My Take: What real persecution looks like
Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American citizen imprisoned in Iran, is seen with his family.
April 3rd, 2013
06:00 AM ET

My Take: What real persecution looks like

Editor's Note: Nina Shea is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute and one of the authors of "Persecuted: the Global Assault on Christians."

By Nina Shea, Special to CNN

(CNN)–In September 2005, a middle-aged woman was taken by state security officials from her home in North Korea’s North Pyongan Province. She was put under arrest and taken to a local farm, where government officials had assembled in the threshing area to carry out her punishment. The sole civilian witness eventually fled to South Korea and reported what unfolded next to the Database Center for North Korean Human Rights. As he told the private human rights group, “Guards tied her head, her chest, and her legs to a post, and shot her dead.” He added, “I was curious why she was to be shot. Somebody told me she had kept a Bible at her home.”

Merely having the Christian Scriptures, which likely were smuggled across the border from China, put the unknown woman under suspicion of converting to Christianity, and perhaps even sharing her new faith with others. Our research, drawn from United Nations studies, U.S. governmental sources, newspaper accounts and documentation from churches, think tanks and human rights groups, found that in North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, Christian conversion is treated as a capital crime or otherwise severely punished.

The right of conversion, as long as it is not forced, is an integral part of the fundamental human right to religious freedom. Yet, as we document in our new book, "Persecuted," in many countries, in various parts of the world, and stemming from various motives, religious conversion draws horrific reprisals.

In his report to the United Nations General Assembly last year, the U.N. special rapporteur on religious freedom, Heiner Bielefeldt, found that “[c]ountless reports of grave violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief relate to converts and those who try to convert others by means of noncoercive persuasion.”

Persecution for conversion to Christianity – a faith with the “Great Commission” to share the Gospel - is rising globally, along with persecution of some very long-established, even 2000-year-old, Christian communities. Persecution typically happens in places where Christians are a minority, where communist ideology still holds sway, in the Muslim world, or where conversion is seen as a threat to national identity.

Iran is a prime example of the growing number of states that harshly punish converts for apostasy from Islam. In January, the Rev. Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American citizen, was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in Tehran’s brutal Evin Prison for his own conversion, as well as for his ministry with Iran’s burgeoning underground evangelical churches. Another Christian pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani, who was first jailed in 2009 and sentenced to death, was released from prison earlier this year after international pressure.

In September 2012, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, said “scores of other Christians appear to remain in detention for freely practicing their religion,” and that over the past two years more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained arbitrarily in Iran. These arrests result from accusations of proselytizing.

In Egypt, perceived apostates face many difficulties. In January, an Egyptian court sentenced Nadia Mohamed Ali and her seven children to 15 years imprisonment for reconverting to Christianity. Born a Christian, Nadia converted to Islam in order to marry a Muslim man; after his death, she returned to Christianity and ran into trouble when she had the family's official identity cards changed to reflect this.

Saudi Arabia requires all its nationals be Muslims and can punish apostasy with beheading. Christian converts also risk honor killings, being murdered by their relatives. In 2008, Gulf News reported that Fatima Al-Mutairi was “burned to death and her tongue had been cut out” by her Saudi father, a religious policeman, after her brother discovered a photo of a cross on her computer screen.

A 2012 study by the Washington based Pew Research Center found that proselytism, or talking about one’s faith to others, was specifically restricted by central or local governments in 66 countries.

An example occurred on March 10, 2013, in Libya, where Ezzat Hakim Atallah, a 45-year-old Coptic Christian from Egypt, was reported tortured to death with electric shocks by security police in order to exact a confession of proselytizing. Five other Copts detained with him remain jailed.

Though India is renowned for its religious pluralism, various states in India, influenced by Hindu nationalists, have anti-conversion laws. Ostensibly to protect against coerced conversion from Hinduism, some are so vaguely worded that even spiritual benefits or charity work could be deemed illegal inducements. The worst abuses occur when, stirred by their local political and religious leaders, Hindu mobs riot against entire Christian families or villages. In fact, around the world, the Pew Research study finds generally that social hostilities are 2.5 times higher when governments limit conversion.

Vietnam’s leaders seem to view converting to Christianity in northwest provinces among the Hmong and in the Central Highlands among various ethnic tribes to be a security threat. In addition to suffering beatings and imprisonment and having their homes torn down and property confiscated, some converts there have been forced to “reconvert” to traditional practices of ancestor worship.

