting in the slaughter of more than 10,000 indigenous Assyrian civilians of the Hakkari region, with many thousands more being sold into slavery.
On 17 October 1850 the Muslim majority began rioting against the Uniate Catholics – a minority that lived in the communities of Judayda, in the city of Aleppo.
During the Bulgarian Uprising (1876) against Ottoman rule, and the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), the persecution of the Bulgarian Christian population was conducted by Ottoman soldiers. The principal locations were Panagurishte, Perushtitza, and Bratzigovo. Over 15,000 non-combatant Bulgarian civilians were killed by the Ottoman army between 1876 and 1878, with the worst single instance being the Batak massacre. During the war, whole cities including the largest Bulgarian one (Stara Zagora) were destroyed and most of their inhabitants were killed, the rest being expelled or enslaved. The atrocities included impaling and grilling people alive. Similar attacks were undertaken by Ottoman troops against Serbian Christians during the Serbian-Turkish War (1876–1878).
The abolition of jizya and emancipation of formerly dhimmi subjects was one of the most embittering stipulations the Ottoman Empire had to accept to end the Crimean War in 1856. Then, “for the first time since 1453, church bells were permitted to ring... in Constantinople,” writes M. J. Akbar. “Many Muslims declared it a day of mourning.” Indeed, because superior social standing was from the start one of the advantages of conversion to Islam, resentful Muslim mobs rioted and hounded Christians all over the empire. In 1860 up to 30,000 Christians were massacred in the Levant alone. Mark Twain recounts what took place in the levant:
Men, women and children were butchered indiscriminately and left to rot by hundreds all through the Christian quarter... the stench was dreadful. All the Christians who could get away fled from the city, and the Mohammedans would not defile their hands by burying the ‘infidel dogs.’ The thirst for blood extended to the high lands of Hermon and Anti-Lebanon, and in a short time twenty-five thousand more Christians were massacred.
Between 1894 and 1896 a series of ethno-religiously motivated Anti-Christian pogroms known as the Hamidian massacres were conducted against the ancient Armenian and Assyrian Christian populations by the forces of the Ottoman Empire. The motives for these massacres were an attempt to reassert Pan-Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, resentment of the comparative wealth of the ancient indigenous Christian communities, and a fear that they would attempt to secede from the tottering Ottoman Empire. The massacres mainly took place in what is today southeastern Turkey, northeastern Syria and northern Iraq. Assyrians and Armenians were massacred in Diyarbakir, Hasankeyef, Sivas and other parts of Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia, by Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The death toll is estimated to have been as high as 325,000 people, with a further 546,000 Armenians and Assyrians made destitute by forced deportations of survivors from cities, and the destruction or theft of almost 2500 of their farmsteads towns and villages. Hundreds of churches and monasteries were also destroyed or forcibly converted into mosques. These attacks caused the death of over thousands of Assyrians and the forced "Ottomanisation" of the inhabitants of 245 villages. The Ottoman troops looted the remains of the Assyrian settlements and these were later stolen and occupied by south-east Anatolian tribes. Unarmed Assyrian women and children were raped, tortured and murdered. According to H. Aboona, the independence of the Assyrians was destroyed not directly by the Turks but by their neighbours under Ottoman auspices.
The Adana massacre occurred in the Adana Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire in April 1909. A massacre of Armenian and Assyrian Christians in the city of Adana and its surrounds amidst the 31 March Incident led to a series of anti-Christian pogroms throughout the province. Reports estimated that the Adana Province massacres resulted in the death of as many as 30,000 Armenians and 1,500 Assyrians.
Between 1915 and 1921 the Young Turks government of the collapsing Ottoman Empire persecuted Eastern Christian populations in Anatolia, Persia, Northern Mesopotamia and The Levant. The onslaught by the Ottoman army, which included Kurdish, Arab and Circassian irregulars resulted in an estimated 3.4 million deaths, divided between roughly 1.5 million Armenian Christians, 0.75 million Assyrian Christians, 0.90 million Greek Orthodox Christians and 0.25 million Maronite Christians (see Great Famine of Mount Lebanon); groups of Georgian Christians were also killed. The massive ethnoreligious cleansing expelled from the empire or killed the Armenians and the Bulgarians who had not converted to Islam, and it came to be known as the Armenian genocide, Assyrian genocide, Greek genocide. and Great Famine of Mount Lebanon. which accounted for the deaths of Armenian, Assyrian, Greek and Maronite Christians, and the deportation and destitution of many more. The Genocide led to the devastation of ancient indigenous Christian populations who had existed in the region for thousands of years.
Benny Morris and Dror Ze'evi argue that the Armenian genocide and other contemporaneous persecution of Christians in the Ottoman Empire (Greek genocide, and Assyrian genocide) constitute an extermination campaign, or genocide, carried out by the Ottoman Empire against its Christian subjects.
In the aftermath of the Sheikh Said rebellion, the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Assyrian Church of the East were subjected to harassment by Turkish authorities, on the grounds that some Assyrians allegedly collaborated with the rebelling Kurds. Consequently, mass deportations took place and Assyrian Patriarch Mar Ignatius Elias III was expelled from the Mor Hananyo Monastery which was turned into a Turkish barrack. The patriarchal seat was then temporarily transferred to Homs.
Further information: Human rights in the Soviet Union § Freedom of religion, Operation North, Persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union, Religion in the Soviet Union, Soviet anti-religious legislation, and Persecution of Christians in the Eastern Bloc
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Bolsheviks undertook a massive program to remove the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church from the government, outlawed antisemitism in society, and promoted atheism. Tens of thousands of churches were destroyed or they were converted to buildings which were used for other purposes, and many members of the clergy were murdered, publicly executed and imprisoned for what the government termed "anti-government activities". An extensive educational and propaganda campaign was launched to convince people, especially children and youths, to abandon their religious beliefs. This persecution resulted in the intentional murder of 500,000 Orthodox followers by the government of the Soviet Union during the 20th century. In the first five years after the Bolshevik revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were executed.
The state established atheism as the only scientific truth. Soviet authorities forbade the criticism of atheism and agnosticism until 1936 or of the state's anti-religious policies; such criticism could lead to forced retirement. Militant atheism became central to the ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and a high priority policy of all Soviet leaders. Christopher Marsh, a professor at the Baylor University writes that "Tracing the social nature of religion from Schleiermacher and Feurbach to Marx, Engles, and Lenin...the idea of religion as a social product evolved to the point of policies aimed at the forced conversion of believers to atheism."
