Modern-day martyrs and persecuted Christians are being remembered by churches in the UK and Ireland today.
June 29 is traditionally the date in the Christian calendar when churches remember the martyrdom of the apostles Peter and Paul.
Release International, which works in 30 countries supporting persecuted Christians, is holding a series of Day of the Christian Martyr meetings in the Midlands and north of England.
Paul Robinson, the CEO of UK-based Release International: “According to church tradition, June 29 marks the martyrdom of the apostles Peter and Paul.
“This year, Christians around the world are taking time then and over the coming weekend, to honour the legacy of those who sacrificed their lives for the Christian message.”
Release is using this year’s Day of the Christian Martyr to highlight three places of particular concern – India, Nigeria and the Sahel region of Africa.
The Sahel region is coming under an increasing number of attacks by Islamist extremists, who the charity said are waging a jihad.
A Release International partner whose name has been withheld for security reasons said that Islamist attacks are increasing in frequency in Burkina Faso.
The Christian charity said that India is becoming a “growing trouble spot for Christians” due to the rise of militant Hindu nationalism.
In one recent act of violence, a convert to Christianity from Hinduism was abducted from a prayer meeting in his village by Hindu extremists who then took him to a nearby jungle and shot him dead.
He was survived by his wife and four young children who were forced to flee their village. They are now living with a Christian family in another location and have not been able to return home.
In Nigeria, Release International warns of “marauding” Islamist militants. A recent victim was Matthew Tagwi who was shot dead by Fulani herdsmen in Plateau State just three months after his ordination as a Christian minister.
His wife Rose gave birth to a daughter not long after her husband’s martyrdom but the baby sadly died.
Rose said: “Evil men think that killing a pastor will stop the gospel. But nothing will stop the gospel of Christ. My prayer is the Matthew’s killers will get to know the Jesus I know. I forgive them and will pray that the Lord will save their souls.”
Robinson said he was inspired by the “courageous” example of these persecuted Christians.
“When you read stories like these and meet the families whose loved ones have given their lives for their Christian faith, it is profoundly humbling,” he said.
“June 29 is an opportunity for us to honour those who have sacrificed their all for the gospel. It is a time for us to be inspired by their courageous example and to dedicate ourselves anew to living wholeheartedly for Christ.”