Converts to various other faiths are persecuted as well, usually by the same forces that punish Christian conversion. Members of the Bahai faith, a religion that acknowledges a prophet after Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, are deprived of all constitutional rights in Iran and their entire leadership is serving a 20-year sentence. Similarly, the Ahmadi Muslim community is targeted under blasphemy laws in Pakistan. Converting others to Islam is punished in parts of India by Hindu nationalists. Koranists in Egypt and outspoken moderate Muslims in Saudi Arabia are persecuted for their unorthodox beliefs.

The U.N.’s Bielefeldt concludes that persecution for conversion has become a “human rights problem of great concern.”

Couched in U.N. diplomatic language, this is a sound of alarm. Recent decades have seen the rapid global spread of Christianity and many thousands of Asians and Africans who are choosing to become Christians are paying a very steep price.

It is time that the West, including Western Christians, end their indifference and recognize this for what it is: an egregious human rights violation.

We must raise our voices for those facing the executioner’s sword, detention camps or other atrocities for their beliefs just as we do for other human rights victims. As the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in opposing Nazi persecution, had once reminded his fellow Germans: “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Nina Shea.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (583 Responses)
  1. myweightinwords

    Anywhere that persecution happens, no matter who is being persecuted, it is wrong and should be shown for what it is and ended.

    Unfortunately, like it's lesser sibling, bullying, persecution comes from a part of society that falls into group think, that makes it okay somehow for individuals to act in ways they might never on their own because they are protected by the group around them. They are nameless, faceless mobs of power that attacks what is different.

    When that mob has the power of a government, of discriminatory laws, it can go from persecution of individuals to the persecution of entire groups.

    It isn't something that necessarily hangs on Christianity or on religion even. It is a part of the darker side of humanity coming together in societal forms.

    April 3, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • Akira

      I agree, MWIW. Any kind of persecution is on the wrong side of right.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  2. ME II

    I agree that religious freedom needs to be protected and governments should keep their noses out of it.

    I don't agree that it is necessarily a Christian thing, e.g. "one of the authors of 'Persecuted: the Global Assault on Christians.'". I would venture that more Christians are impacted because there are more Christians, and also that it's "Great Commission" causes friction in less tolerant societies, i.e. there are more of them and they are more annoying. (I'm not saying that is a justification, just that it might explain the higher incidents of persecution.)

    April 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • William Demuth

      Goverments will only stay out of religion if religion stays out of governance.

      Christians tried to take over this country and got beaten down, and NOW you want a seperation of church and state

      You gambled and lost, stop complaining. You broke the pact, now you go under the bus

      April 3, 2013 at 10:57 am |
    • Couldn't agree more

      Proselytizing just pis-ses so many people off but the Christians just can't stop.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • tallulah13

      I think it's a very good explanation. I believe christians are generally the authors of their own pain. I feel a great deal of sympathy for people who are willing to go into hostile countries to provide food and medical care, but when your mission is providing mythology, even if you accompany it with food and medicine, my sympathy dwindles. You can't expect to whack a hornets nest with a stick and not get stung.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • HeavenSent

      And if he come to see [me], he speaketh vanity: his heart gathereth iniquity to itself; [when] he goeth abroad, he telleth [it].

      Psalms 41:6


      April 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
  3. tallulah13

    So this article sort of boils down to the fact that christians can dish it out, but they can't take it.

    April 3, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  4. persecution must stop

    Well articulated, commentary!
    Remembering the persecuted in prayers.

    April 3, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • William Demuth

      I do, I pray they be further persecuted!

      Seems to be working

      April 3, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • HeavenSent

      William, you should know His truth ....

      Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it.

      Job 35:13


      April 3, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • HeavenlyStupid

      Bible verses how quaint. So they ran you out of heaven but kept most of your brain; just sent you down with a cerebellum so you could enjoy basic instincts which would explain your carnal knowledge and little else.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Man is like to vanity: his days [are] as a shadow that passeth away.

      Psalms 144:4


      April 3, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Irrational Exuberance

      Shouldn't they just be able to pray the persecution away? I thought praryer changes things?
      Matthew 21:22: "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer"
      Do Christian just not believe or have they never asked for an end to poverty, persecution, cancer, hunger, infanticide? What kind of banal prayers have they been sending up:
      "Oh god, help me find my car keys"?

      Come on now, just Pray the despots t be touched by god and open their heart, maybe god could strike them blind and soften their hearts. Yo can do it Christians, your bible says so. just ask and you'll get it,
      provided you really believe.

      If you don't get it then we'll know you just don't really believe it.

      April 4, 2013 at 7:06 am |
  5. Reality

    How to end all the stupidity :

    Putting the kibosh/on all religions in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    April 3, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • HeavenSent


      O ye sons of men, how long [will ye turn] my glory into shame? [how long] will ye love vanity, [and] seek after leasing? Selah.