Under the doctrine of state atheism in the Soviet Union, a "government-sponsored program of forced conversion to atheism" was conducted by the Communists. The Communist Party destroyed churches, mosques and temples, ridiculed, harassed, incarcerated and executed religious leaders, flooded the schools and media with anti-religious teachings, and it introduced a belief system called "scientific atheism", with its own rituals, promises and proselytizers. Many priests were killed and imprisoned; thousands of churches were closed. In 1925 the government founded the League of Militant Atheists to intensify the persecution. The League of Militant Atheists was also a "nominally independent organization established by the Communist Party to promote atheism".
The Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in the schools. Actions against particular religions, however, were determined by State interests, and most organized religions were never outlawed. It is estimated that 500,000 Russian Orthodox Christians were martyred in the gulags by the Soviet government, excluding the members of other Christian denominations who were also tortured or killed.
The main target of the anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and 1930s was the Russian Orthodox Church, which had the largest number of faithful worshippers. A very large segment of its clergy, and many of its believers, were shot or sent to labor camps. Theological schools were closed, and church publications were prohibited. In the period between 1927 and 1940, the number of Orthodox Churches in the Russian Republic fell from 29,584 to less than 500. Between 1917 and 1940, 130,000 Orthodox priests were arrested. The widespread persecution and internecine disputes within the church hierarchy lead to the seat of Patriarch of Moscow being vacant from 1925 to 1943.
After Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Joseph Stalin revived the Russian Orthodox Church in order to intensify the Soviet population's patriotic support of the war effort. By 1957, about 22,000 Russian Orthodox churches had become active. But in 1959, Nikita Khrushchev initiated his own campaign against the Russian Orthodox Church and forced about 12,000 churches to close. By 1985, fewer than 7,000 churches remained active.
In the Soviet Union, in addition to the methodical closure and destruction of churches, the charitable and social work which was formerly done by ecclesiastical authorities was taken over by the state. As with all private property, Church owned property was confiscated and converted to public use by the state. The few places of worship which were left to the Church were legally viewed as state property which the government permitted the church to use. After the advent of state funded universal education, the Church was not permitted to carry on educational, instructional activity for children. For adults, only training for church-related occupations was allowed. With the exception of sermons which could be delivered during the celebration of the divine liturgy, it could not instruct the faithful nor could it evangelize the youth. Catechism classes, religious schools, study groups, Sunday schools and religious publications were all declared illegal and banned. This caused many religious tracts to be circulated as illegal literature or samizdat. Even after the death of Stalin in 1953, the persecution continued, and it did not end until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church has recognized a number of New Martyrs as saints, some of whom were executed during the Mass operations of the NKVD under directives like NKVD Order No. 00447.
Both before and after the October Revolution of 7 November 1917 (25 October Old Calendar), there was a movement within the Soviet Union which sought to unite all of the people of the world under Communist rule (see Communist International). This movement spread to the Eastern European bloc countries as well as the Balkan States. Since the populations of some of these Slavic countries tied their ethnic heritages to their ethnic churches, the people and their churches were both targeted for ethnic and political genocide by the Soviets and their form of State atheism. The Soviets' official religious stance was one of "religious freedom or tolerance", though the state established atheism as the only scientific truth (see also the Soviet or committee of the All-Union Society for the Dissemination of Scientific and Political Knowledge or Znanie which was until 1947 called The League of the Militant Godless and various Intelligentsia groups). Criticism of atheism was strictly forbidden and sometimes, it resulted in imprisonment. Some of the more high-profile individuals who were executed include Metropolitan Benjamin of Petrograd, priest and scientist Pavel Florensky.
According to James M. Nelson a psychology professor at East Carolina University, the total number of Christian victims under the Soviet regime may have been around 12 million, while Todd Johnson and Gina Zurlo of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary at Boston University estimate a figure of 15–20 million.
The Second Spanish Republic, proclaimed in 1931, attempted to establish a regime with a separation between State and Church as it had happened in France (1905). When established, the Republic passed legislation which prevented the Church from conducting educational activities. A process of political polarisation had characterised the Spanish Second Republic, party divisions became increasingly embittered and questions of religious identity came to assume major political significance. The existence of different Church institutions was an illustration of the situation which resulted from the proclamation which denounced the 2nd Republic as an anti-Catholic, Masonic, Jewish, and Communist internationalist conspiracy which heralded a clash between God and atheism, chaos and harmony, Good and Evil. The Church's high-ranking officials like Isidro Goma, bishop of Tudela, reminded their Christian subjects of their obligation to vote "for the righteous", and their priests of their obligation to "educate the consciences." In the Asturian miners' strike of 1934, part of the Revolution of 1934, 34 Catholic priests were massacred and churches were systematically burned. Anticlerical opinion accused the Catholic priesthood and religious orders of hypocrisy: clerics were guilty of taking up arms against the people, of exploiting others for the sake of wealth, and of sexual immorality all while claiming the moral authority of peacefulness, poverty, and chastity.
Since the early stages of the Second Republic, far-right forces which were imbued with an ultra-Catholic spirit attempted to overthrow the Republic. Carlists, Africanistas, and Catholic theologians fostered an atmosphere of social and racial hatred in their speeches and writings. The Catholic Church endorsed the rebellion which was led by the fascist Francisco Franco, and Pope Pius XI expressed sympathy for the Nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War. The Catholic authorities described Franco's war as a "crusade" against the Second Republic, and later the Collective Letter of the Spanish Bishops, 1937 appeared, justifying Franco's attack on the Republic. A similar approach is attested in 1912, when the bishop of Almería José Ignacio de Urbina(founder of the National Anti-Masonic and Anti-Semitic League ) announced "a decisive battle that must be unleashed" between the "light" and "darkness". Though the official declaration of the "crusade" followed the Republican persecution of Catholic clerics, the Catholic Church was already predisposed towards Franco's position, because it was seen as the "perfect ally of fascism" while it opposed the anticlerical policies of the Second Republic. The 1936 anticlerical persecution has been seen as "final phase of a long war between clericalism and anticlericalism" and "fully consistent with a Spanish history of popular anticlericalism and anticlerical populism".
Stanley Payne suggested that the persecution of right-wingers and people who were associated with the Catholic church both before and at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War involved the murder of priests and other clergy, as well as thousands of lay people, by sections of nearly all leftist groups, while a killing spree was also unleashed across the Nationalist zone. During the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939, and especially during the early months of the conflict, individual clergymen and entire religious communities were executed by leftists, some of whom were communists and anarchists. The death toll of the clergy alone included 13 bishops, 4,172 diocesan priests and seminarians, 2,364 monks and friars and 283 nuns, reaching a total of 6,832 clerical victims. The main perpetrators of the Red Terror were members of the anarchist Federación Anarquista Ibérica, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, and the Trotskyist Workers' Party of Marxist Unification. These organizations distanced themselves from the violence, condemned those who were responsible for it or characterized the killings as mob reprisals for acts of violence which had been perpetrated by the clerics themselves, an explanation which was readily accepted by the public.
