While it is no secret that the so-called mainstream media habitually fails to report on the international phenomenon of Christian persecution, few are aware that they sometimes actively work to undermine the efforts of those who do expose it.
Consider a new report by the BBC titled “Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year?“ by Ruth Alexander, who asks:
So how widespread is anti-Christian violence?
“Credible research has reached the shocking conclusion that every year an estimate of more than 100,000 Christians are killed because of some relation to their faith,” Vatican spokesman Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi announced in a radio address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in May.
On the internet, the statistic has taken on a life of its own, popping up all over the place, sometimes with an additional detail—that these 100,000 lives are taken by Muslims.
The number comes originally from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in the US state of Massachusetts, which publishes such a figure each year in its Status of Global Mission (see line 28).
Its researchers started by estimating the number of Christians who died as martyrs between 2000 and 2010—about one million by their reckoning—and divided that number by 10 to get an annual number, 100,000.
But how do they reach that figure of one million?
When you dig down, you see that the majority died in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo….
If you were to take away the 90,000 deaths in DR Congo from the CSGC’s figure of 100,000, that would leave 10,000 martyrs per year.
Later, after arguing that, “while violence continues in DR Congo, it’s less extreme today than it was at its height,” Alexander quotes approximately 7,000-8,000 Christians worldwide dying for their faith (the CSGC projects 150,000 dead by 2025).
Regarding the statement—”how do they [CSGC] reach that figure of one million? When you dig down, you see that the majority died in the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo”—it is unclear where Alexander got this information. She does provide a link to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity’s Status of Global Mission, telling readers to “see line 28,” which indeed confirms the average number of 100,000 Christians martyred per year. However, nowhere in this CSGC report does the word “Congo” appear, prompting one to wonder where Alexander went to “dig down” for information.
If it is true that the number 100,000 is primarily based on the Congo, and that the annual number of martyred Christians around the world is 7,000-8,000, the total number of Christians killed specifically because of their faith would seem to be reduced by a whopping 93%.
Of course, many human rights activists do assert that Christians are specifically targeted in the Congo. Moreover, as Alexander indicates, the CSGC counts only 20% of the millions of Christians killed in the Congo as martyrs, meaning some set of standards or qualifications distinguishing those killed for their faith from those killed in general was relied on. Finally, regarding the all-important question of how many Christians around the world are killed, Alexander herself later quotes another source saying “there is no scientific number at the moment. It has not been researched and all experts in this area are very hesitant to give a figure.”
And this seems to be the real point. Of all the questions and aspects of Christian persecution that objective researchers and reporters can explore and expose, why did the BBC pick the very one that 1) cannot be answered and 2) is ultimately irrelevant—at best academic, at worst cold and callous?
(The issue is less whether 100,000 Christians around the world are killed annually for their faith, but rather that any Christian, any human—even Alexander’s “paltry” 7,000—is being killed for their faith.)
The BBC naturally picked this “numbers” question because it best serves to minimize the specter of Christian persecution, specifically by prompting the casual reader to conclude, “Oh, well, things are certainly nowhere near as bad as I thought for Christian minorities outside the West—indeed, they’re 93% better!”
More importantly—and here we reach BBC policy—this number-crunching approach serves to exonerate the chief persecutor of Christians, the Islamic world, or, as Alexander is quick to conclude: “[t]his means we can say right away that the internet rumours of Muslims being behind the killing of 100,000 Christian martyrs are nonsense.” (Meanwhile, there’s this ongoing monthly series to deal with.)
Incidentally, since when do numbers matter to the supposedly “humanitarian-conscious” BBC and other “liberal” media where one life (provided it’s the “right” life) often gets nonstop coverage? Would the BBC ever write a report dedicated to trying to show that the number of Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel is actually 93% lower than widely believed?
Of course not. When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict, far from minimizing anything, the BBC regularly exaggerates to demonize Israel.
And therein lies the main lesson. The BBC is not in the business of reporting facts but rather creating smokescreens, building and knocking down straw men, and chasing red herrings—all to further its narratives, in this case, that “only” 7,000-8,000 Christians are killed annually for their faith, and that the Islamic world is largely innocent—so what’s all the fuss about?
Raymond Ibrahim is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. A Mideast and Islam specialist, he is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and a Hoover Institution Media Fellow, 2013.