      Psalms 4:2


      April 3, 2013 at 11:52 am |
  6. Jeff

    Same rhetoric seems to find itself into every blog on here. I check in every week or so and I see virtually the same posts by the same posters. Sad really...

    The generalizations made by the majority of you is misplaced and irrelevant. Talking about the crusades or a s.e.x. scandal in the Catholic religion is painting with a wide brush. Do you honestly know ONE Christian that supports those events...or do you bring them up simply to tell us we have dirty laundry? Like we didn't know that. Every powerful group or nation has events in their past that have been perpetuated by those in power going after more power. Is this exclusive to Christianity? Come on now...

    I am a Christian and pray for anyone that is persecuted for their beliefs...that includes you atheists that blast my posts every time I chime in. I do not agree with atheism, hom.ose.xual behavior, Jehovah's Witnesses, Islam, Pro-Choice, Buddhism, or any other controversial topic discussed in here...but this it the thing...it's not my place to judge it. There are three things I try to do in my life...Love God, Love People, and Serve the World. Most people I know try and do the same things...though my atheist friends would only have two items on this list! The truth is, these boards bring out the extreme on both sides. Reality lives somewhere in the middle with most everyone getting along just fine.

    Have a great day and God bless!

    April 3, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • Ques

      "Do you honestly know ONE Christian that supports those events...or do you bring them up simply to tell us we have dirty laundry? "

      Thank you!

      I used to say things like this – it kept me from having to take an honest look at myself.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • William Demuth

      So you want to know who knows more than they are saying?

      The Pope does.

      The College of Cardinals does

      Timothy Dolan Does

      Can you name one ranking member who doesn’t??

      Only a fool might believe all the dirt has been exposed. Your cult THRIVES on secrecy.

      We need the US Attorney General to investigate this cult of pedophiles, and give the American people the TRUTH.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Ques

      If one is not Catholic – none of that means anything.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Jeff

      So Mr. Demuth...you're telling me power corrupts? I did not know that...thank you for the insight...smh...

      Here's one for you too...absolute power corrupts absolutely.

      By the way, I love the inclusion of the US Attorney General...that's an office that has NEVER been corrupted...LOL!

      April 3, 2013 at 11:02 am |
    • William Demuth


      Even the AG in their most arrogant state has never claimed divine providence.

      When you claim divinity and fail, the fall should be fatal, a sentence imposed by those your divinity claims oppressed.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Ques

      I think having someone in power, lilke the Pope, is anti-gospel.

      In the Old Testament you had a few special people like judges or kings or prophets.

      In the New Testament God said, ‘I will pour my Spirit out on all flesh.’

      So, the more you put one person on a pedestal, the more people think there’s a special anointing or something, which is not true, and it actually makes the Church go backwards and not forwards.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • Ques

      We’re not going to reach the ends of the earth if we’re relying on a few specially anointed or gifted people.

      The GOOD NEWS is that the job was given to every ordinary, weak kind of person.

      Now, why he did it that way, I don’t know. It seems an awful risk, but that’s the way he chose.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • sam

      So you posted to bitch about other posts? Thanks for stopping by. No one cares what you don't agree with, so long as you don't try and make your righteous indignation the law of the land.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • William Demuth


      I will pour my Spirit out on all flesh? Is that what they are telling the altar boys they are doing?

      Better to keep your "spirit" in your trousers, and not pour it on anyone

      April 3, 2013 at 11:18 am |
    • Ques


      Child molestation jokes. Sick.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Ques

      Look at your posts. You have got a sick mind. You are mentally ill. Please get help.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Jeff

      Mr. Demuth...if my faith fails at my end, so be it. Living my life by that faith is my decision though...is it not? If I share scripture with you and you dismiss it, can we still not have a beer together? My 'job' if you will, is to share the Word...what you do with that Word is entirely up to you. Know this though, whether you believe the same things that I do will not make you any more or less welcome in my house.

      sam...I suppose I am 'bit.ching' about other posts...LOL...didn't think of it like that. I just want there to be a peace among people that don't agree with each other. I think we have a common ground even if we take different paths when we get to a conversation about faith. My decision should not dub me an idiot because I believe something you don't. While I know a lot of judgmental Christians, there are quite a few atheists that fit that bill very nicely too.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:27 am |
    • Truth.

      "While I know a lot of judgmental Christians, there are quite a few atheists that fit that bill very nicely too."

      I call this "You spot it – you got it."

      April 3, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Jeff

      Truth...the "smelt it, dealt it" rebuttal...really?

      April 3, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  7. William Demuth

    We humans have an obligation to collectively reject bigotry

    The concept that there is a Supreme Creator, and that he prefers one human to another is just bigotry gone mad.

    It is absurd on its face and worthy of militant rejection. Only the most shallow and self centered of us might trully believe such hogwash! These simpletons then use this fabricated diety as a rational for immoral and unethical positions they attempt to inflict on the rest of us.

    April 3, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Greg

      What appears to be foolish, is actually wisdom of the highest order, of God.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • sam stone

      greg: how do you determine that?

      April 3, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • tallulah13

      Thank you for proving Mr. Demuth's point.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:44 am |
    • Science

      Hey Greg

      Scientists say they've found a "God particle"............................ and it is the particle taht creates mass for your ass .


      April 3, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Greg

      Sam, reading the bible, thinking, taking notes, going to church, talking with others that believe God and asking God for wisdom.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • Greg

      God is not a particle. Prove to me that it makes things.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      So basically, Greg, you believed something, then reinforced that belief by talking to people who agree with you and consulted the official cult rhetoric which you then interpreted to your liking. Now you are convinced that yours is the correct belief, and all others are wrong.

      This, in a nutshell, is why wars are fought over religion.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • sam stone


      Seems a bit circular to me, but if it works for you that is fine

      April 3, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • sam stone

      "Prove to me that it makes things."

      Can youi prove "god" made things?

      April 3, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Ques

      God exists – and is working on your heart right now.

      Why else would you be on a 'religion blog'? (all the time, lol!)

      Keep coming back!

      April 3, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • tallulah13


      Freedom of speech works. That is why non-believers are here, trying to free others from religious slavery.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Greg

      Sam, I was told by "Science" that a God Particle makes things. I don't think that's right. I think God makes things. I think God proves himself to those that believe him. If you don't believe him, you'll be in the dark about it. Tough going, but that's the reality of it all. Where's the proof of a God Particle doing things?

      April 3, 2013 at 11:06 am |
    • tallulah13

      Didja read the article, greg? Or are you just waiting for someone to explain it to you?

      April 3, 2013 at 11:11 am |
    • Science

      Hey Greg ........................you might want to read below

      Dover Trial Transcripts............................................. FACTS.

      Below are the complete transcripts from the Dover Trial. Thanks to our friends at the National Center for Science Education for helping us fill in the missing transcripts.


      And the missing link !

      Looks like that funky talking snake ?........................is the fairy in the fossil bed ?

      Strange Spaghetti-Shaped Creature Is Missing Link: Discovery Pushes Fossil Record Back 200 Million Years

      Mar. 13, 2013 — Canada's 505 million year-old Burgess Shale fossil beds, located in Yoho National Park, have yielded yet another major scientific discovery – this time with the unearthing of a strange spaghetti-shaped creature.


      April 3, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • sam

      Oh boy, Greg.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Ques

      There is a cause behind everything in this world. That is basic science. Everything is dependent on something.

      Can some being from out of this world cause this? Yes! Does that being need a cause? No – it is from a different world (heaven, eternity, the unknown)

      April 3, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      Where's the proof that any of the thousands of gods that men have made exist?

      April 3, 2013 at 11:19 am |
    • Greg

      What does your God Particle say about Jesus?

      April 3, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Actual "Science" (not some loonie internet atheist)

      What about the “God particle” business? Even a sketchy understanding of the physics should convince one that it is a misnomer. The Higgs mechanism fails to be godlike because it doesn’t give rise to, or explain, everything. We need to have gauge fields to start with, and most notably the mechanism doesn’t explain its own existence! Every scientific theory has to start with unproven assumptions.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Actual "Science" (not some loonie internet atheist)

      There are some educational opportunities here that you might pursue. God particle language in popular articles offers an opening for discussions about the meaning of “God” and “creation.” Discussions in an adult forum (perhaps with the help of a knowledgeable physicist) could help people get a sense for the interplay of abstract theorizing and experimental work and for the grand scope as well as the limitations of science. And the ideas sketched here are important for theories about the early universe.

      Leon Lederman (with Dick Teresi), “The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?” (Delta, 1993) is a good survey of the development of particle physics from the ancient Greeks to the date of publication. You will have to decide whether you like Lederman’s brand of humor. Lisa Randall’s “Heart of the Matter” (Discover, October 2009, p. 43), discusses the current state of the search for the Higgs and other possibilities at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Actual "Science" (not some loonie internet atheist)

      Most physicists don’t like the name “God particle.” They prefer to call the object of their search the Higgs particle, Higgs boson or just “the Higgs.” (To state the obvious, the Higgs or the God particle doesn’t mean that only one such particle exists. The terms refer to classes, not single entaties.)

      April 3, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • tallulah13

      "What does your God Particle say about Jesus?" Silly Greg. Particles don't speak. But if you have mass, it's your particle, too.

      And the name God particle is nothing more than a name. No one is claiming that it is god.

      "We hate calling it the God particle but the reason it picked that up is because it goes out and touches every other particle and gives them their property, which is their mass," William Trischuk, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto.

      I got that snippet from this link:

      April 3, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • lol??

      A Christian Physicist... that ought to make the head of the poster "Science" explode.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      The original name of the higgs boson was "the god damn particle" because it was the most annoying particle. They altered it so they wouldn't annoy the fundies....the name change has annoyed everyone else ever since.

      April 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

      Colossians 1:16


      April 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
  8. What real persecution looks like

    My Take: What real persecution looks like:

    The Crusades – Christian & Catholic
    The Troubles – Catholic & Christian
    Inquisitions – Christian
    Salem witch burnings – Christian
    Waco Texas – Christian
    Jones Town – Christian
    Nazism – Christians
    Serbians – Christian
    IRA ( Irish Republican Army ) – Christian
    Iron Guard – Christian
    Westboro Baptist church – Christians

    April 3, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      It's OK when christians do it because they have the one true god on their side.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • Sandi

      Aren't Catholics also Christians?

      April 3, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • William Demuth

      Christian, or Catholic?

      Just permutations of the same STD.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Ques

      Who took a stand against all these?

      The Christians.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Poltergiest

      And you think it's ok that Christians get persecuted. Sounds like human nature to me.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • JMEF

      If non-christians could do onto the christians what they did onto others, the blood bath would never stop.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:35 am |
    • JMEF

      What real...
      One more...
      Catholic priests–children

      April 3, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • Reality


      The Twenty (or so) Worst Things GOD'S CREATURES Have Done to Each Other:

      M. White, http://necrometrics.com/warstatz.htm#u (required reading)

      The Muslim Conquest of India

      "The likely death toll is somewhere between 2 million and 80 million. The geometric mean of those two limits is 12.7 million. "

      Rank …..Death Toll ..Cause …..Centuries……..(Religions/Groups involved)*

      1. 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians et al and Communists/atheists vs. Christians et al, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")

      2. 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)

      3. 40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)

      4. 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)

      5. 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)

      6. 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)

      7. 20 million Joseph Stalin 20C (Communism)

      8. 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)

      9. 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C

      10. 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)

      11. 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)

      12. 15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians vs. Pagans)

      13. 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C

      14. 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C

      15. 10 million Xin Dynasty 1C

      16. 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)

      17. 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans vs. Christians)

      18. 8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians)

      19. 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)

      20. 7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      *:" Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

      A: No, of course not – unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century – Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union – no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion."

      Q: So, what you're saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

      A: Arrgh... You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many doc-umented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it's more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or s-ex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don't even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.

      In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under "Communism", 24 under Colonialism, 2 under "Railroads" and 2 under "Scapegoats". Make of that what you will."

      April 3, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • ME II

      "Who took a stand against all these?

      The Christians."

      ??? Who started it?

      The Christians

      April 3, 2013 at 10:50 am |
    • Ques

      They were all caused and supported by humans.

      Both atheists and religious.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • ME II

      Atheists were involved in the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Salem Witch Trials? Really?

      April 3, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • HeavenSent

      Jesus warned,

      And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

      Luke 12:4-5


      April 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm |
  9. Pauline

    Let's see, Communists in China oppose the influence of books like the Bible on their people. I seem to remember the bonfires of Harry Potter books here in the USA not too long ago. Same principle, only taken to different extremes. The only difference is that the Communists fully control the government there, where Christians haven't achieved that here ... yet!

    April 3, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • JMEF

      And all those bible belters that burned their early Beatle records that are now worth big dollars, Christian backlash at its dumbest.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • tallulah13

      No kidding. I had a friend who burned all her albums - including some very rare editions - when she and her husband god religion. I truly hate the destructive nature of religion.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  10. JMEF

    Lots of places on this earth where Christian persecution could just be considered long over due pay back, as stated what goes around comes around. Imagine, with no religion too, peace.