In addition to the murder of both the clergy and the faithful, the destruction of churches and the desecration of sacred sites and objects was also widespread. On the night of 19 July 1936 alone, some fifty churches were burned. In Barcelona, out of the 58 churches, only the cathedral was spared, and similar desecrations occurred almost everywhere in Republican Spain.
Two exceptions were Biscay and Gipuzkoa where the Christian Democratic Basque Nationalist Party, after some hesitation, supported the Republic and halted the persecution of Catholics in areas which were held by the Basque Government. All other Catholic churches which were located in the Republican zone were closed. The desecration was not limited to Catholic churches, because synagogues and Protestant churches were also pillaged and closed, but some small Protestant churches were spared. The rising Franco's regime would keep Protestant churches and synagogues closed, as he only permitted the Catholic Church.
Payne called the terror the "most extensive and violent persecution of Catholicism in Western History, in some way even more intense than that of the French Revolution." The persecution drove Catholics to the side of the Nationalists, even more of them sided with the Nationalists than would have been expected, because they defended their religious interests and survival.
The Roman Catholic priests who were killed during the Red Terror are considered "Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War", though the priests who were executed by the fascists are not counted among them. A group known as the "498 Spanish Martyrs" were beatified by the Roman Catholic Church's Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. The history of the Red Terror has been obscured by scholarly inattention and the "embarrassing partiality" of ecclesiastical historians. Some of the numerous non-fascists who were persecuted during Franco's White Terror were Protestants, because the fascists accused them of being associated with Freemasonry, and the persecution which they were subjected to during Franco's White Terror was much more intense than the persecution which they were subjected to during the Red Terror.
See also: Freedom of religion in the United States, History of religion in the United States, Human rights in the United States § Freedom of religion, Religion in the United States, and Religious discrimination in the United States
The Latter Day Saints, (Mormons) have been persecuted since their founding in the 1830s. The persecution of the Mormons drove them from New York and Ohio to Missouri, where they continued to be subjected to violent attacks. In 1838, Missouri Gov. Lilburn Boggs declared that Mormons had made war on the state of Missouri, so they "must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state" At least 10,000 were expelled from the State. In the most violent altercation which occurred at that time, the Haun's Mill massacre, 17 Mormons were murdered by an anti-Mormon mob and 13 other Mormons were wounded. The Extermination Order which was signed by Governor Boggs was not formally invalidated until 25 June 1976, 137 years after being signed.
The Mormons subsequently fled to Nauvoo, Illinois, where hostilities again escalated. In Carthage, Ill., where Joseph Smith was being held on the charge of treason, a mob stormed the jail and killed him. Smith's brother, Hyrum, was also killed. After a succession crisis, most united under Brigham Young, who organized an evacuation from the United States after the federal government refused to protect them. 70,000 Mormon pioneers crossed the Great Plains to settle in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas. After the Mexican–American War, the area became the US territory of Utah. Over the next 63 years, several actions by the federal government were directed against Mormons in the Mormon Corridor, including the Utah War, the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, the Poland Act, Reynolds v. United States, the Edmunds Act, the Edmunds–Tucker Act, and the Reed Smoot hearings.
The second iteration of the Ku Klux Klan, founded in 1915 and launched in the 1920s, persecuted Catholics in both the United States and Canada. As stated in its official rhetoric which focused on the threat of the Catholic Church, the Klan was motivated by anti-Catholicism and American nativism. Its appeal was exclusively directed towards white Anglo-Saxon Protestants; it opposed Jews, blacks, Catholics, and newly arriving Southern and Eastern European immigrants such as Italians, Russians, and Lithuanians, many of whom were either Jewish or Catholic.
Across Eastern Europe following World War II, the parts of the Nazi Empire which were conquered by the Soviet Red Army and Yugoslavia became one-party Communist states and the project of coercive conversion to atheism continued. The Soviet Union ended its war time truce with the Russian Orthodox Church, and extended its persecutions to the newly Communist Eastern bloc: "In Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and other Eastern European countries, Catholic leaders who were unwilling to be silent were denounced, publicly humiliated or imprisoned by the Communists. Leaders of the national Orthodox Churches in Romania and Bulgaria had to be cautious and submissive", wrote Geoffrey Blainey. While the churches were generally not persecuted as harshly as they had been in the USSR, nearly all of their schools and many of their churches were closed, and they lost their formally prominent roles in public life. Children were taught atheism, and clergy were imprisoned by the thousands. In the Eastern Bloc, Christian churches, along with Jewish synagogues and Islamic mosques were forcibly "converted into museums of atheism."
Along with executions, some other actions which were taken against Orthodox priests and believers included torture, being sent to prison camps, labour camps or mental hospitals.
Main article: Persecution of Christians in the post–Cold War era
In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI claimed that Christians were the most persecuted religious group in the contemporary world. In a speech to the United Nations Human Rights Council's 23rd session in May 2013, then-Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Silvano Maria Tomasi claimed that "an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are violently killed because of some relation to their faith every year". This number was supported by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at the evangelical Gordon–Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, which published a statement in December 2016 stating that "between 2005 and 2015 there were 900,000 Christian martyrs worldwide – an average of 90,000 per year." Tomasi's radio address to the council called the figures both a "shocking conclusion" and "credible research". The accuracy of this number, based on population estimates in a 1982 edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, is disputed. Almost all died in wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where all sides of the Second Congo War and subsequent conflicts are majority-Christian, and previous years included victims of the Rwandan genocide, an ethnic conflict and a part of the First Congo War where again most belligerents were Christian. As a result, the BBC News Magazine cautioned that "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."
Klaus Wetzel, an internationally recognized expert on religious persecution, states that this discrepancy in numbers is due to the contradiction between the definition used by Gordon-Conwell defining Christian martyrdom in the widest possible sense, and the more sociological and political definition Wetzel and Open Doors and others such as The International Institute for Religious Freedom (IIRF) use, which is: 'those who are killed, who would not have been killed, if they had not been Christians.'
Numbers are affected by several important factors, for example, population distribution is a factor. The United States submits an annual report on religious freedom and persecution to the Congress which recognizes restrictions on religious freedom, ranging from low to very high, in three-quarters of the world's countries including the United States. In approximatrly one quarter of the world's countries, there are high and very high restrictions and oppression, and some of those countries, such as China and India, Indonesia and Pakistan are among those with the highest populations. About three-quarters of the world's population live in the most oppressive countries in the world.
