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Person who voluntarily suffers death rather than deny his or her religion. Readiness for martyrdom was a collective ideal in ancient Judaism, notably in the era of the Maccabees, and its importance has continued into modern times. Roman Catholicism sees the suffering of martyrs as a test of their faith. Many saints of the early church underwent martyrdom during the persecutions of the Roman emperors. Martyrs need not perform miracles to be canonized. In Islam, martyrs are thought to comprise two groups of the faithful: those killed in jihad and those killed unjustly. In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is regarded as a martyr because he voluntarily postpones enlightenment to alleviate the suffering of others.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on martyr, visit Britannica.com.