The death of even one innocent soul is a tragedy for humanity. The discrimination and in some cases persecution of any religious group is no doubt an affront to Islam but many Christian websites and Islamophobic groups are guilty of ratcheting up hostility and fears of Islam and Muslims with dubious stats that not only don’t tell the whole story but skew reality.
It’s often claimed that 100,000 Christians are killed every year because of their religion. Earlier this year, the Vatican called it a credible number. But is it?
These two recent headline-grabbing attacks occurred within just a month of each other. Horrific, but by no means isolated incidents.
So how widespread is anti-Christian violence?
“Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that every year an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are killed because of some relation to their faith,” Vatican spokesman Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi announced in a radio address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in May.
On the internet, the statistic has taken on a life of its own, popping up all over the place, sometimes with an additional detail – that these 100,000 lives are taken by Muslims.
The number comes originally from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the US state of Massachusetts, which publishes such a figure each year in its Status of Global Mission (see line 28).
Its researchers started by estimating the number of Christians who died as martyrs between 2000 and 2010 – about one million by their reckoning – and divided that number by 10 to get an annual number, 100,000.
But how do they reach that figure of one million?
When you dig down, you see that the majority died in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
More than four million are estimated to have been killed in that war between 2000 and 2010, and CSGC counts 900,000 of them – or 20% – as martyrs.
Over 10 years, that averages out at 90,000 per year.
So 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.
This means we can say right away that the internet rumours of Muslims being behind the killing of 100,000 Christian martyrs are nonsense. The DRC is a Christian country. In the civil war, Christians were killing Christians.