From this article in the "Catholic News Agency":

Anti-Christian persecution is “worse than at any time in history”

How much are Christians really persecuted today, and is it really worse today than at any other time in history?


2 Answers 2


Catholic News Agency is reporting quotes from a document correctly, yet the evidence the document presents does not support these conclusion and it's otherwise unconvincing.

The news piece cites this report and uses quotation marks for the claim.

In fact the report claims

the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.

The report comes from a very biased source, a charity whose mission is

supporting the Catholic faithful and other Christians where they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.

In fact, looking at the report sources, their data covers 25 years.

2017 represents the 25th year of the Open Doors World Watch List.

4 Open Doors, World Watch Report 2017: The Persecution of Christians and Global Displacement

This is a biased source as its world watch list is first of all simply a country rank, which is great for comparing countries but useless for comparing numbers of people actually persecuted and historical trends thereof. Secondly, I disagree with their definition of "high persecution", which indicates countries where Christians are actually free to worship and are not persecuted (e.g. Colombia, a Christian country). They are an "international ministry serving persecuted Christians and churches worldwide", and not a neutral observer.

Whereas, Pew Research, more reputable and generally more neutral, gives a wider context that shows that Christians are persecuted in similar numbers to Muslims, among other sobering facts, and are not "more persecuted than any other faith group".

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In fact, in terms of what percentage of believers live in countries where there is discrimination, Christians are among the least affected:

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Global Restrictions on Religion Rise Modestly in 2015, Reversing Downward Trend

The third source cited in the report is a non-reputable propaganda site in my opinion and not worth citing here.


  • the cited website is reporting a real quotation from its source.

  • The source of the claim is a report from a biased source, based on questionable data.

That said:

  • the number of Christians being persecuted at any level might be the largest ever, however the sources presented do not present evidence either way.
  • I think "grossly" is an overstatement. I find the quote in the question split between pages 10 and 12 of the executive summery linked. I might use "peak" to mean local maximum; in fact I'd be more inclined to criticize "peak" as implying it comes down afterwards, which isn't certain. Them being wrong about ranking of religions being targeted is the part I'd focus on.
    – user36688
    Oct 19, 2017 at 15:11
  • 1
    @fredsbend I've done some more homework. Feel free to provide a better answer if you find better evidence.
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 19, 2017 at 19:26
  • 4
    I'm not sure how useful the "% of X living in countries where their groups experience harassment" stats are. The best case are Jews: For historical reasons, about 80% of Jews live in Israel or the US, and they experience harassment in both, which already gives us 80%. But this doesn't tell us how likely it is for Jews to experience harassment, or how many cases of persecution of Jews happened (theoretically, it could only have been two cases (we know that it's more, but it shows that the numbers may not necessarily mean much)).
    – tim
    Oct 19, 2017 at 19:45
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    The "number of countries" stat is probably more useful, but again using Jews as an example, we can see that it is difficult to interpret. My guess is that the number is comparatively low for Jews because there are a number of countries with no or very few Jews (because of persecution), so there might not be any opportunity to persecute Jews, or just no documented cases of persecution. [I think this is more of a problem with the question, which doesn't properly define "persecution" or "worse", than your answer ]
    – tim
    Oct 19, 2017 at 19:46
  • 3
    @tim the claim itself is basically a huge ecological fallacy, as it's a global average with wildly diverging local situations
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 19, 2017 at 20:41


Christians are being killed on account of their religion at a rate of about 90,000 per year.

However, this is not a maximum.

As explained in Wikipedia's persecution of Christians article:

Between 1915 and 1921 the Ottoman Empire conducted a series of massacres against ancient indigenous Christian populations of what is today western and eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, north eastern Syria, north western Iran and Lebanon, known as the Armenian Genocide,[67][68] Assyrian Genocide,[69]Greek Genocide.[70] and Great Famine of Mount Lebanon.[71][72] which accounted for the deaths of up to 3,500,000 Armenian, Assyrian, Greek and Maronite Christians, and the deportation and destitution of many more.


The Young Turks government of the collapsing Ottoman Empire in 1915 persecuted Eastern Christian populations in Anatolia, Persia, Northern Mesopotamia and The Levant. The onslaught by the Ottoman army, which included Kurdish, Arab and Circassian irregulars resulted in an estimated 3.4 million deaths, divided between roughly 1.5 million Armenian Christians,[112][113][114] 0.75 million Assyrian Christians, 0.90 million Greek Orthodox Christians and 0.25 million Maronite Christians (see Great Famine of Mount Lebanon);[115] groups of Georgian Christians were also killed. The massive ethnoreligious cleansing expelled from the empire or killed the Armenians and the Bulgarians who had not converted to Islam. The Genocide led to the devastation of ancient indigenous Christian races who had existed in the region for thousands of years.[116][117][118][119]

So in the 1915-1921 time period Christians were being killed on account of their religion at the average rate of about 500,000 a year, which is much higher than the rate now.

  • 1
    Keep in mind that the number of Christians killed is not what the claim is about. They consider "persecution" any hinderance to be able to fully experience the religion (for example, if it's considered inconvenient to proselityze, but there is no restriction to being a Christian, like in Barhain, it's considered "high level of persecution").
    – Sklivvz
    Oct 19, 2017 at 20:38
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    @Sklivvz The claim is about this report, churchinneed.org/persecution , which says "Although the precise number of Christians persecuted for their faith remains unclear, reports showing a fall in the number of deaths during the period under review to below 100,000 nevertheless highlight that the violence against followers of Jesus Christ remains severe" and cites to my first reference. So, yes, it is exactly what the claim is about.
    – DavePhD
    Oct 19, 2017 at 20:47
  • Was this particular persecution more about religion or ethnicity?
    – user11643
    Oct 19, 2017 at 21:19
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    @fredsbend "The massive ethnoreligious cleansing expelled from the empire or killed the Armenians and the Bulgarians who had not converted to Islam."
    – DavePhD
    Oct 19, 2017 at 21:24

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