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Vatican City, Mar 4, 2014 / 02:56 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In his daily homily Pope Francis called persecution a “reality” of Christian life, challenging faithful to take up the cross and noting that we are never given more than we can handle.
“But (people say) ‘today we are better educated and these things no longer exist.’ Yes they do!” the Pope said March 4.
“And I tell you that today there are more martyrs than during the early times of the Church.”
Centering his reflections on the day’s Gospel taken from Mark – in which Peter asks Christ what the disciples will receive for following him – the Pope pointed out to those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse the response of Jesus, who explained that their reward would be great, but not without persecution.
According to The Pew Research Center, nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions. But what is Christian persecution?
The United States-based group considers persecution of Christians any denying protection of religious freedom, preventing someone from converting to Christianity because of legal or social threats, physically attacking or killing because of the victim’s faith, forcing one to leave a job or home under threat of violence because of the victim’s faith, or imprisonment, interrogation or torture for refusing to deny one’s faith.
“Overwhelmingly, the main engine driving persecution of Christians in 36 of the top 50 countries is Islamic extremism, with the most violent region being the states of the African Sahel belt where a fifth of the world’s Christians meet one-seventh of the world’s Muslims in perilous proximity,” the Open Doors report stated.