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Martyrdom is a death marked with religious or ideological significance because of the martyr's refusal to betray a deeply held belief, often in obedience to a deity. Martyrdom includes three components: (1) the sufferer, (2) his or her community, and (3) opposition. Stories of martyrdom often describe in great detail the bodily torture inflicted on the martyr, emphasizing the fierce, even supernatural, cruelty of the opponents and the martyr's exchange of corporeal life for a greater afterlife. The act of martyrdom, a self-sacrifice, is thus a powerful means of identity formation, for both the martyr and the martyr's community. Yet because of the exclusivity of this identity, martyrdom is also a contentious and potentially divisive act. The death of the martyr has historically been and ...

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