SYDNEY - Religious Leaders Brave Sydney Storm Uniting to Raise Awareness for Religious Freedom
MELBOURNE - St Patrick’s Cathedral Hosts Interfaith Event for Red Wednesday
A windy and stormy night in Sydney on 28.11.2018 #RedWednesday
The worst storm in decades didn’t deter leaders from 15 different faith groups coming together at St Mary’s Cathedral Crypt on Red Wednesday in honour of those persecuted for their religious beliefs and to draw attention to religious freedom abuses happening around the world.
Sydney's Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP lit St Mary’s Cathedral in red light to launch the first annual Red Wednesday event in Australia. The Jewish Great Synagogue in Sydney and St James’s Anglican Church, King Street also joined the Red Wednesday movement by lighting their places of worship red for the evening.
Image: St Mary's Cathedral Sydney lit red for #RedWednesday
In Melbourne an interfaith gathering took place on the front steps of St Patrick’s Cathedral with speakers representing Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Coptic Orthodox, Hare Krishna and Bahá'í communities. St Patrick’s Cathedral was also bathed in red light, the colour of martyrs.
Internationally houses of worship turned on the red lights including: Cathedral Marie-Reine du Monde, Montreal, The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC, Knock Basilica, Ireland, the Church of St Hussite, Prague, The Church of Saint Nicholas, Prague, St John’s Cathedral, in the Netherlands, Jeronimos Monastery, Lisbon, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Paris, to name a few.
Images: Top left to bottom right: Trevi Fountain Italy, Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro, The Colosseum, Rome, The Grande Mosque of Paris, The Rialto Bridge, Venice, Westminster Cathedral, London. Copyright Aid to the Church in Need.
Sydney Red Wednesday Highlights:
Religious leaders and supporters braved torrential rain and heavy wind at the Sydney Red Wednesday events which included a Mass, followed by an interfaith gathering and concluded with Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP turning on the red lights and tolling the bells in solidarity with persecuted religious groups of all faiths.
The Red Wednesday Mass was concelebrated by the Dean of the Cathedral Fr Don Richardson, Fr Paul Stenhouse and Fr Suresh Kumar. During the homily Fr Suresh (the Parish Priest of Padre Pio Parish, Glenmore Park) shared his personal story of persecution. As a young man in India Fr Suresh’s immediate family faced hardship and hostility after converting from Islam to Christianity. The homily and full Red Wednesday Mass can be viewed here:
After Mass Catholics were joined by interfaith leaders of many religious communities including; Muslim, Jewish, Anglican, Armenian, Greek Orthodox, Baha'i, Buddhist and the Church of Jesus Christ of the latter-day Saints, as well as the Chaldean, Maronite, Melkite and Syro-Malabar Eparchies.
Sister Giovanni Farquer RSJ from the Archdiocesan Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations and members of the Commission were also in attendance as well as academics from the Australian Catholic University, the University of Notre Dame Australia, Campion College and the Sydney College of Divinity.
The Master of Ceremonies of the evening, Mr Terence Tobin QC – President of ACN Australia, shared the vision that The Religious Freedom in the World Report (a report produced biennially by Aid to the Church in Need) would be used as a valuable resource for the education of the public, and more particularly the education of young people from the various communities represented.
You can view more Red Wednesday images on our ACN Facebook page: Click here to view the Red Wednesday album.
During the evening two witnesses spoke of their own experiences of religious persecution.
Nader Bulos, a Christian from Syria showed images of Palm Sunday celebrations in 2010 at his family’s local Church (St. George Al-Hamidiya in Homs, Syria) now destroyed as a result of War. He also shared the terror he and his wife experienced when a bomb went off in their children’s school. Nader searched for his children for hours to find them safe but psychologically scarred from the experience, more than 40 children died that day. This was the catalyst of his difficult decision to migrate his immediate family to Australia in pursuit of a life free of persecution and violence.
Images from left to right: Mr Nader Bulos a Christian from Syria and Mrs Liqaa a Bahá'í from Yemen gave their testimonies of persecution.
Liqaa a Bahá'í woman from Yemen shared her family’s story and asked those present to pray for her sister and brother-in-law, and other Bahá'í’s in Yemen. She shared disturbing facts that in September 2018 the Huthi-aligned specialized criminal court issued an arrest order for 24 Bahá'í in Yemen, explaining that Bahá'í’s are being falsely accused of espionage and apostasy. The judge has ordered that all their properties be frozen and they potentially face the death penalty if convicted. The next session of the court is expected this month.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP during his remarks to the crowd of just under 100 people, said that it was a tribute to the kind of country Australia is that religious leaders, representatives and adherents of 15 different faith traditions could gather in the cathedral crypt to celebrate faith and freedom.
The Archbishop went on to share testimonies he heard at the recent Synod of Bishops in Rome on the church’s engagement with youth, where a bishop from India spoke about the persecution of young Christians in his state where young Christian women were being raped as a way of humiliating them for their faith, and how amongst the victims was the Bishop's own niece, a religious sister.
That same Bishop shared how a young male youth leader was followed by a gang and thrown into a ditch which they proceeded to fill with mud. He was invited repeatedly to repudiate his God in exchange for his freedom, but he replied that he could not, that he loved Jesus. Eventually they crushed his head with a rock and killed him.
Archbishop Fisher went on to say;
“Here in Australia we may not kill people for their beliefs – or only very rarely – but there is a prejudice and discrimination, and a growing secularist and sectarian intolerance in some quarters of the media and institutions. We must be eternally vigilant that this does not get worse.” You can read the Archbishop's remarks during Red Wednesday here.
Catholic Schools taking part in Red Wednesday:
In a bid to raise awareness about religious freedom abuses occurring around the world, schools around Australia took part in Red Wednesday initiatives including; Saint Ignatius of Loyola College Geelong, Santa Sophia Catholic College, Saint Mary Mackillop Keilor Downs, Students at Marian College Sunshine West and teaching staff at Thomas Carr Tarnett College:
Below are some images from Red Wednesday school events: