Christians are facing a new age of “martyrdom” across much of the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said. Speaking in Istanbul, Turkey, the Most Rev Justin Welby singled out the persecution of believers across the Middle East and said Christians are still “called” to suffer and even die for the faith in the 21st Century. But he insisted that religion is often just a “pretext” for violence and not the real cause. He made his remarks at the end of a two-day visit with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholemew I, the most senior cleric in the eastern Orthodox church. His comments in a city which has in the past been the capital of both the Christian and Muslim worlds underline the significance he attaches to the threat to Christians in the region, an issue the Prince of Wales also singled out last month.
Referring to the original Greek meaning of the word martyr, as a “witness”, he said: “Your history is more and more important in the increasing confrontations of the world in which religion is used as a pretext for violence that in reality comes from greed and the pride of human beings. “You have demonstrated over the centuries the martyrdom to which we are called in scripture, the call to witness in word and life, a call more important than life itself. “The cost of that martyrdom is seen in so many places today. “Closest to here we remember and seek the mercy of Christ and intercession of the Blessed Mother on Syria.” He then singled out the orthodox leaders in Aleppo and Antioch. More