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Two Trails of Blood

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

—Tertullian

The spread of Christianity was marked by a trail of blood, shed by myriad martyrs during the first three centuries of the Christian era.  Another trail of blood followed: that of the Christian defenders of the Roman Empire, shed by Arabian Muslims in the course of their conquest of Syria, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain.  (A similar bloody path was left by the Arabs in the East, when they conquered and destroyed the Persian empire of the Sassanids, where Zoroastrianism was the accepted religion.)  The martyrs of the Christian Church were put to death for their confession of faith in Jesus Christ.  The Muslims of our day claim martyrdom, too, but their “martyrs” kill themselves in terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens and, on September 11, against Americans and others.

Why do we distinguish Christian and Muslim martyrs?  Haven’t Christians also killed for the Faith?  What about the Crusades, the Jews and Muslims in Spain, and Cortés in Mexico?  Christians have killed, sometimes atrociously, but there are fundamental distinctions, and it is essential not to overlook them.  The Rev. Patrick Sookhdeo, a man of Pakistani descent who grew up a Muslim in Guyana before embracing Christianity,...

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