Introvigne and the era of martyrs

Christian minorities in PakistanChristian minorities in Pakistan

According to the sociologist of religion, Massimo Introvigne, the killing of Christians is not only a phenomenon linked to past centuries; it is still alive today

vatican insider staff

Christian martyrdom is not only a phenomenon of bygone centuries, such as the era of the Roman Empire. On the contrary: “the martyrdom era is in fact ours.” This is according to the sociologist and scholar of religion, Massimo Introvigne, OSCE Representative on Discrimination against Christians, who spoke in the aftermath of the Christmas bomb attacks on Christian churches in Nigeria, as the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Stephen, its first martyr.

“It is strange how when one speaks of martyrdom, many think back to the Roman Empire,” Introvigne told Vatican Radio. He added that “of course this is true, but it would be good is not only the Christians directly involved, but everyone, knew that from a historical point of view, the era of martyrdom is in fact ours.” According to a statistical study “carried out by the top specialist in modern religious statistics, David Barrett,” “between the date of Jesus Christ’s death and today, there have been 70 million Christian martyrs, but of these, 45 million – that is more than half –were recorded in the 20th Century and in the early 21st Century.”

Introvigne recalled how John Paul II also invited us “to reflect on the fact that the 20th Century was the century of martyrs, reaching its peak during the horrors of communism and national socialism and this martyrdom has continued on into the 21st Century.”

The OSCE Representative on Discrimination against Christians explained that among the situations in the world today that cause the greatest alarm, “certainly the first that comes to mind, is the reality of Islamic ultra-fundamentalism.” Then “there is a second category, that of Countries which are still influenced by Communist ideology.” The third category, involves “any form of nationalism with religious undertones in other areas of Africa and Asia, where Christians are seen as an alien group and almost as traitors of local culture.”

“But we should also consider what happens here in the West, in Europe,” Introvigne pointed out. Although “there is nothing that can compare to the violence witnessed in certain parts of Africa and Asia,” there is still a “subtle and sometimes not so subtle attempt to discriminate, marginalise and push Christianity to the sidelines, denying Christian identity and Christian roots; various different attempts are made to attack the Church and the Holy Father.”

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20 Responses to Introvigne and the era of martyrs

  1. Toadspittle says:


    “The third category, involves “any form of nationalism with religious undertones in other areas of Africa and Asia, where Christians are seen as an alien group and almost as traitors of local culture.”

    Toad would have thought that the word “almost” is entirely superflous here. That is how Christians have been viewed since the get-go, and is, in fact, quite accurate.
    Catholics have always regarded the overthrowing of ‘local culture’ (as in the Americas, Asia and Africa) to be an integral part of their job, and why should they not?
    This is not to suggest that killing Catholics is a reasonable response, any more than when, in parts of Europe in the not-so distant past, Jews and Muslims were seen as alien groups and traitors of local culture,” and paid the price for it.
    Not to mention when Protestant Huguenots were massacred by Catholics on the grounds that they were an alien group and traitors of local culture.”
    If Toad were in the cliche bizz, he might mention glass houses.
    But he isn’t, so he won’t.


  2. teresa says:

    I think Toad overestimates the importance of culture, normally, people don’t kill for culture, they kill for money and power for the most cases.

    Tibetan Lamas killed once French missionaries and the converted Tibetan Catholics, but only because the converted Tibetans were their serfs and were not allowed to run away from their labour. So they viewed the missionaries as a danger to their own power and influence. That was the main reason why the missionaries were killed, not for teaching the serfs to say Christian prayers.

    The lamas, as slaves owner, couldn’t care less for the cultural activities of their slaves/serfs, as long as they were paying their due tribute to the lama cloisters.

    The persecution of Christians in Japan was an expression of xenophobia, it was really silly to blame Christians for being persecuted. After all, the Japanese killed their own countrymen who were willing to convert. Catholicism got as late as the 1970s an official status in Japan. Where is the liberal attitude of open-mindedness and tolerance, when it comes to the case of Christians?

