Christian Prisoners in Recent Times (1901–Present)

[ABOVE—Sing Sing cell block, New York Public Library.]

How do moderns face prison compared to Christians of earlier periods? Imprisoned by the Communists, the Chinese Jesuit bishop, Francis Xavier Ts’ai, was forbidden to even move his lips in prayer. He used to repeat inwardly, “My good Jesus, glorify yourself, and the rest counts for little.”

Communism was a major antagonist of Christians in the twentieth century, although by no means the only one. The Nazis, for example, sent many Christians to prison and to death. Under Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism untold thousands suffered incarceration and death.

Here are a few records from our godless era, in which more Christians suffered persecution than at any other in history. They did so with no less courage than their predecessors. The stories are listed chronologically by year of death.

Edith Cavell (1865–1915) Reflects in Prison Before Meeting the Firing Squad

Tikhon (1865–1925) and the Bolsheviks

Sundar Singh (1889–c. 1929) Mysteriously Rescued from a Death Pit

A Toyohiko Kagawa (1888–1960) Prison Poem

Lin Zhao’s (1932–1968) Blood Letters

Corrie ten Boom (1892–1983) Survives a Nazi Death Camp

John Sung (1901–1944) Imprisoned in an Insane Asylum for His Faith

Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992) Composes a Masterpiece in Nazi Concentration Camp

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918–1988) Blesses Prison

Richard Wurmbrand (1909–2001) Survives Torture for Christ

Noble Alexander (1934–2002) Faced Trumped up Charges

Tsehay Tolessa (d. 2014) Endured a Decade of Torture in Ethiopia