On November 24 red light will bathe hundreds of cathedrals, churches, monuments and public buildings around the world as part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians and the need for religious freedom.
The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) launched the Red Wednesday campaign in 2015, and it has now spread to many countries all over the world.
According to this year’s Religious Freedom in the World Report, two-thirds of the world’s population live in countries where there are serious violations of religious freedom. The numbers are increasing, for example, 42% of all African countries experience religious persecution: Burkina Faso and Mozambique are just two striking cases.
This year, the Red Wednesday campaign will put the spotlight on how girls and women from Christian and other faith minority backgrounds suffer abduction, forced marriage, forced conversion and sexual violence.
Persecuted people are often unable to speak for themselves, and this year a report drawn up by the charity’s UK office will give a voice to young women subjected to sexual violence and forced conversion. The UK report is called ‘Hear Her Cries – The kidnapping, forced conversion and sexual victimisation of Christian women and girls’. The report will be presented in the UK Parliament at Westminster on Red Wednesday 24th November, and we have been informed that the Foreign and Commonwealth government building will be lit red.
Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN, says that the campaign is “sending a clear message of solidarity to persecuted Christians throughout the world.” It is “a way to give a voice to our project partners – those who have been tragically marked by the consequences of persecution.”
“For us,” he goes on, “the free exercise of religion is one of the pillars of liberal democracy. Every form of discrimination based upon religious affiliation must be decisively rejected.”
Whilst Red Wednesday is officially commemorated on 24 November, events are taking place throughout November, starting in Austria with an event in St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, followed by other countries. A long list of buildings will be illuminated in red, among them the Cathedrals of Montreal and Toronto in Canada, the Basilica of Montmartre in Paris, and major buildings in Slovakia and in Belgium people will light candles for persecuted Christians.
Here in Australia, St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney will be lit in red on Wednesday 24th November, as well as St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, St Mary's Cathedral in Hobart and Chatswood Church in the diocese of Broken Bay. A number of schools will also participate in Red Wednesday this year in Australia.
One activity that is capturing schools’ attention this year is an innovative initiative called: “Go to Mass for someone who can’t.” It invites students to make a pledge to go to an additional Mass sometime in November, to pray for the needs of a person or community who cannot attend Mass because of religious persecution. Students take a prayer card bearing the name of the person(s) they are offering their Mass for. Experience so far has shown an enthusiastic uptake of this activity by students – even by those who are not normally churchgoers.
“It seems students are drawn to this different and deeply spiritual way of showing solidarity with people suffering persecution around the world,” said Ms Cathy Ransom, National Schools Engagement Manager for ACN Australia. “Whilst material support will always be essential for providing for the material needs of those we help around the world, the #go2mass initiative reminds us that whilst we might ‘work as if it all depends on us,' we must always remember to ‘pray as if it all depends on God.'"
Parishes and schools, and other prayer groups, movements and communities, are warmly invited to participate in Red Wednesday in a way that best suits their circumstances. Ideas and resources can be accessed by emailing email@example.com.
For more information visit www.aidtochurch.org/redwednesday
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Communications Coordinator – Aid to the Church in Need
P: (02) 9167 9517 (direct)