    As for other part of East Asia, xenophobia played a great role in the case of the suppression of Christian minority. Xenophobia, a bad thing when happens in the West, is now taken to be people’s right when applied to the other parts of the world. The “tolerant” and “multi-cultural” people in the West don’t seem to be aware how much hypocrisy is involved in their seemingly tolerant attitude, which reflects nothing else than a total loss of any moral and ethical compass.


  3. teresa says:

    Btw. Buddhism, which was seen as a genuine East Asian religion/culture, was under severe persecution both in Japan and Ancient China. The reason was that the Emperors were afraid that the monks were getting too much influence and money. And one should not forget that Buddhism came from India, and was imported into the other parts of Asia. People in the West who talk so much of “mutli-culturalism”, “tolerance”, “respect for non-European cultures” are mostly totally ignorant of the history and culture of other people. It is high time that they get down from their high horses and stop patronizing and start to really learn the culture of their own ancestors and of other people.

    Islam started from the Middle East and spread to the whole world and nobody is blaming it for “taking away the indigenous culture” of local people.

    There is no such thing like “indigenous culture”. People learn from each other and influence each other, this has been happening since there were men. To postulate an “indigenous culture” is racism.


  4. Toadspittle says:

    “I think Toad overestimates the importance of culture,” Says Teresa.

    A comment that might well come back to bite her. Only the other day, CP&S ran a well-received piece by a Rabbi bemoaning the imminent demise of Judeo/Christian culture in the West, which would apparently result in the collapse of civilisation as we know it.

    And surely, it is near impossible to underestimate the importance of culture?
    What are Shakespeare, Gothe, Beethoven, Mahler, El Greco and Goya, (oh all right, Chesterton and C.S.Lewis, as well!) Teresa? Chopped liver?

    “Islam started from the Middle East and spread to the whole world and nobody is blaming it for “taking away the indigenous culture” of local people.”

    Oh yes they are, Teresa.
    And others on here will, Toad suspects, tell you the same.
    It is the ambition of Islam to replace all other cultures in the world. Just as it is the ambition of Christianity (or was.)


  5. Toadspittle says:


    “There is no such thing like “indigenous culture”. “

    Oh, really, Teresa?

    “People learn from each other and influence each other,” she claims.
    And how do they do that, if not, “indigenously”? Do they learn from people they have never met?

    Nowdays maybe, that might possibly be so, with the internet and all. But in the quite recent past – no “indigenous culture”? No Aztec culture? No Greek culture? No Roman culture’ No Jewish culture? No French culture?
    We must be talking about different things.


  6. Srdc says:


    Every religion gets the stick for this at some point in history. The difference is that liberals rush to defend Islam and make excuses for them in ways that they would not do for others.

    And they do this every time Christians are killed. And you wonder why we don’t like you.


  7. teresa says:

    Ha, forgot to answer Toad’s challenge!

    As for indigenous culture, well, Toad, where is “Greek culture” There was no ancient Greece! National States are inventions of the 19th. century. And there was certain “Hellenic culture” but it has nothing to do with race/ethnic groups. In the geographical part of the world which we call “Greece” today, there were several independent city states, and each had its own customs.

    French culture, again, a creation of the 19th. century nationalism. We have Provence where a quite different language was spoken than in Île-de-France.
    Aztec culture, a postulate of archaeologists and ethnologists, who know very little about them, and just use one word to denominate a heterogeneous mixtures.

    As for Islam, dear Toad, it is not the aim of Islam to replace the local culture, nor Christianity. You might be confusing political Islam with Islam itself. Political Islam as supported by Saudi Arabia, does try to spread the form of Islam as particularly practised in Saudi Arabia to the world.

    As a simple example to illustrate what I mean just see this picture: it is a Mosque, and yet, it is “inculturated”, as well as the church as posted below:
    first built in 996, rebuilt in the 17th. century
    this mosque was first built in 966, rebuilt in 17th. century, Peking.