Numbers of martyrs are especially difficult to accurately identify, because religious persecution often occurs in conjunction with wider conflicts. This fact complicates the identification of acts of persecution because they may be politically rather than religiously motivated.: xii For example, the U.S. Department of State identified 1.4 million Christians in Iraq in 1991 when the Gulf War began. By 2010, the number of Christians dropped to 700,000 and by 2011 it was estimated that there were between 450,000 and 200,000 Christians left in Iraq.: 135 During that period, actions against Christians included the burning and bombing of churches, the bombing of Christian owned businesses and homes, kidnapping, murder, demands for protection money, and anti-Christian rhetoric in the media with those responsible saying that they wanted to rid the country of its Christians.: 135–138
A report which was released by the UK's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and prepared by Philip Mounstephen, the Bishop of Truro, in July 2019, and a report on worldwide restrictions on religious freedom by the PEW organization, both stated that the number of countries where Christians were suffering as a result of religious persecution was increasing, rising from 125 in 2015 to 144 as of 2018.[note 3] PEW has published a caution concerning the interpretation of its numbers: "The Center's recent report ... does not attempt to estimate the number of victims in each country... it does not speak to the intensity of harassment..."
The Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte – the International Society for Human Rights – in Frankfurt, Germany, is a non-governmental organization with 30,000 members from 38 countries who monitor human rights. In September 2009, then chairman Martin Lessenthin, issued a report estimating that 80% of acts of religious persecution around the world were aimed at Christians at that time.
W. J. Blumenfeld says that Christianity enjoys dominant group privilege in the US and some other Western societies. Christianity is, numerically, the largest religion in the U.S. according to PEW, with 43% of Americans identifying themselves as Protestants and one in five (20%) of Americans identifying themselves as Catholics. It remains the largest religion in the world. Roughly two-thirds of the world's countries have Christian majorities. Due to the large number of Christian majority countries, differing groups of Christians are harassed and persecuted in Christian countries such as Eritrea and Mexico more often than in most Muslim countries, though not in greater numbers.
According to PEW, the Middle East and North Africa have experienced the highest rates of restrictions on non-favorite religions for the last decade, being higher than any other region, each year, from 2007 to 2017. But it's the gap between this region and other regions where government favoritism is concerned that is particularly large: "the average country in this region scores nearly twice as high on measures of government favoritism of one religion as the average country in any other region".
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan independent federal agency which was created by the United States Congress in 1998, published a study of the predominantly Muslim countries which are located in the Middle Eastern/North African region. It concludes that, of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, "28 percent live in ten countries that declare themselves to be Islamic states. In addition, there are 12 predominantly Muslim countries that have chosen to declare that Islam is the official state religion ... Taken together, the 22 states that declare that Islam is the official religion account for 58 percent – or just over 600 million – of the 1 billion Muslims living in 44 predominantly Muslim countries.: 6
"Several countries with constitutions establishing Islam as the state religion either do not contain guarantees of the right to freedom of religion or belief, or they contain guarantees that, on their face, do not compare favorably with all aspects of international [human rights] standards.": 16 All of these countries defer to religious authorities or doctrines on legal issues in some way. For example, "when one spouse is Muslim and the other has a different religion (such as Coptic Christianity), or if spouses are members of different Christian denominations, courts still defer to Islamic family law." Grim and Finke say their studies indicate that: "When religious freedoms are denied through the regulation of religious profession or practice, violent religious persecution and conflict increase.": 6
In its annual report, the USCIRF lists 14 "Countries of Particular Concern" with regard to religious rights and it also lists 15 additional countries which it has recommended be placed on the U.S. Department of State's Special Watch List (SWL), a lesser category than the CPC designation. Of these 29 countries, 17 of them are predominantly Muslim countries, mostly located in the Middle East and North Africa, representing less than half of the 44 predominantly Muslim countries in the world, the rest of which are either secular or have not declared any state religion. Of the remaining countries, two of them have populations which are almost equally Christian and Muslim, both of them have official state versions of Christianity and Islam, four other countries are predominantly Christian countries where adherents of non-official or non-favored varieties of Christianity and adherents of other religions are persecuted, one country is predominantly Buddhist, and one country is predominantly Hindu. Eight of these countries are either current or former communist states such as China, Cuba, Russia and Vietnam. Twenty four of the USCIRF's twenty nine countries are also included on Open Doors Worldwide Watch list because they are especially dangerous for Christians.
Eleven predominantly Muslim countries are ruled by governments which proclaim that their states are secular. "These countries account for nearly 140 million Muslims, or 13.5 percent of the 1 billion Muslims living in predominantly Muslim countries. The 11 remaining predominantly Muslim countries have not made any constitutional declaration concerning the Islamic or secular nature of the state, and have not made Islam the official state religion. This group of countries, which includes Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, accounts for over 250 million Muslims".: 6 This demonstrates that the majority of the world's Muslim population live in countries that either proclaim the state to be secular, or that make no pronouncements concerning Islam as the official state religion.: 2
See also: Anti-Christian sentiment in the Middle East, Christianity in the Middle East, Conversion of non-Muslim places of worship into mosques, Human rights in the Middle East § Freedom of religion, and Persecution of Christians by the Islamic State
Christians have faced increasing levels of persecution in the Muslim world. Muslim-majority nations in which Christian populations have been subjected to acute discrimination, persecution, repression, violence and in some cases death, mass murder or ethnic cleansing include; Iraq, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Qatar, Kuwait, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Maldives.
Furthermore, any Muslim person – including any person who was born into a Muslim family or any person who became a Muslim at a given point in his or her life – who converts to Christianity or re-converts to it, is considered an apostate. Apostasy, the conscious abandonment of Islam by a Muslim in word or deed, including conversion to Christianity, is punishable as a crime under applications of the Sharia (countries in the graph). There are, however, cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith, secretly without declaring his/her apostasy. As a result, they are practising Christians, but legally, they are still considered Muslims, and as a result, they can still face the death penalty according to the Sharia. Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman, was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2014, because the government of Sudan classified her as a Muslim, even though she was raised as a Christian.
A report by the international catholic charity organisation Aid to the Church in Need said that the religiously motivated ethnic cleansing of Christians is so severe that they are set to completely disappear from parts of the Middle-East within a decade.
A report which was commissioned by the British foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and published in May 2019 stated that the level and nature of persecution of Christians in the Middle East "is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN." The report cited Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia where "the situation of Christians and other minorities has reached an alarming stage." The report attributed the sources of persecution to extremist groups and the failure of state institutions.
In Afghanistan in 2006, Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old citizen, was charged with rejecting Islam because he converted to Catholicism, a crime which is punishable by death under Sharia law. Under intense pressure from Western governments, he was allowed to leave Afghanistan at the end of March of 2006 and since then, he has been living in exile in Italy. In 2008, the Taliban killed a British charity worker, Gayle Williams, "because she was working for an organization which was preaching Christianity in Afghanistan" even though she was extremely careful and she did not try to convert Afghans to Christianity.
