Are there really 100,000 new Christian martyrs every year

It's often claimed that 100,000 Christians are killed every year because of their religion. Earlier this year, the Vatican called it a credible number. But is it?

Gunmen on motorcycles kill three people when they open fire on a wedding outside a Coptic Christian church in Cairo. A twin-suicide bombing outside a church in Pakistan kills at least 75 people.

These two recent headline-grabbing attacks occurred within just a month of each other. Horrific, but by no means isolated incidents.

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 of 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.

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