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Thought and Practice: A Journal of the Philosophical Association of Kenya

Volume 5, Issue 1, June 2013

Ibanga B. Ikpe
Pages 69-89

Morality and Martyrdom

Religious martyrdom has grabbed centre stage in recent times. This has been due mainly to the activities of Muslim jihadists and other disaffected religious zealots who choose ‘martyrdom’ as a form of protest and a means of inflicting injury on their perceived enemies. Much work has been done on the Islamic fundamentalists, who epitomize contemporary martyrdom. Indeed, for the untutored, religious martyrdom appears to be limited to this group. In contrast to such an outlook, this paper seeks to establish the Christian equivalent of contemporary Islamic martyrs. It attempts a broad characterization of different types of martyrdom, taking into account the martyrs of the past and our everyday use of the term ‘martyr’. It also explores different perspectives of the morality of martyrdom, especially the more popular self-martyrdom of contemporary times. It identifies self criminalization by religious functionaries as a form of ‘martyrdom’, especially given the perception of the members of the congregation and the influence that such self-criminalization has on society. It posits the immorality of self criminalization, especially given the high esteem in which society holds religious functionaries, and argues for the de-radicalization of religion.