    April 3, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Poltergiest

      It's just in your imagination.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:19 am |

    stay clear of me, his christian hindu ass is mine, denier of truth absolute, 360*, proven atheist by mathematicians, he should be locked up in Iran for violation of laws of truth absolute, Tin Allah, filthy crook

    April 3, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  12. JeremyFR

    This is indeed a very disturbing report. Of course, as the article makes clear with the examples of the Bahais and Ahmadis, Christians are not alone in suffering persecution. And exactly the same thing is happening to Atheists and Humanists – see this report from the International Humanist & Ethical Union http://iheu.org/story/new-global-report-discrimination-against-non-religious which also explains some of the thinking that legitimises persecution of people because they exercise their right to freedom of religion and belief.

    Of course, it's right to point the finger at these gross violations. But looking from over here in the UK, the fact that it is inconceivable that there could be an openly humanist President of the US, and that, in the "land of freedom", Atheists are apparently considered immoral (or at best amoral) simply because they don't believe in a deity, demonstrates that the US itself is not free of the type of prejudice that leads ultimately to persecution.

    April 3, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • G to the T

      THANK YOU! Well said.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  13. Faith

    This is the real story. Our hearts go out to those people of faith that don't have BASIC human rights to practice their faith, what a travesty!!!

    April 3, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • 101

      Christians need to raise their voices. The persecution must STOP!

      April 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Do you feel the same for every faith?
      Should Wiccans, Satanists, Shintoists and other religions considered heretical and/or pagan by the Abrahamics be protected in the same way as Christians, Jews and Muslims?

      April 3, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • William Demuth

      If you think you guys are persecuted now, Just wait.

      What goes around comes around.

      All those people trodden under your faiths boots are back, SCREAMING for vengance!

      You and yours have many things to answer for, and many who want you crucified on your own altars

      April 3, 2013 at 9:44 am |
    • Christians-Act now!

      You are complicit if you do not raise your voice in support, human rights of 200 million Christians around the world is being denied.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:46 am |
    • Pauline

      But, in line with the other article here, does real persecution of Christians in other places around the world justify some Christians belief that they are being persecuted here in the USA when some atheist puts up a billboard?

      April 3, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • sam stone

      Yet many Christians have no problem denying others basic human rights

      April 3, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • sam stone

      "You are complicit if you do not raise your voice in support, human rights of 200 million Christians around the world is being denied"

      How about the basic human rights that others are denied? Christians are not the only folks who are persecuted

      April 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
  14. Doc Vestibule

    If you want to know what real persecution is, try being of the B'Hai faith in the middle east.
    Part of the Muslim faith is to respect other religions "of the book", which effectively means the Abrahamic religiosn that pre-date Islam,
    Since the B'Hai only came into existense in the 19th century, they are considered heretics and are subjected to unwarranted arrests, false imprisonment, beatings, torture, unjustified executions, confiscation and destruction of property, denial of employment, denial of government benefits, denial of civil rights and liberties, and denial of access to higher education.

    And lest we forget, there are plenty of Christian groups doing their own share of persecution throughout the world.
    There's the Manmasi National Christian Army and the National Liberation Front of Tripura, who force Hindus to convert at gun point and are known to encourage the murder of Hindu children.
    They are following Saint Augustine's doctrine of 'cognite intrare' – or 'lead them in' which justifies and encourages torture, vandalism, forced conversions and using violence to convert others in the name of Christianity.
    Then there'sThe Army of God and other groups who kill doctors in the U.S. and white supremacist groups like like the Aryan Nations, Aryan Republican Army, Phineas Priesthood, and The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord.

    "It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics."
    – Robert Heinlein

    April 3, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  15. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    I'm off to another day of persecuting the entire human race by uncovering and pointing out the essential, and necessary, imperfection of genomes: God's Word if life is God's Creation. Is there a religion that is not unsettled by that?

    April 3, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  16. the AnViL™

    should people be shot for owning bibles? i do not think so.

    but persecution of monotheism in the 21st century is necessary.

    when the prevailing religious ideology has no respect for the constitutionally guaranteed equal rights of those who they deem immoral – why should that particular set of beliefs deserve respect?

    when xians work overtime to secularize their theistic ideals, should those who do not subscribe to that particular form of idiocy – or those who reject all forms of idiocy – just sit still and be quiet – and respect your "religious beliefs"???

    while we watch delusional ignorant xian zealots attempt to disguise their lame mythologies and insert them by force of law into our public school science classes – should we just stand back and allow them to because there is some divine right to respect for that sort of behavior???

    should women just respect the ignorant retarded theistic morals which would forcefully be imposed on them because – it's your divine religious belief???

    i don't think so.

    who the hell should respect the abject ignorance of xianity which has retarded humanity for far too long?

