In July of 1998, 10 niches above the west entrance to Westminster Abbey, empty since the Middle Ages, saw the dedication of 10 statues to 20th Century Christian martyrs, people who, according to the Anglicans who administer the Abbey, died for their faith. Among them are notable peacemakers

  • In 1918, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia was killed by the Bolsheviks.
  • Manche Masemola was a Anglican catechumen (a Christian convert under instruction before baptism) from South Africa who was killed in 1928 by her parents at the age of 16.
  • Maximilian Kolbe was canonised by the Roman Catholic Church after being killed by the Nazis in 1941.
  • In 1941, Lucian Tapiede, an Anglican from Papua New Guinea, was killed during the Japanese invasion.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian. killed by the Nazis in 1945.
  • Esther John, born Qamar Zia, a Presbyterian evangelist and nurse from Pakistan, was killed in 1960.
  • One of the world’s most famous civil rights activists, Martin Luther King, a Baptist, was assassinated in 1968.
  • In 1972, Wang Zhiming was killed during the Chinese cultural revolution. He was a pastor and evangelist.
  • In 1977, Janani Luwum was assassinated during the rule of Idi Amin, in Uganda, for being an Anglican Archbishop.
  • Oscar Romero was a Roman Catholic Archbishop in El Salvador, assassinated in 1980.

An Abbey official commented:

“These 10 statues are of individual martyrs; but they are intended to represent all those others who have died (and continue to die) in similar circumstances of oppression and persecution.”

To accompany the martyrs, the abbey also filled two niches on each side of the great doors of its main entrance with statues of women representing truth, justice, mercy and peace, virtues on which abbey officials say the martyrs based their lives. The statues, carved out of French Richemont limestone, were designed and sculpted by Tim Crawley.

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