Pope Francis has hailed the courage of the martyrs in a video about Christian persecution.

In the March edition of ‘The Pope Video’, produced in collaboration with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Pontiff dedicates this month’s prayer intention to persecuted Christians.

In the video, promoted by the Worldwide Prayer Network, the Pope states: “The courage of the martyrs, the witness of the martyrs, is a blessing for everyone.”

Referring to reports that “there are more martyrs today than at the beginning of Christianity,” he says: “Let us pray that those who risk their lives for the Gospel in various parts of the world might imbue the Church with courage and missionary drive and be open to the grace of martyrdom.”

He describes how at a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos a Muslim told him that his wife had been killed by terrorists who slit her throat in front of him after she refused to renounce her Christian faith.

Reflecting on his encounter with the grieving widower, the Pope states: “I knew he held no grudges. He was focused on his wife’s example of love.”

The Pope goes on: “Brothers, sisters, there will always be martyrs among us. This is a sign that we’re on the right path.”

The video, which runs to nearly two minutes, features footage from Iraq’s Nineveh Plains where Christians suffered genocidal violence at the hands of ISIS militants.

Another clip shows the memorial to Servant of God Akash Bashir, the teenage Christian volunteer guard who gave his life one Sunday in March 2015 when he prevented a suicide bomber from entering a packed St John’s Church, Yohannabad, Pakistan.

The release of the video comes just days after 15 Christians were slain when men armed with knives disrupted a church service last Sunday in northern Burkina Faso.

In Nigeria there has an upsurge in killings and abductions, including of clergy, as well as attacks on church communities and on Sunday the Pontiff sent a post on X, formerly Twitter, stating that the “increasingly frequent kidnappings” were “extremely concerning”.

ACN (International) Executive President Regina Lynch praised the Pope’s video, saying the initiative is “very important in order to encourage prayer for the victims of persecution, as well as advocacy for those who suffer discrimination for their faith.

“In addition, we must involve politicians so that they defend the rights of the most vulnerable.”

Last year, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) received reports in 40 countries of people who were assassinated or detained without charge.