See also: Christianity in Algeria
Since independence, there has been a rise of Islamism. The 1996 murder of Pierre Claverie, OP, Bishop of Oran was an act of violence by Islamic militants against the Christian community.
On the night of 26–27 March 1996, seven monks from the monastery of Tibhirine in Algeria, belonging to the Roman Catholic Trappist Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.), were kidnapped in the Algerian Civil War. They were held for two months and were found dead on 21 May 1996. The circumstances of their kidnapping and death remain controversial; the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) allegedly took responsibility for both, but the then French military attaché, retired General Francois Buchwalter, reports that they were accidentally killed by the Algerian army in a rescue attempt, and claims have been made that the GIA itself was a cat's paw of Algeria's secret services (DRS).
A Muslim gang allegedly looted and burned to the ground, a Pentecostal church in Tizi Ouzou on 9 January 2010. The pastor was quoted as saying that worshipers fled when local police supposedly left a group of local protestors unchecked. Many Bibles were burnt.
There has been large scale persecution in Bangladesh which has included forced conversions, the destruction of Churches, the seizure of land from Christians and killings of Christians in Bangladesh over decades. This included abductions, attacks and forced conversions on Rohingya Christians in refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Christians in Chad form a minority, at 41% of the population. They have faced an increasing level of persecution from local officials as well as Islamist groups like Boko Haram and tribal herdsmen. Persecution includes burning of Christian villages, closing of markets and killings.[unreliable source?]
See also: Persecution of Copts
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of Coptic Christians
Foreign missionaries are allowed in the country if they restrict their activities to social improvements and refrain from proselytizing. Particularly in Upper Egypt, the rise of extremist Islamist groups such as the Gama'at Islamiya during the 1980s was accompanied by increased attacks on Copts and increased attacks on Coptic Orthodox churches; since then, the decline of those attacks has coincided with the decline of those organizations, but attacks still occur. The police have been accused of siding with the attackers in some of these cases.
Since the 1980s, periodic acts of violence have been committed against Christians, and they include attacks on Coptic Orthodox churches in Alexandria in April 2006, and sectarian violence in Dahshur in July 2012. From 2011 to 2013, more than 150 kidnappings, for ransom, of Christians had been reported in the Minya governorate. Christians have also been convicted for "contempt of religion", such as poet Fatima Naoot in 2016.
See also: Christianity in Indonesia
In Indonesia, religious conflicts have typically occurred in Western New Guinea, Maluku (particularly Ambon), and Sulawesi. The presence of Muslims in these traditionally Christian regions is in part a result of the transmigrasi program of population re-distribution. Conflicts have often occurred because of the aims of radical Islamist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiah or Laskar Jihad to impose Sharia. In January 1999, towards the end of the East Timor genocide, tens of thousands died when Muslim gunmen terrorized Christians who had voted for independence in East Timor.
In December 2011, a church in Bogor, West Java, was ordered to halt its activities by the local mayor. Another Catholic church had been built there in 2005. Previously a Christian church, GKI Taman Yasmin, had been sealed. Local authorities refused to lift a ban on the activities of the church, despite an order from the Supreme Court of Indonesia. Local authorities have persecuted the Christian church for three years. While the state has ordered religious toleration, it has not enforced these orders. In Aceh Province, the only province in Indonesia with autonomous Islamic Shari'a Law, 20 churches built in the 1930s and 1940s in Singkil Regency have been closed by authorities since 2012 and face the threat of demolition.
On 9 May 2017, Christian governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama has been sentenced to two years in prison by the North Jakarta District Court after being found guilty of committing a criminal act of blasphemy.
See also: Christianity in Iran
Even though Iran recognizes Assyrian and Armenian Christians as ethnic and religious minorities (along with Jews and Zoroastrians) and they also have representatives in the Iranian Parliament, they are still forced to adhere to the Iranian government's strict interpretation of Islamic law. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Muslim converts to Christianity (typically, Muslim converts to Protestant Christianity) have been arrested and sometimes, they have even been executed. Youcef Nadarkhani is an Iranian Christian pastor who was arrested on charges of apostasy in October 2009 and subsequently, he was sentenced to death. In June 2011, the Iranian Supreme Court overruled his death sentence on the condition that he recant his conversion to Christianity, which he refused to do. In a reversal on 8 September 2012, he was acquitted of the charges of apostasy and extortion, and as a result, he was sentenced to time served for the charge of "propaganda against the regime", and he was immediately released from prison.
According to the UNHCR, although Christians (almost exclusively ethnic Assyrians and Armenians) represented less than 5% of the total Iraqi population in 2007, they made up 40% of the refugees living in nearby countries.
In 2004, five churches were destroyed by bombing, and Christians were targeted by kidnappers and Islamic extremists, leading to tens of thousands of Christians fleeing to Assyrian regions in the north or leaving the country altogether.
In 2006, the number of Assyrian Christians dropped to between 500,000 and 800,000, of whom 250,000 lived in Baghdad. An exodus to the Assyrian homeland in northern Iraq, and to neighboring countries of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey left behind closed parishes, seminaries and convents. As a small minority, who until recently were without a militia of their own, Assyrian Christians were persecuted by both Shi'a and Sunni Muslim militias, Kurdish Nationalists, and also by criminal gangs.
As of 21 June 2007, the UNHCR estimated that 2.2 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighbouring countries, and 2 million were displaced internally, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month. A 25 May 2007 article notes that in the past seven months 69 people from Iraq have been granted refugee status in the United States.
In 2007, Chaldean Catholic Church priest Fr. Ragheed Aziz Ganni and subdeacons Basman Yousef Dawid, Wahid Hanna Esho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed were killed in the ancient city of Mosul. Ganni was driving with his three deacons when they were stopped and demanded to convert to Islam, when they refused they were shot. Ganni was the pastor of the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul and a graduate from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum in Rome in 2003 with a licentiate in ecumenical theology. Six months later, the body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, archbishop of Mosul, was found buried near Mosul. He was kidnapped on 29 February 2008 when his bodyguards and driver were killed. See 2008 attacks on Christians in Mosul for more details.
In 2010 there was an attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Syriac Catholic cathedral of Baghdad, Iraq, that took place during Sunday evening Mass on 31 October 2010. The attack left at least 58 people dead, after more than 100 had been taken hostage. The al-Qaeda-linked Sunni insurgent group The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack; though Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, amongst others condemned the attack.
