Stephen was the first officially. He was pulled out into the street and stoned to death. With the exception of John, none of the apostles escaped martyrdom either. James- Beheaded; Philip-Crucified, Matthew-Stabbed; James the brother of Jesus-Beaten; Matthias-Beheaded; Andrew-Crucified; Peter-Crucified upside down; Jude-Unknown; Bartholomew-Flayed alive and Crucified; Thomas-Speared; Simon the Zealot-Crucified. The other writers of scripture shared the same fate. Mark the Evangelist-Beheaded; Luke the Physician-Hanged; Paul of Tarsus-Beheaded.
Ignatius of Antioch was a student of John the Apostle and friend of fellow student Polycarp. Ignatius was the 3rd bishop Antioch (Peter was the first). As with a most of the early bishops, he was arrested, taken to Rome, and executed in the Coliseum.
Justin Martyr, from his youth, was a seeker of truth. It shaped his life. Eventually he would come to see all truth belong to Christ and convert to Christianity. For continuing to convince people of the truth of God, he was arrested and beheaded.
Agnes of Rome was born to Roman nobility and into a family of Christians. When she refused to marry the son of a pagan Roman prelate, believing that it was contrary to her faith, it was ordered that her life was forfeit. Since at the time it was illegal to execute a virgin, she was dragged naked through the streets to a local brothel. Eventually she was tied to a stake and when the wood refused to burn, a guard drew his sword and chopped off her head. She was 12 years old.
Thomas Becket was once the best friend of King Henry II. It was that same king that appointed him to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury. But when Becket started refusing the king’s advances for more power over the church and began to choose the honor of God over the friendship of the king, Henry is recorded as saying, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” 4 knights loyal to Henry entered the cathedral and ran Becket through with their swords.
Juan de Padilla was a Spanish Roman Catholic missionary who traveled to the Americas and established the first US mission in what would be Kansas. He was also one of the first Christians to be martyred on US soil.
In the 17th century, Missionaries were welcomed in Japan and allowed to preach the gospel. But as often happens, the leadership of the country changed their minds and outlawed Christianity. Though some Christians fled the nation, some didn’t, especially the Japanese converts. In 1622, well over 100 priests, deacons, farmers, wives, and children were rounded up, beheaded and burned at the stake.
Magdalene of Nagasaki was the daughter of Christian parents who were martyred when she was 9. She found 2 priests to study under who were also eventually martyred for their faith. When she turned herself over to the authorities and declared herself a Christian, she was tortured and hung upside down for 13 days until she suffocated to death.
Bartolome Blanco Marquez was a Spaniard and leader in the Catholic church there. He was imprisoned and charged with treason for refusing to fight against Franco’s revolutionary forces. His belief was that as a follower of Christ, he shouldn’t commit violence against another human being. In a letter to his family that he wrote from prison, he said, “May this be my last will: forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness; but indulgence, which I wish to be accompanied by doing them as much good as possible. Therefore, I ask you to avenge me with the vengeance of a Christian: returning much good to those that have tried to do me evil” He went to the site of his execution barefooted, “in order to be more conformed to Christ.” He kissed his handcuffs, surprising the guards that cuffed him. He refused to be shot from behind. “Whoever dies for Christ should do so facing forward and standing straight. Long live Christ the King!” he shouted as he fell to the ground under a shower of bullets.
Lucian Tapiedi was an Anglican teacher in New Guinea. While evading the invading Japanese, he and his group of 15 priests and teachers hid out in a local village. They were all betrayed by a man named Hivijapa and all would be executed. Lucian was killed by the betrayer who would eventually become a Christian convert and take the name Hivijapa Lucian. In order to honor the memory of his victim, Hivijapa built a church on the site of Lucian’s death.
Beda Chang was a Chinese Roman Catholic priest who refused to renounce his faith or cooperate with the Communist government in their persecution of the church. Father Chang was arrested, imprisoned, tortured and languished in his prison cell for 2 months before he finally died. Chinese Roman Catholics reacted with mass protests and turned out in great numbers for Father Chang’s requiem Mass. After Father Chang’s death, the communist government issued a statement denouncing the prayers and Masses for Chang as a “new type of bacteria warfare by the imperialists – a counterrevolutionary mental bacteria.”