    A Catholic Church in Taiwan
    A Catholic Church in Taiwan

    Matteo Ricci wrote in classic Chinese several very pleasant essays and combined Renaissance madrigals with Chinese traditional music… Plenty of examples!


  8. JabbaPapa says:

    As for indigenous culture, well, Toad, where is “Greek culture” There was no ancient Greece! National States are inventions of the 19th. century. And there was certain “Hellenic culture” but it has nothing to do with race/ethnic groups. In the geographical part of the world which we call “Greece” today, there were several independent city states, and each had its own customs.

    French culture, again, a creation of the 19th. century nationalism. We have Provence where a quite different language was spoken than in Île-de-France.

    I had a rather tedious and unfortunately confrontational argument about this question in a different forum, albeit with some slightly different details.

    The Nation-State is probably more the invention of Louis XIV of France than of the 19th century, although I would grant that the concept only became fully organised in the 19th.

    However, that Ancient Greece was not a Nation-State does not mean that it did not therefore exist ; Italy was held to exist as a cohesive territory and culture throughout the period of its division into various Kingdoms, Principalities, and City States.

    The Ancient Greeks themselves held Greece to be a coherent and cohesive unit, separate from the rest of the world.

    If you like, the USA is a single country, not 50 separate ones plus sundry micro-states (DC, panama canal, etc).

    As for France, the notion that it existed as a coherent and separate country, and culture, came into being in the early Middle Ages, in feudal form ; whereby the Kings of France were the lieges of all their vassal Lords within the Kingdom.

    Simply because language is strongly connected with the 19th century notion of the Nation-State does not retroactively (or proactively) change various earlier (or later) concepts of what constitutes quasi-national cohesion in earlier (nor in later) centuries.

    France existed and exists despite the continued existence of regional languages and dialects. The notion that each Nation-State must be defined by an official language is certainly a 19th century invention, but it is not an absolute requirement ; but essentially a political convenience and sociolinguistic manipulation.

    Robert Graves has written somewhat about this last aspect in English ; though frankly I find Michel Foucault to be more to the point in his analses of the evolutions of how European cultures have defined themselves throughout history.

    FWIW, I find myself in agreement more with toad’s (implicit) position here, than teresa’s (explicit) one.


  9. Toadspittle says:


    Srdc, re your comment of 2nd Jan.
    1: If you think Toad is rushing to defend Islam, think again. He is skeptical of all religions, but not equally so. He is most skeptical of Islam. Especially nowadays.

    2: Then you say, “And you wonder why we don’t like you.” Toad takes this to mean him. And he dosn’t wonder at it at all. But who is “we?”
    However, Toad is not here to be liked. Shame, but there we are.

    “There was no ancient Greece! National States are inventions of the 19th. century. “
    Come on Teresa – this is just plain silly. OK, there was a place and time, which for convenience, we call “Ancient Greece” nowadays.
    Plato and Aristotle lived there. Remember? The fact that neither of those guys, nor Epicurus or Archimides, oe Socrates, referred to it as “Ancient Greece” is neither here nor there.
    Would have been a bit odd if they had called it that, really, wouldn’t it?
    Oh, dear – now Srdc will like Toad even less.


  10. JabbaPapa says:

    hmmm, and FWIW I’m neither one of teresa’s “we” nor one of her “you” ; so I’d guess that part of her statement, at least, was a little too broad 😉


  11. JabbaPapa says:

    pah ! I meant srdc not teresa in that last one, my apologies 😦


  12. The Raven says:

    Toad can be assured that SRDC may be using the Royal “we” in this instance.

    As to Ancient Greece, I’m afraid that Teresa is closer to the truth than Jabba or Toad: there was a sense of identity attaching to city states and some feeling of common identity between city states, but a Doric Greek Wouk have looked upon an Ionian as being “other” and none of them would have regarded Aristotle (a Macedonian) as anything other than a barbarian.

    What we now see as an Ancient Greek sense of identity is largely the creation of Nineteenth Century academics – many of whom were busy inventing nations of their own.