In 2013, Assyrian Christians were departing for their ancestral heartlands in the Nineveh Plains, around Mosul, Erbil and Kirkuk. Assyrian militias were established to protect villages and towns.
During the 2014 Northern Iraq offensive, the Islamic State of Iraq issued a decree in July that all indigenous Assyrian Christians in the area of its control must leave the lands that Assyrians have occupied for 5000 years, be subject to extortion in the form of a special tax of approximately $470 per family, convert to Islam, or be murdered. Many of them took refuge in nearby Kurdish-controlled regions of Iraq. Christian homes have been painted with the Arabic letter ن (nūn) for Nassarah (an Arabic word Christian) and a declaration that they are the "property of the Islamic State". On 18 July, ISIS militants seemed to have changed their minds and announced that all Christians would need to leave or be killed. Most of those who left had their valuable possessions stolen by the Islamic terrorists. According to Patriarch Louis Sako, there are no Christians remaining in the once Christian dominated city of Mosul for the first time in the nation's history, although this situation has not been verified.
In Malaysia, although Islam is the official religion, Christianity is tolerated under Article 3 and Article 11 of the Malaysian constitution. But at some point, the spread of Christianity is a particular sore point for the Muslim majority, the Malaysian government has also persecuted Christian groups who were perceived to be attempting to proselytize Muslim audiences. Those showing interest in the Christian faith or other faith practices not considered orthodox by state religious authorities are usually sent either by the police or their family members to state funded Faith Rehabilitation Centres (Malay: Pusat Pemulihan Akidah) where they are counseled to remain faithful to Islam and some states have provisions for penalties under their respective Shariah legislations for apostasy from Islam.
It has been the practice of the church in Malaysia to not actively proselytize to the Muslim community. Christian literature is required by law to carry a caption "for non-Muslims only". Article 11(4) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia allows the states to prohibit the propagation of other religions to Muslims, and most (with the exception of Penang, Sabah, Sarawak and the Federal Territories) have done so. There is no well-researched agreement on the actual number of Malaysian Muslim converts to Christianity in Malaysia. According to the latest population census released by the Malaysian Statistics Department, there are none, according to Ustaz Ridhuan Tee, they are 135 and according to Tan Sri Dr Harussani Zakaria, they are 260,000. See also Status of religious freedom in Malaysia.
There are, however, cases in which a Muslim will adopt the Christian faith without declaring his/her apostasy openly. In effect, they are practicing Christians, but legally Muslims.
The Boko Haram Islamist group has bombed churches and it has also killed numerous Christians because it believes that they are kafirs (infidels). Some Muslim aid organisations in Nigeria reportedly reserve aid for Muslims who have been displaced by Boko Haram. Christian Bishop William Naga reported to Open Doors UK that, "They[who?] will give food to the refugees, but if you are a Christian they will not give you food. They will openly tell you that the relief is not for Christians."
See also: Christianity in Pakistan, 2009 Gojra riots, Human rights in Pakistan § Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, Religion in Pakistan, Freedom of religion in Pakistan, Religious discrimination in Pakistan, and Sectarian violence in Pakistan
In Pakistan, 1.5% of the population are Christian. Many churches built during the colonial Indian period, prior to the partition, remain locked, with the Pakistani government refusing to hand them over to the Christian community. Others have been victims of church arsons or demolitions.
Pakistani law mandates that "blasphemies" of the Qur'an are to be met with punishment. At least a dozen Christians have been given death sentences, and half a dozen murdered after being accused of violating blasphemy laws. In 2005, 80 Christians were behind bars due to these laws. The Pakistani-American author Farahnaz Ispahani has called treatment of Christians in Pakistan a "drip-drip genocide".
In November 2005, 3,000 Muslims attacked Christians in Sangla Hill in Pakistan and destroyed Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and United Presbyterian churches. The attack was over allegations of violation of blasphemy laws by a Pakistani Christian named Yousaf Masih. The attacks were widely condemned by some political parties in Pakistan.
In August 2009, six Christians, including four women and a child, were burnt alive by Muslim militants and a church set ablaze in Gojra, Pakistan when violence broke out after alleged desecration of a Qur'an in a wedding ceremony by Christians.
On 8 November 2010, a Christian woman from Punjab Province, Asia Noreen Bibi, was sentenced to death by hanging for violating Pakistan's blasphemy law. The accusation stemmed from a 2009 incident in which Bibi became involved in a religious argument after offering water to thirsty Muslim farm workers. The workers later claimed that she had blasphemed the Muhammed. Until 2019, Bibi was in solitary confinement. A cleric had offered $5,800 to anyone who killed her. As of May 2019, Bibi and her family have left Pakistan and now reside in Canada.
On 2 March 2011, the only Christian minister in the Pakistan government was shot dead. Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities, was in his car along with his niece. Around 50 bullets struck the car. Over 10 bullets hit Bhatti. Before his death, he had publicly stated that he was not afraid of the Taliban's threats and was willing to die for his faith and beliefs. He was targeted for opposing the anti-free speech "blasphemy" law, which punishes insulting Islam or its Prophet. A fundamentalist Muslim group claimed responsibility.
On 27 March 2016, a suicide bomber from a Pakistani Taliban faction killed at least 60 people and injured 300 others in an attack at Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, Pakistan, and the group claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it intentionally targeted Christians celebrating Easter Sunday. On 18 December 2017, six people were killed and dozens injured in a suicide bombing on a Methodist church in the city of Quetta, Balochistan province.
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state that practices Wahhabism and restricts all other religions, including the possession of religious items such as the Bible, crucifixes, and Stars of David. Strict sharia is enforced. Muslims are forbidden to convert to another religion. If one does so and does not recant, they can be executed.
See also: Christianity in Somalia
Christians in Somalia face persecution associated with the ongoing civil war in that country.
In September 2011 militants sworn to eradicate Christianity from Somalia beheaded two Christian converts. A third Christian convert was beheaded in Mogadishu in early 2012.
Main article: Persecution of Christians in Sudan
In 1992 there were mass arrests and torture of local priests. Prior to partition, southern Sudan had a number of Christian villages. These were subsequently wiped out by Janjaweed militias.
Christians make up approximately 10% of Syria's population of 17.2 million people. The majority of Syrian Christians are once Western Aramaic speaking but now largely Arabic speaking Arameans-Syriacs, with smaller minorities of Eastern Aramaic speaking Assyrians and Armenians also extant. While religious persecution has been relatively low level compared to other Middle Eastern nations, many of the Christians have been pressured into identifying as Arab Christians, with the Assyrian and Armenian groups retaining their native languages.
