News David Quinn

Monday 20 February 2017

Why the feast of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is so apt this year

Published 26/12/2015 | 02:30

An Iraqi child from Mosul is taken ashore at Lesbos, in Greece. Thanks to the ascent of Isil, Christmas will not be marked in the Iraqi city for the first time since the birth of Christ. Photo: AP/Santi Palacios
An Iraqi child from Mosul is taken ashore at Lesbos, in Greece. Thanks to the ascent of Isil, Christmas will not be marked in the Iraqi city for the first time since the birth of Christ. Photo: AP/Santi Palacios

Today is St Stephen's Day, but I wonder how many people know anything about St Stephen, despite the fact that he has a day named after him?

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St Stephen is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Like all the early Christians, he was a Jewish convert. His skill at preaching quickly drew him to the attention of the religious authorities in Jerusalem. He was tried for blasphemy and stoned to death, making him the first Christian martyr. Since then, the number of Christians killed for their faith has soared into the millions. Sometimes they have been persecuted by other religions (and have persecuted those other religions in their turn).

Ancient Rome persecuted them because they would not recognise the Roman Emperor as a god and because they often made a convenient scapegoat when things were not going the empire's way.

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