Zdenka Cecília Schelingová was a Slovak nun who refused to disavow her faith and was sentenced to prison for 12 years based on fabricated charges. For 12 years she was tortured in prison and when released was in such poor health, she died soon after. She was 38.
Jim Elliot came to faith at 6 to a devout family. He was considered to be a great speaker, adept wrestler and studious scholar. He would become a missionary to the Waodani people but was betrayed by their guide about their intentions. Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and Nate Saint were murdered by the natives. In his journal he wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
Oscar Romero was the Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, persecution of the Church, assassinations and torture. For being so vocal against the ruling army, government and power in the country, he was assassinated in the middle of mass right as he was celebrating communion.
Shakeela Bibi was a Pakistani Christian. On her way to a Bible study at the church in 2009, she saw armed men heading there from another direction. She tried to race to warn the others but the crowd caught her and beat her with sticks and bamboo rods. She died before reaching the hospital.
It’s one thing to be persecuted and killed for your faith by unbelievers but it is brutal to think of those Christian who were murdered by other Christians.
Jan Huss was a Czech priest, philosopher, and reformer. He was very vocal in his condemnation of the Papal Schism (a period in history that saw the Church have 3 Popes at one time), indulgences and the Crusades. For this, he was excommunicated and arrested. Because he would not recant his accusations, Jan was stripped naked and shackled to a stake. When asked to recant again, he replied, “God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today.” He was burned alive.
Joan of Arc was a Roman Catholic peasant who believed that she was told by God to lead the French armies into battle. She won several victories over the English before she was captured. She was tried for heresy because that was considered to be a capital offense. Despite the lack of jurisdiction, the mockery of trial found her guilty. She was burned at the stake while staring at a crucifix. She was 19 years old. Her executioner was later state that he “greatly feared to be damned” over what he did.
Felix Manz was a Swiss Anabaptist and first martyr of the Radical Reformation. An early follower of Huldrych Zwingli but split when he thought Zwingli had become corrupted in his dealings with the state. Zwingli and the Zurich council had him arrested and drowned him in the River Limmat, making him the first Anabaptist to be martyred by other Protestants.
Thomas More was an English Roman Catholic lawyer, author, philosopher and statesman. Because he refused to side with the Reformation, he was arrested on trumped up charges of bribery and when he refused to accept King Henry’s annulment, was tried for treason. The jury took 15 minutes to find him guilty. While on the scaffold he declared that he died “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” He was then beheaded.
William Tyndale was an English Protestant scholar and author. He is known for translating the Bible into the English language. Like More, Tyndale refused to sanction King Henry’s divorce as being unscriptural. He fled when offered protection from the king but was eventually betrayed and arrested and tried for heresy. He was tied to a stake, strangled to death and then burned.
Anne Askew was an English Protestant poet, She preached sermons and wrote books challenging the doctrine of transubstantiation. She was arrested and tried. When she refused to name those with her, she was tortured on the rack in the tower of London. Anne, carried to the stake because she could no longer walk, was shackled between two other Protestants. In order to get them to recant, the bishop preached to them. When he spoke anything she considered to be the truth she audibly expressed agreement, but when he said anything contrary to what she believed Scripture stated, she exclaimed; “There he misseth, and speaketh without the book.” Because she refused to recant, she was not offered a quick death and her burning took around an hour.
Dirk Willems was a Dutch Anabaptist arrested for his renunciation of infant Baptism and the Roman Catholic Church. He was arrested and imprisoned. During an escape attempt, Dirk was being chased over a frozen moat and his pursuing guard crashed through the ice and began to drown. Dirk turned around and rescued the guard which of course led to his recapture. He was burned at the stake near his hometown.
Margaret Ball was an Irish Roman Catholic and wife of the mayor of Dublin. Margaret’s son, a convert to Protestantism, had her arrested and imprisoned for not accepting the primacy of the English royalty as head of the Church. She was crippled with arthritis and lived for three years in the cold, wet dungeon of Dublin Castle with no natural light. She died at 69 years old.
You are aliens and exiles. You are strangers in a foreign land. You are no longer citizens of the empire and it hates you for that. Woe to us when we forget that fact.