The attack on an Anglican church in Pakistan on September 22 caused Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to speak out on attacks on Christians in the Muslim world. He said Christians are being martyred for their faith in many Muslim countries and this past weekend’s violence is only the tip of the iceberg.
According to the International Society for Human Rights in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians.
The Center for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that in the last decade, an average of 100,000 Christians have died each year in what the center calls a "situation of witness," meaning for motives related to their faith.
Although some experts regard that estimate as inflated, it works out to an average of 11 Christians killed each hour throughout the past decade.
On September 21, the al-Shabaab Muslim terrorist group attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya and announced they only wanted to kill non-Muslims. Witnesses said the gunmen lined up men, women, and children and quizzed them on Islam, murdering those who could not answer correctly on the spot. Over 60 people were killed.
On September 22, two suicide bombers attacked the All Saints Anglican church in Peshawar, Pakistan; 85 worshipers were killed and 200 injured in that attack.
In March, Muslims torched dozens of Christian homes in Pakistan.
In January, tens of thousands of Coptic Christians left Egypt when Islamist President Mohammed Morsi rose to power. When he was overthrown in July, things did not get better for the ones who stayed. Muslim Brotherhood supporters set fire to the Churches of Abraham and the Virgin Mary in Menya; burned down the Mar Geergiss Church, the main Coptic church in southern Sohag; and murdered many priests and laymen. The Virgin Mary and Priest Ibram Monastery in Delga was forced to cancel Mass for the first time in 1,600 years.
Welby said Christians are being attacked specifically because of their faith.
“The appearance is often deceptive but I think Christians have been attacked in some cases simply because of their faith,” he said.
“I think it is true to say – and also in Peshawar – that we have seen more than 80 martyrs in the last few days.
“They have been attacked because they were testifying to their faith in Jesus Christ by going to church.
“That is outside any acceptable expression in any circumstances for any reason of religious difference.”
Pope Francis spoke out against the violence on Wednesday:
"So many Christians in the world are suffering," the pope said during his general audience Wednesday morning in St. Peter's Square. "Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it's a member of the family?"
"Does it touch my heart, or doesn't it really affect me, [to know that] so many brothers and sisters in the family are giving their lives for Jesus Christ?"