Recent losses endured in Egypt have been staggering, with more than 100 Christian sites attacked by well-organized mobs in mid-August, including the destruction of 42 churches -- the worst assault on the Coptic Orthodox Church in 700 years. In Syria, rebels linked to al-Qaeda overran Maaloula -- famous for being one of three remaining villages in which locals speak ancient Aramaic, the language of Jesus -- damaging the priceless St. Thekla monastery and trashing two churches.
Then the headlines got worse, with Islamist gunmen killing 67 or more people in the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya. While Muslims were freed, hostages who would not recite the shahada -- an Islamic confession of faith -- were tortured and killed, before their bodies were mutilated. Days later, the Taliban claimed credit for an attack by two suicide bombers on the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan, in which at least 85 worshippers died.
Pope Francis addressed these issues during remarks on Sept. 25, noted John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter. He is the author of a new book entitled "The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution."
In Allen's translation of the event, the pope asked the crowd: "When I think or hear it said that many Christians are persecuted and give their lives for their faith, does this touch my heart or does it not reach me? Am I open to that brother or that sister in my family who's giving his or her life for Jesus Christ? ... How many of you pray for Christians who are persecuted? How many? ...
"It's important to look beyond one's own fence, to feel oneself part of the Church, of one family of God!"
While the truth is painful, said Marshall, it's important to ask questions about all those silent believers and their silent churches. If anything, it appears that many American Christians are even less interested in global persecution trends than they were in the past, while their churches are even more independent and focused on a therapeutic, individualistic approach to faith.