Are anti-persecution activists really bigots?
A new Italian book, Antonio Socci's The New Persecuted: Inquiries into Anti-Christian Intolerance in the New Century of Martyrs, makes many claims that evangelicals have been hearing for years: Since the time of Christ, about 70 million Christians have been killed for their faith—45 million of those occurred in the 20th century (Socci's numbers mainly come from the World Christian Encyclopedia).

Here in the U.S., evangelicals' concern for religious liberty worldwide has garnered praise and government action. In Italy, however, Socci's book is being attacked as bigotry. Historian Alberto Melloni says Socci is trying to minimize the Holocaust. "The statistics he cites are largely meaningless but the effect is to make the Shoah [Holocaust] just one detail in a century of massacres," Melloni told London's The Guardian. "It is part of an effort by some in the Catholic church to stop the Shoah being the most important event in the 20th century." Tommaso Debenedetti says the book is part of Italy's right wing movement against immigrants. "The right is reversing the argument" by casting itself as the victims rather than the oppressors, Debenedetti said. Others complain that the book demonizes Islam, and the Italian newspaper La Stampa argues that martyrs aren't really martyrs if they're killed for political reasons (well, there goes almost every one of those 70 million—including those persecuted under first-century Rome.)

Since Weblog can't read Italian, it's hard to tell whether Socci has, in fact, taken hard statistics on religious persecution and used them to make dubious arguments. But from the comments in The Guardian, it seems like the real issue is with the statistics, not Socci's ...

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