Their crime? They were Christians who refused to compromise or recant. They would rather die than deny their faith and betray the Lord they loved!
The seven men and five women were brought before the Roman proconsul Saturninus in Carthage, North Africa (Tunisia) on July 17, 180AD. He gave them an opportunity to recant:
“You can win the indulgence of our lord the Emperor, if you return to a sound mind.” [See The UN Plan for your mental health]
Speratus, the apparent leader of the small group of faithful disciples, answered,
‘We have never done ill, we have not lent ourselves to wrong, we have never spoken ill, but when ill-treated we have given thanks….”
“We too are religious,” answered the proconsul, “and our religion is simple, and we swear by the genius of our lord the Emperor, and pray for his welfare, as you also ought to do.”
“The empire of this world I know not,” explained Speratus, “but rather I serve that God, whom no man has seen, nor with these eyes can see. I have committed no theft; but if I have bought anything, I pay the tax; because I know my Lord, the King of kings and Emperor of all nations.”
“Be not partakers of this folly,” said the proconsul.
Cittinus, one of the faithful, said, “We have none other to fear, save only our Lord God, who is in heaven.”…
“Do you persist in being a Christian?” asked the proconsul.
“I am a Christian,” he answered. All the others agreed….
The proconsul Saturninus then read the decree [their sentence] from a tablet:
“Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda and the rest having confessed that they live according to the Christian rite, since after opportunity offered them of returning to the custom of the Romans they have obstinately persisted, it is determined that they be put to the sword.”
“We give thanks to God,” said Speratus.
“Today we are martyrs in heaven; thanks be to God,” added Nartzalus.
The proconsul then gave the order that their sentence be publicly announced by the herald: “Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, Lætantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata and Secunda, I have ordered to be executed.”
They all said: “Thanks be to God.”
“And so they all together were crowned with martyrdom; and they reign with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.”
According to the Christian History Magazine, Issue 27,
“The account of these martyrs from Scilli, a village near Carthage, is the earliest document demonstrating the existence of Christianity in North Africa. It shows what was at stake between Rome and the church: two opposing ways of life. When these African Christians refused to return to ‘the usage [custom] of the Romans,’ the Roman authorities recognized there was a profound danger to the Empire.
“The story of these seven men and five women is also important for the development of the canon of Scripture. When the Christians were arrested, they were carrying ‘the sacred books, and the letters of Paul, a just man.’ ‘The sacred books’ may mean the Hebrew Scriptures, thus making this an early indication that Paul’s letters were treated as Scripture. Or ‘the books’ may refer to the Gospels, which would likewise give insight into the history of the New Testament’s formation.”
The intensity of persecution in the Roman Empire rose and fell with the temperaments and circumstances of the various emperors. Of course, that’s not unique in the historical record. Through the centuries of time, everything keeps changing — including churches and values — except God and His eternal Kingdom. In the last few decades, we have seen masses of so-called Christians ready and willing to compromise Truth and conform to an increasingly corrupt world. Like in Old Testament days, it no longer seems wrong to “love evil more than good.” (Psalm 52:3) Almost “anything goes” except “intolerance” toward popular evil.
Genuine, uncompromising Christians will be despised by tomorrow’s leaders and global managers. We don’t fit their vision of unity, solidarity and upside-down tolerance. Like the ancient rulers who demanded conformity with “the custom of the Romans,” a new breed of rulers — like those in ancient Rome — are beginning to trumpet the “profound danger” of Christian resistance to their rising global empire. (See The emerging New World Order ) 
The times ahead will surely bring a time of purification to the Church — a separation of what the Bible calls wheat and tares: a division between those who truly belong to God and those who prefer to identify with today’s adaptable, emerging church.