70 Million Christian Martyrs Since 33 A.D.

70 Million Christian Martyrs Since 33 A.D.

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. According to PBS over 1 million people have given their lives in military service for the nation of America, and for that I am so grateful.

I am indebted and humbled by their service and sacrifice.

Without them, our freedoms could have been lost, our families forever affected and our safety in jeopardy. They gave of themselves for a cause greater than themselves and millions have enjoyed the fruit of their sacrifice. But as great a sacrifice as that is and was, it is secondary to those who have given of their life's for the greatest cause in the earth - the Gospel of Christ. For the kingdom of God. A kingdom not of this world but an eternal reality that we are all invited to experience for eternity. 

And the number who have given their life for Christ far surpasses the 1 million who gave their lives for America, though not to diminish that number in any way. On this day I am choosing to remember the martyrs for our faith as well. Thanks to the Voice of the Martyrs there is an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted as well but they deserve more attention than we give them. They are my heroes. Many of their stories go untold. Many times they endure much worse than we could ever imagine. Their number according to a study done in 2001 is 70 million. 

70 million martyrs for the Christian faith since 33 A.D.

Thanks to the incredible work of David B. Barrett (1927-2011) for this data and Gordon Conwell for helping to make sense of the study. 

Top ten martyrdom situations in Christian history ranked by size

  1.  1921–50, Christians die in Soviet prison camps 15,000,000

  2.  1950–80, Christians die in Soviet prison camps 5,000,000
  3.  1214, Genghiz Khan massacres Christians 4,000,000
  4.  1358, Tamerlane destroys Nestorian church 4,000,000
  5.  1929–37, Orthodox Christians killed by Stalin 2,700,000
  6.  1560, Conquistadors kill millions of Amerindians 2,000,000
  7.  1925, Soviets attempt to liquidate Roman Catholics 1,200,000
  8.  1258, Baghdad captured in massacre by Hulaku Khan 1,100,000
  9.  1214, Diocese of Herat sacked by Genghiz Khan 1,000,000
  10.  1939, Nazis execute millions in death camps 1,000,000

Confessions of Faith of the Martyrs totals from AD 33–2000

  • Orthodox 43,000,000
  • Russian Orthodox 25,000,000
  • East Syrians (Nestorians) 12,800,000
  • Ukrainian Orthodox 4,000,000
  • Gregorians (Armenian Apostolic) 1,200,000
  • Roman Catholic 12,200,000
  • Catholics (before AD 1000) 900,000
  • Independents 3,500,000
  • Protestants 3,200,000
  • Anglicans 1,100,000
  • Marginal Christians 7,000
  • Other and background martyrs 7,000,000
  • Total all martyrs 70,000,000

Confessions of perpetrators of martyrdom, totals from AD 33-2000

Persecutors responsible

  • State ruling power 55,871,000
  • Atheists (overlap with above) 31,689,000
  • Muslims 9,121,000
  • Ethnoreligionists (animists) 7,469,000
  • Roman Catholics 5,171,000
  • Quasi-religionists 2,712,000
  • Buddhists (Mahayana) 1,651,000
  • Hindus 676,000
  • Zoroastrians (Parsis) 384,000
  • Eastern Orthodox 222,000
  • Other non-Christians 115,000
  • Other Christians 146,000


  • Non-Christian persecutors 63,882,000
  • Christian persecutors 5,538,000
  • Total all martyrs 69,420,000

Modern Persecution

  • Martyrs in the 20th Century (1900-2000) 45,400,000
  • Martyrs since 1950  13,300,000
  • Average annual martyrs since 1950 278,000 per year
  • Current annual martyrs  160,000

Likelihood of Being Martyred

  • Bishops....5%.....15 per year are killed
  • Evangelists....4%....133 per year are killed
  • Catechists....3.5%.....175 per year are killed
  • Foreign missionaries....3%....131 per year are killed
  • Clergy....2%....303 per year are killed
  • All Christian workers....2%.....1700 per year are killed
  • Monks, brothers....1.9%.....63 per year are killed
  • Sisters, nuns.....1.8%......300 per year are killed
  • Great Commission Christians.....1.6%......80,000 per year are killed
  • Christians (all kinds)......1%.....160,000 per year are killed


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