  13. JabbaPapa says:

    Whilst this discussion is interesting concerning Greece, I think that it’s a bit reductionist to boil it down to “wrong” versus “right”, just as it is reductionist to attempt to define Greece in say 6th century BC in the terms of 19th century nationalism.

    Raven, your argument boils down to simply accepting those 19th century notions ; whereas I think that the notion of a cultural identity, and a common culture, need not be identical to this 19th century conception of it.

    No, Greece was not a single country under a single rule ; but “the Greeks” were most certainly a people, as is evidenced by their own self-determination as one, notwithstanding their own differences between each other.

    They were united by a common religion, a common history, a common culture (not least in the commonality of Homer and the Olympics), and broadly speaking a common language ; but most importantly by the fact that they considered the other Greek peoples differently to the non-Greeks.

    I’m sorry, but I tend to think that both of the extremes in such a question tend to be wrongful in some way ; saying that Greece or Italy or France or wherever didn’t “exist” prior to the invention of the Nation-State is just as silly as saying that they didn’t “exist” because their internal politics were vastly more local and confrontational than would be acceptable in this day and age.


  14. teresa says:

    Toad, come on, it is not silly, it is so understood in the research, that national states only came into being during the 19th. century and there were before this nothing like “nations”. The construction of a “national culture” or a “national literature” is done in the sense of forming a nation. We learned it in the study of German literature, for example The so called German High medieval literature by scholars like Lachmann was meant to form a national culture.


  15. Toadspittle says:


    Teresa, it is not the “Ancient Greeks'” perception of themselves we are citing here – but “our” conception of them. At some stage in comparatively recent history, (I don’t know exactly when) “we” started talking about “Ancient Greece,” its achievements and culture as a unit.
    That’s all. And we were right to do so. Seen in retrospect, it is recognised as a coherent and signficant “whole.” Thinks Toad.
    Maybe that view is, or was, innacurate. But it doesn’t matter now. “Ancient Greece” as an entity, is accepted as a fact. When we talk about “Ancient Greece,” most of us have a pretty reasonable idea of what we mean. (Let us hope) For example, we don’t mean “Ancient Rome,” or “Ancient Egypt.”
    (That’s enough ancient rubbish for 2012, thinks Toad.)


  16. teresa says:

    Indeed Toad, and it shows what we conceive to be The “Reality” is often heavily influenced and preformed by the concepts we invent to describe the reality. Very Kantian, IMHO.


  17. Toadspittle says:


    And deeply “Foucaultian,” as well, Teresa. (Toad just made up a word; a nasty one at that)


  18. JabbaPapa says:

    It’s “Foucauldian”, spelt correctly anyway 😉

    So you can rest easy toad, you’ve invented no nastiness 😀

    (and I was taught by one of Foucault’s postgraduate students, so there’s your three degrees of separation in a nutshell)

    teresa, I think you’re not the only one that takes this notion of Nation-States in such a straightforward manner, that any pre-19th century conceptions of collective cultural identity (to use some post 19th-century vocabulary, unhappily), or any 21st century objections against these concepts, can potentially be deemed as impertinent ;

    But they aren’t.

    Communities determine their own nature and their own organisation, notwithstanding that these might disagree with top-down 19th century analyses of these structures.


  19. The Raven says:


    Ancient Greeks perceived themselves as having a loose commonality: much in the same way as residents of France or Germany might regard each other as fellow “Europeans”; for the Ancients “foreigners” started at the edge of their particular Polis. What we see as points of cultural congruence are often, on closer examination, largely illusory or the backward projections of scholars and academics.

    Our attempts to classify the Greeks as a unitary culture tells us a lot about ourselves, but b****r all about them.


  20. JabbaPapa says:

    And is there any reason why “loose commonality” should be forbidden as a reason nor justification for a common identity ???

    Frankly Raven, you are implicitly arguing against Catholicism as a common identity. Not good.

    Our attempts to define the commonality if the Ancient Greeks are of course of little import compared to their own attempts to do so 😉


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