    why should people be tolerant of the racism, bigotry, ignorance, division and discrimination inherent in ALL monotheistic religions??

    because your imaginary man in the sky is real to you???

    all anyone needs to do is review the history of germany during the 30's and 40's to see what tolerance of religious bigotry and idiocy is capable of.

    those of you who espouse any believe in the abrahamic god should be prohibited from voting, serving on a jury, running for or holding any public office – to include law enforcement, purchasing or owning firearms, serving in our military, teaching public school or being allowed near any children under the age of 18.

    the end of tolerance for religious idiocy in this country won't come at the hands of violence... it will be wrought through education.

    ridicule is necessary – persecution is necessary – and tolerance is absolutely the worst thing possible.

    enough is enough

    April 3, 2013 at 9:15 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      They will call it persecution, but what's called for is that they should be restrained from spreading deceit and from putting it at work in the lives of people who are not afflicted by their odd and viral ideas. With proper education of young people that will help them see through religious nonsense, the deceivers will fade out.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • y17

      It must be maddening that you can't stop parents from telling their kids that God exists and that he made everything.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • the AnViL™

      it's comical to see the enemies of reason speculate fearfully that the ends of religious idiocy will come by way of violence.
      of course it's what they expect – as it is the way of ignorance and the means delusional religious zealots resort to.

      no. religious ignorance will not end violently.

      the end of religious idiocy will be at the hands of education, science and reason.

      education and science are the arch enemies of religious ignorance and idiocy.... and the war is here... and on any and every forum where knowledge can be exchanged.

      raising the next generation to be critical thinkers, insistent on truth, reality, and the illuminating knowledge of science is our only recourse.

      tolerance of religious idiocy is coming to an end – and there isn't anything anyone can do about it.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:34 am |
    • the AnViL™

      y17 spittled: "It must be maddening that you can't stop parents from telling their kids that God exists and that he made everything."

      every successive generation becomes more educated and as they do – religiosity falls back further.

      eventually – when enough people are educated – there will be fewer parents teaching their children the abject lies of the previous generation.

      slowly but surely – reason prevails.... and religious idiocy will be persecuted and ridiculed back into the bronze age where it belongs.

      tolerance of religious idiocy is worse than religious idiocy itself.


      April 3, 2013 at 9:39 am |
    • y17

      As lol?? pointed out, the dead and uni-se-xual don't have kids to teach.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • Pauline

      Do you feel persecuted when your teachers only teach actual science in your science classes?

      April 3, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Poltergiest

      This rant is totally nonsensical. You're using human rights violations in one country to justify the persecution of unrelated people in another. It's the most outrageous premise I've heard in a while. NK doesn't have monotheism, they don't have rights.

      Governments persecute in modern society. They own the armies, they make the weapons, they give the orders.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      y17: Your point is moot. Raising a child to believe in god does not mean they will remain a believer and that is very obvious from most of the Atheists on this blog. It doesn't bite my ass that you teach your children about god, it bites my ass that some christians expect that their belief be held in the forefront in publicly funded schools where children of numerous other beliefs can be found.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • @the AnViL™

      This is the same tactic Fred Phelps uses against gays. You both are pretty much the same.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • @the AnViL™

      It is called "intolerance".

      April 3, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Greg

      Pauline, I think it's a horrible injustice towards God that what he made is being taken apart in front of kids in publicly funded schools, and they aren't being told who created it. The injustice is compounded by the fact that those teaching and governing, often don't know it themselves.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • @the AnViL™

      It is time to stand up against the the AnViL™'s and Fred Phelp's of this world. We do not need more people that lack respect for other people's beliefs and practices. It is time to evolve and open our minds. Love your enemy.

      If you hate you are only destroying yourself.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      You bible does not belong in public schools. If you want to teach your children that your ancient myths are true, do it in your home or at church. We don't try to force you to teach evolution in church, don't teach your myths and superst!tions in public schools where there are many people that do not share your beliefs.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • the AnViL™

      in reply to the idiot who can't think of a decent alias:

      intolerance of bad things – is good.

      intolerance of the division, bigotry, racism, hate and idiocy inherent in all monotheistic religions is a good thing.

      trying to relabel it to match the retards at the westboro baptist just makes you look stupid.

      evolve, fool.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • @the AnViL™

      You are promoting division, bigotry, and hate. Just like Fred Phelps.

      You are just as bad as those you profess to hate.

      An anonymous message board poster calling me "stupid" is meaningless. It tells me more about you, than me.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • @the AnViL™

      Fred Phelps at least has enough guts to use his real name. You hide behind an alias.

