The Truth... What is it?

Christians Martyred Since 1900 Worldwide

What is the documentation of the widely spoken statement that more Christians have been killed worldwide simply BECAUSE THEY ARE CHRISTIAN since 1900 and until the present than in all the time between 30 AD and 1900!?

I heard this statement around 2000. Then, in an e-mail exchange with Dr. Ingmar Bitter1, the topic came up. Neither of us knew of the source. One source heard that renowned evangelist Dr. Billy Graham had said so. A source mentioned a book3. Then, because of my long contact with CIU,  I sent an e-mail to a departmental e-mail that I thought knew about persecution. I did not know Prof. Warren Larson, but he responded. Through his network of friends (David Greenlee; Manny___; Brian Lawrence) and with great thanks to Prof. Larson, I offer the following:

Prof. Larson's 2/15/07 composite e-mail from him & others:

"It is one of those things that has been said by many people and it is probably hard to say who said it first, who published it first, who documented it first, and who said it in a way that the public first took notice.

"The Wikipedia article makes this statement in the section on Christianity and references the Barrett and Johnson 2001 chart [website  author: "An amazing chart!!"] at, However, if you look at Wilbert Shenk's article "Mission in Anabaptist Perspective" in "Mission Focus" 2005, Vol., 13, pages 1002, 103 and available online at you will see that Barrett is already talking about this in 1986 (your library probably has the 1986 IBMR issue if you want to look it up). Shenk gives some useful commentary on the statistics and the definitions. This, though, suggests to me that David Barrett is the first who really drew attention to the number of martyrs in the 20th century.

"Beyond that, Michael Horowitz' article and book are dated 1997 Paul Marshall's, "Their Blood Cries Out" is also 1997. This book, as well as Nina Shea's, "In the Lion's Den", are referred to as a source for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in 1997, quoted at

"As always, definitions are key. We may not agree with the definition (for example, if they include those who die in ethnic conflicts), but given the definition, Barret and Johnson are, as always, rigorous in their research and statistics.

"Beyond Shenk's comments, gives some analysis and response to the Barrett and Johnson statistics [website  author: "It includes data and inhumanity estimates relating to the inhumanity of primitive humans!"], and notes that they are detailed in "World Christian Trends" more than in the "World Christian Encyclopedia."

"This Gordon-Conwell site ( has a lot of data about martyrs (33AD - > 2000). Too much data and not enough time (mine...Manny) for me to summarize. Maybe someone else can.

 "I (Brian Lawrence) remember reading somewhere that the source of that claim was David Barrett. And that the numbers he used from the 20th century were questionably high--for instance including the Hutu and Tutsi deaths in that awful ethnic cleansing time. I'm sorry that I don't  remember now where I read these comments."

A prior e-mail from Dr. Larson:

"I am copying a colleague, Dr. David Bentley, who has done research on
human rights in Islamic contexts. I have an article that he wrote in
"International Journal of Frontier Missions," Vol. 13:3, July-Sept./96.
The title is, "Islam and Human Rights."

"I have not been successful in contacting Paul Marshall.  There is a
website he is associated with: His book, Their Blood Cries Out, cites much evidence of current persecution of
Christians by Muslims. Another person who works with Marshall is Nina
Shea, author of In the Lion's Den: A Shocking Account of Persecution
and Martyrdom of Christians Today and How We Should Respond.

"Finally, in a previous issue of "Int'l Bull. of Missionary Research,
Vol. 22, No. 1, Jan/98, Marshall says that persecution is increasing; and
that, in the last 5 years (he said this in 1998), persecution has taken
place in 40 countries, and that 200 million Christians today are members
of persecuted groups. And he says that an additional 400 million
Christians live in conditions of "... legal repression."



  • Ingmar Bitter, PhD, Ontario, Canada; scientist & former atheist, now writing (as of Jan. 2007) a book, Searching For Truth, to address the doubts of atheists about Christianity.
  • According to studies by The Voice of the Martyrs organization, as noted in a 1999 essay on the Focus on the Family website (put the word "martyr" into that website's search engine).
  • A Q&A 12/06 in R. J. Rummel's democratic freedom website noted that, in his book, The Truth of Catholicism, the Roman Catholic writer George Weigel gives an estimate of 27,000,000.
  • Warren F. Larson, PhD, The Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies, CIU, Columbia, S. C., USA.

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(posted 18 February 2007; latest addition 7 April 2007)