In FY 2016, when the US dramatically increased the number of refugees admitted from Syria, the US let in 12,587 refugees from the country. Fewer than 1% were Christian according to the Pew Research Center analysis of State Department Refugee Processing Center data.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is still in a difficult position. Turkish law requires the Ecumenical Patriarch to be an ethnic Greek who holds Turkish citizenship since birth, although most members of Turkey's Greek minority have been expelled. The state's expropriation of church property is an additional difficulty faced by the Church of Constantinople. In November 2007, a 17th-century chapel of Our Lord's Transfiguration at the Halki seminary was almost totally demolished by the Turkish forestry authority. There was no advance warning given for the demolition work and it was only stopped after appeals were filed by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The difficulties currently experienced by the Assyrians and Armenian Orthodox minorities in Turkey are the result of an anti-Armenian and anti-Christian attitude which is espoused by ultra-nationalist groups such as the Grey Wolves. According to the Minority Rights Group, the Turkish government recognizes Armenians and Assyrians as minorities but in Turkey, this term is used to denote second-class status.
In February 2006, Father Andrea Santoro was murdered in Trabzon. On 18 April 2007 in the Zirve Publishing House, Malatya, Turkey. Three employees of the Bible publishing house were attacked, tortured and murdered by five Sunni Muslim assailants.
See also: Christianity in Yemen
The Christian presence in Yemen dates back to the fourth century AD when a number of Himyarites embrace Christianity due to the efforts of Theophilos the Indian. Currently, there are no official statistics on their numbers, but they are estimated to be between 3,000 and 25,000 people, and most of them are either refugees or temporary residents. Freedom of worship, conversion from Islam and establishing facilities dedicated for worship are not recognized as rights in the country's Constitution and laws. At the same time, Wahabbi activities linked to Al-Islah was being facilitated, financed and encouraged from multiple fronts including the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance, which says that its tasks "to contribute to the development of Islamic awareness and circulation of the publication Education and Islamic morals and consolidation in the life of public and private citizens."
The Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa has worked in Aden since 1992, and it has three other centers in Sana'a, Taiz and Hodeidah. Three Catholic nuns were killed in Hodeidah in 1998, two of them were from India and the third was from the Philippines at the hands of a member of Al-Islah named Abdullah al-Nashiri, who argued that they were calling Muslims to convert to Christianity. In 2002, three Americans were killed in Baptists Hospital at the hands of another Al-Islah member named Abed Abdul Razak Kamel. Survivors say that the suspect (Al-Islah) was "a political football" who had been raised by Islamists, who talked about it often in mosques and who described hospital workers as "spies". But they emphasized that these views are only held by a minority of Yemenis. In December 2015, an old Catholic church in Aden was destroyed.
Since the escalation of the Yemeni crisis in March 2015, six priests from John Bosco remained, and twenty workers for charitable missions in the country, described by Pope Francis by the courage to fortitude amid war and conflict. He called the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia to pray for all the oppressed and tortured, expelled from their homes, and killed unjustly. In all cases, regardless of the values and ethics of the warring forces in Yemen on religious freedom, it is proved that the Missionaries of Charity were not active in the field of evangelization according to the testimonies of beneficiaries of its services. On 4 March 2016, Missionaries of Charity operation in Aden was attacked, resulting in 16 deaths.
During the Cultural Revolution, all Christian churches, monasteries, and cemeteries were closed down and sometimes, they were converted into buildings which were used for other purposes, looted, and destroyed. The Chinese Communist Party and government and the Chinese Buddhist organ try to maintain tight control over all religions, so the only legal Christian Churches (the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association) are those churches which are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. Churches which are not controlled by the government are shut down, and their members are imprisoned. Gong Shengliang, head of the South China Church, was sentenced to death in 2001. Even though his sentence was commuted to a jail sentence, Amnesty International reports that he has been tortured. A Christian lobby group reports that about 300 Christians who were caught attending unregistered house churches were in jail in 2004.
In January 2016, a prominent Christian church leader Rev Gu Yuese who criticised the mass removal of church crucifixes by the government was arrested for "embezzling funds". Chinese authorities have removed hundreds of crosses from churches in Zhejiang, a region which is known as "China's bible belt". In Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, Gu led a church which had enough capacity to seat 5,000 people, his church was China's largest authorized church.
In 2018, the Associated Press reported that China's leader and Communist Party general secretary Xi Jinping "is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982", which has involved "destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith".
Modern-day persecution also exists and is carried out by Hindu nationalists. A report by Human Rights Watch stated that there is a rise in anti-Christian violence due to Hindu nationalism and Smita Narula, Researcher, Asia Division of Human Rights Watch stated "Christians are the new scapegoat in India's political battles. Without immediate and decisive action by the government, communal tensions will continue to be exploited for political and economic ends." Violence against Christians in India has been seen by the Human Rights Watch as part of the right-wing Sangh Parivar organizations' orchestrated effort to encourage and exploit sectarian violence to raise their political power base.
The United Christian Forum for Human Rights reported that in 1998, 90 separate acts of violence were committed against Christian churches or against Christians compared to only 53 attacks which took place from 1964 to 1997 in India. The Human Rights Watch reported that most of the reported instances of violence towards Christians took place in 1998 in the state of Gujarat, the same year that the Bhartiya Janata Party(BJP) came to state power. The Human Rights Watch reported that during the 1998 attacks on Christians in southeastern Gujarat from 25 December 1988 to 3 January 1999, at least 20 prayer halls and churches had been damaged or burned down, and Christians and Christian institutions had been attacked in the Dangs and its surrounding districts, and at least 25 villages had reported incidents of burning and damage to prayer halls and churches throughout Gujarat by Bajrang Dal, BJP, Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM). More than 100 churches and church institutions were burnt down, vandalised or damaged during the 2007 Christmas violence in Kandhamal by mobs led by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, Bajrang Dal, VHP and the Kui Samaj, the incident also killed 3 Christians while other reports put the death toll to 50. The 2008 Kandhamal violence led to 39 Christians killed, according to government reports. More than 395 churches have been burnt down or vandalized, more than 5,600 Christian houses have been plundered or burned down, over 600 villages have been ransacked and over 54,000 Christians have been left homeless. Other reports put the death toll at nearly 100. Under threat of violence, many Christians were forced to convert to Hinduism. This violence was led by the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. The 2008 Kandhamal violence led to several attacks against Christians and Churches in southern Karnataka in the same year by Bajrang Dal and Sri Ram Sena. The violence also spread to the state of Tamil Nadu, the police reported 20 graves desecrated and many churches vandalized by members of the Hindu Munnani. There have also been attacks on Christians in the states of Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.
Muslims in India who convert to Christianity have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims. In Jammu and Kashmir, a Christian convert and missionary, Bashir Tantray, was killed, by Islamic militants in broad daylight in 2006.
