Open Doors, a nondenominational group which tracks incidents of persecution against Christians worldwide, reports that there were 2,123 Christians martyred last year for their faith.
These heroic men and women who willingly gave their lives for the Gospel lived in countries including Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania, and the Central African Republic. But according to Open Doors’ report, more than half of the killings occurred in Syria. Second was Nigeria, with over 600 killings, followed by Pakistan with 88. For the twelfth year, North Korea, with an estimated 300,000 Christians, remained the most dangerous country worldwide for Christians–followed by Somalia, Syria and Iraq.
Each year, the community of St. Egidio remembers those modern-day martyrs in a special liturgy in the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome dating back to the year 340.
The Italian newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, presided at that suffrage Mass on Tuesday evening, April 15. Attending were representatives of various Christian denominations and communities whose members have lost their lives in defense of the Faith.
“Today’s prayer keeps their memory alive,” said Cardinal Parolin, “because their legacy is alive. This legacy flows from lives that were often humble and frail, but that were steeped in love.”
Cardinal Parolin went on to acknowledge that many of our Christian brothers and sisters remain the object of anti-Christian hatred:
“They are not being persecuted not because they are vying for worldly, political, economic or military power, but precisely because they are tenacious witnesses of another vision of life, one of abasement, service, freedom, which is based on faith. In their weakness, they are close to us, they show us that strength comes from God and that it is always possible to go forth and reach out to those who are far off, even those who see you as an enemy.”
Cardinal Parolin quoted Pope Francis, who said in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:
“The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed.”