      Like a coward.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • the AnViL™

      yeah – and you use my alias.

      let's be clear – fred phelps is a retarded bigot and you aren't far off the mark.

      god hates fags? soldiers die because of gays in america???

      to you – standing up against the intolerance, hate, bigotry, division and racism inherent in monotheism is the same message??


      pull your head out of your ass - you look like a moron on a national public forum.


      April 3, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • @the CoWarD™

      The root of your message is the same as Fred Phelps – intolerance and hatred. It is evil.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • @the CoWarD™

      You preach against gays, soldiers, police officers, the poor and scientists.... all these people may believe in God and you are calling others to persecute them.

      April 3, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Greg: That is ignorance at its best. Anything that is publicly funded must abide by separation of church and state. If you want your children taught religion is school, send them to a religiously affiliated school but do not expect the public school system to teach your belief above all others...that's disrespectful to innocent children who may not share your belief. Look up the Dover Trial for a much better understanding of this issue.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Pauline

      Religious ideas are personally held and different amongst students. Public schools endorsing one faith over all others would be as wrong as them endorsing one political party over the other, although I've been told that this also occurs in places.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • the AnViL™

      Pauline – that's right... it is wrong – it happens – it's happening.

      when you have xian groups like The Good News Club – who actively seek to install themselves into our public schools – for the distinct and definite purpose of indoctrinating children into their ignorant slave cult – there comes a point where people need to put their foot down.

      i don't know if you've seen this – but take a few minutes and check it out. the xian right stealth assault on children:


      April 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
  17. William Demuth


    Religious freedom is absurd in its conception.

    Just as with street gangs or cults, society has an inherent right to limit organizations it deems undesirable.

    Your position is based on a supposition of innocence, and a belief that Christianity first does no harm.

    History has proven otherwise

    Can the 40,000 molested by clergy have a “voice” about the church? Most Christians STILL defend the deviants and blame the victims

    What of the 8 million Jews killed by the Nazi’s, can they yet have a say about the “innocence” of Christianity? Most Europeans STILL blame the victims rather than taking a real look at the factors, including the faith of the aggressors

    Your “religion” has been proven a conspiratorial, degenerate, deceptive and corrupt organization, that both should and eventually will be held accountable for it numerous atrocities.

    In the interim, we do our future generations a disservice by permitting a plastic halo to be stapled on this broken faith

    It is best relegated to the past, by force if necessary.

    April 3, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • the AnViL™

      I concur wholeheartedly.

      I could not have 'said' this better myself.

      good form.

      April 3, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Unfortunately most people, certainly most religious people, see Churches and the religions they harbor, as the main source of niceness in this country. They are places where people go to learn why they should be nice, and how to be nice. Mormons knew this from their inception and it has been revealing to watch them adapt themselves to present a front of unified niceness of the most familiar and comforting kind. Even the most central dogma of the various religions are watered down, or hidden, in the interest of niceness. How can we muster the will and the means to penetrate this cloying niceness and put an end to the dangerous nonsense it hides?

      April 3, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • William Demuth


      We waste far too much time and indeed lives tolerating the evil hidden behind false benevolence. Like the Mafia hosting street festivals, these organizations seduce the minds of the simple so they may be exploited.

      At their core is a cancer that must be cut out without compassion.

      Simply tax them, and the maggots will find other rotting flesh to exploit

      April 3, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  18. Robert

    Nina, Must commend you for this post, gives an insight on persecution. It is saddening but a great eye opener.

    April 3, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  19. Christian Persecution

    The author conveniently forgets to mention that a devout Christian Wade Michael Page killed 7 innocent Sikhs praying at their temple in Wisconsin in America in August 2012. The Christian persecuted Sikhs only because of their religion. The Christian terrorists persecuting other religions in the name of their bible should also be mentioned somewhere in the article. This has been happening since the Crusade and continue to happen even today all across the Christian world - but the author conveniently forgot to mention.

    April 3, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • tallulah13

      Christians have dedicated a lot of time and effort to persecute gays and lesbians. Christians have also done their best to strip women of their reproductive rights. (I'm not saying all christians, but some).

      Perhaps any persecution of christians is simply reaping what was sown.

      April 3, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  20. Pray for the persecuted!
    April 3, 2013 at 7:21 am |
    • Isaiah 41:10

      Nicely written article, well researched, thank you!!!
      They need our thoughts, prayers and support

      April 3, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      If you want to do something truly useful for this man and his family, write letters to your government in support of him...look for some way to help his wife and children's burdens be slightly lifted (food, toys for the kids, financial donations).

      April 3, 2013 at 10:52 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.