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ICC Note: Pope Francis argued that modern day Christians are facing more persecution than ever before. Pope Francis discussed Middle Eastern Christians in particular. With ISIS attacks in Iraq, the Assyrian Christian population is quickly fading. The Pope talked about the many Christians that are forced to flee from their homes and communities to avoid persecution. Pope Francis even stated that the persecution Christians face today is more extreme than the persecution of the early church.

07/02/14 Middle East (Christian Post) – Pope Francis argued on Monday that the 21st century has seen more Christians under siege for their faith than during the time of the early church.

“There are many martyrs today, in the Church, many persecuted Christians,” said the pope during a mass in honor of Christian martyrs who were killed under Roman Emperor Nero. “Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. Even those Christians who are forced away in an ‘elegant’ way, with ‘white gloves:’ that too is persecution. There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries.”

Pope Francis’ words come at a time when Iraq’s small population of Christians, which trace their roots back to the earliest days of Christianity, have had to flee their homes as militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have taken over the city of Mosul. On Sunday, Nigerian Christians were once again targeted by the Boko Haram, which killed scores of worshippers and burned down four churches in a major attack in Kwada and Kautikari villages.

The pope asked Christians to remember “our glorious ancestors” and “let us think also to our brothers who are persecuted, who suffer and who, with their blood are nurturing the seed of so many little churches that are born. Let us pray for them and for us,” reported Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis also noted that the church’s witness in the face of persecution and hard times could lead to church growth.

“When historical situations require a strong witness, there are martyrs, the greatest witnesses. And the Church grows thanks to the blood of the martyrs. This is the beauty of martyrdom. It begins with witness, day after day, and it can end like Jesus, the first martyr, the first witness, the faithful witness: with blood,” he said.

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