Over 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016, according to new study

Iraqi Christians attend a mass on Christmas eve at the Mar Shemoni church in the town of Bartella east of Mosul, December 24, 2016. | Reuters/Ammar Awad

Christians are considered as the most persecuted religious group in the world, with over 90,000 adherents killed in 2016, which is equivalent to one being killed every six minutes, according to a research by Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR).

In an interview with Vatican Radio, CESNUR Director Massimo Introvigne said that the number actually decreased from 2015, which saw 105,000 Christians killed for their faith.

He cited the statistics compiled by the Center for Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for the annual report that is scheduled to be published next month, The Christian Post reported.

He stated that 70 percent of the 90,000 were killed in tribal conflicts in Africa while the other 30 percent were victims of terrorism, government persecution and attacks on Christian villages across the world. He said that the high number may be due to the refusal of many Christians to take up arms.

Introvigne also noted that there are 500 to 600 million Christians from across the world who were practicing their faith. He said that the report may be incomplete because India and China, where Christians practice their faith in secrecy, were not included.

The director further noted that the figures in his study are significantly higher than others because CESNUR used a broader definition of Christians who were killed for their faith.

"When the discrepancies are so large, it is clear that you are counting different things," he said, adding that the martyrs would only number a few hundred if the statistics only included those who were given the choice to deny their faith or perish.

"But if you talk to people who are killed in a broad sense because they are Christians, then we get to 90,000, or one death every six minutes," he went on to say.

Open Doors USA, which releases an annual report on persecuted Christians across the globe, has estimated that 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016.

"However, this is an extremely conservative estimate, as we only track those we have confirmed details about name, location, etc. There are likely many more," said Emily Fuentes, Open Doors director of communications.

Introvigne also mentioned that the number of Muslims and Christians killed outside of Africa were similar. He said that a large number of Muslims have died at the hands of the terror group ISIS.

He pointed out that Christians who were subjected to harassment rarely responded with violence.

"In most cases they peacefully demonstrated their faith, very often their persecutors, forgiving and praying for them," he said, according to Christian Today.