The organisations involved in persecution of Christians have stated that the violence is an expression of "spontaneous anger" of "vanvasis" against "forcible conversion" activities undertaken by missionaries. These claims have been disputed by Christians a belief described as mythical and propaganda by Sangh Parivar; the opposing organisations objects in any case to all conversions as a "threat to national unity". Religious scholar Cyril Veliath of Sophia University stated that the attacks by Hindus on Christians were the work of individuals motivated by "disgruntled politicians or phony religious leaders" and where religion is concerned the typical Hindu is an "exceptionally amicable and tolerant person ... Hinduism as a religion could well be one of the most accommodating in the world. Rather than confront and destroy, it has a tendency to welcome and assimilate."
In its controversial annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians." The report listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. In 1997, 24 such incidents were reported. Recent waves of anti-conversion laws passed by some Indian states like Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh is claimed to be a gradual and continuous institutionalization of Hindutva by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US State Department.
Violence against Christians have seen a sharp increase of 60 percent between 2016 and 2019, according to the annual report released by Persecution Relief. The Alliance Defending Freedom data shows that in 2019 alone, a record 328 violent attacks against Christians in India were reported.
See also: Christianity in Vietnam, Religion in Vietnam § Christianity, Christianity in Laos, Religion in Laos § Christianity, Religion in Cambodia § Christianity, Christianity in Myanmar, Religion in Myanmar § Christianity, Christianity in Thailand, Religion in Thailand § ChristianityFreedom of religion in Vietnam, Freedom of religion in Laos, Freedom of religion in Cambodia, Freedom of religion in Myanmar, and Freedom of religion in Thailand
The establishment of French Indochina once led to a high Christian population. Regime changes throughout the 19th and 20th centuries led to increased persecutions of minority religious groups. The Center for Public Policy Analysis has claimed that killings, torture or imprisonment and the forced starvation of local groups are all common in parts of Vietnam and Laos. In more recent years it has stated that the persecution of Christians is increasing.
Attempts by Messianic Jews to evangelize other Jews are seen by many religious Jews as incitement to "avodah zarah" (foreign worship or idolatry). Over the years there have been several arson attempts of messianic congregations. There have also been attacks on Messianic Jews and hundreds of New Testaments distributed in Or Yehuda were burned. While missionary activity itself is not illegal in Israel, it is illegal to offer money or other material inducements. Legislation banning missionary work outright has been attempted in the past.
Some Orthodox Jewish communities in Israel have come under scrutiny for the negative stereotyping and scapegoating of Christian minorities in the region, including violent acts against Christian missionaries and communities. A frequent complaint of Christian clergy in Israel is being spat at by Jews, often haredi yeshiva students. The Anti-Defamation League has called on the chief Rabbis to speak out against interfaith assaults.
Israel has been accused of obstructing Christian worship by Palestinian Christians by withholding entry permits at times of religious significance to the community. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has also been accused of encroaching on Christian holy sites. In January 2023, with the rise of the political far-right and religious Zionist parties, emboldened Jewish extremists took to vandalizing Christian grave sites.
North Korea is an atheist state where the public practice of religion is discouraged. The Oxford Handbook of Atheism states that "North Korea maintains a state-sanctioned and an enforced form of atheism".
North Korea leads the list of the 50 countries in which Christians are persecuted the most at the present time according to a watchlist which is published by Open Doors. It is currently estimated that more than 50,000 Christians are locked inside concentration camps because of their faith, where they are systematically subjected to mistreatment such as unrestrained torture, mass-starvation and even imprisonment and death by asphyxiation in gas chambers. This means that 20% of North Korea's Christian community lives in concentration camps. The number of Christians who are being murdered for their faith seems to be increasing as time goes on because in 2013 the death toll was 1,200 and in 2014, this figure doubled, rendering it close to 2,400 murdered Christians. North Korea has earned the top spot 12 years in a row.[needs update]
In the Russian Federation, Jehovah's Witnesses have been classified as "extremists" and persecuted since 2017.
If all these Christians were in a single country, it would have the second-largest Christian population in the world, after the United States.
Both Christians and Jews "engaged in a contest and reflection about the new-fangled practice of martyrdom,"191 even unto suicide...and Augustine spoke of "the mania for self-destruction" of early Christians.192 But the Christians, following Tertullian's dicta that "martyrdom is required by God," forced their own martyrdom so they could die in an ecstatic trance: "Although their tortures were gruesome, the martyrs did not suffer, enjoying their analgesic state."195
192. Arthur J. Droge and James D. Tabor, A Noble Death: Suicide and Martyrdom Among Christians and Jews in Antiquity. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 5.
193. Arthur F. Ide, Martyrdom of Women: A Study of Death Psychology in the Early Christian Church to 301 CE. Garland: Tangelwuld, 1985, p. 21.
194. Ibid., p. 136.
195. Ibid., pp. 146, 138.
Virginia Commonwealth University, Political Science, Faculty Member Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Political Science, Faculty Member
The vast majority of the ordinary citizens - about 30,000 - were marched off to the slave markets of Edirne, Bursa and Ankara.
Some 30,000 Christians were either enslaved or sold.
Forced Conversion under Atheistic Regimes: It might be added that the most modern example of forced "conversions" came not from any theocratic state, but from a professedly atheist government – that of the Soviet Union under the Communists.
Created in 1925, the League of the Militant Godless was the nominally independent organization established by the Communist Party to promote atheism.
Before 1937, the Soviet regime had closed thousands of churches and removed tens of thousands of religious leaders from positions of influence. By the midthirties, Soviet elites set out to conduct a mass liquidation of all religious organizations and leaders... officers in the League of Militant Atheists found themselves in a bind to explain the widespread persistence of religious belief in 1937.... The latest estimates indicate that thousands of individuals were executed for religious crimes and hundreds of thousands of religious believers were imprisoned in labor camps or psychiatric hospitals.
Churches, when not destroyed, might find themselves converted into museums of atheism.
Churches, synagogues, mosques and monasteries were shut down in the immediate wake of the Revolution. Many were converted to secular uses or converted into Museums of Atheism (antichurches), whitewashed and their fittings were removed.
From kindergarten onward children are indoctrinated with an aggressive form of atheism and trained to hate and distrust foreigners and to denounce parents who follow religious practices at home.
Communist Atheism. Official doctrine of the Soviet regime, also called "scientific atheism". It was aggressively applied to Moldova, immediately after the 1940 annexation, when churches were profaned, clergy were assaulted, and signs and public symbols of religion were prohibited, and it was again applied throughout the subsequent decades of the Soviet regime, after 1944. … The St. Theodora Church in downtown Chişinău was converted into the city's Museum of Scientific Atheism,