Remembering Persecuted Christians

The Lord warned his disciples on a number of occasions that they should expect to experience persecution “for my sake” (Mt 5:11). This has been the story of the Church throughout history. Even after the Age of Martyrs, when the Roman Empire sought to suppress Christianity, persecution was experienced at different times and in various countries. In our own time many of our brethren in various parts of the world are under threat of persecution. Today close to 70% of the world’s population live in countries without full access to religious freedom, and 50% of the world’s population live in countries with outright persecution.

The fundamental right of religious freedom is not guaranteed in more than 62 countries. More than 400 million Christians are exposed to religious persecution. The Church often lacks resources in these countries, and is reliant upon outside support.

Founded in 1947, as a Catholic aid agency for war refugees, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has dedicated itself to assisting Christians in these situations.

Each year, ACN produces a report on the status of religious freedom across the world. It makes harrowing reading as it lists case after case of acts of violence directed to Christians because of their religious belief. Acts of persecution include the use of repressive surveillance technologies for the abduction and forced conversions of women and young girls.

In Africa active militant Islamist groups attack and destroy Christian villages and kidnap the villagers. They force young boys into being child soldiers. In Asia, China is renown for its ruthless suppression of religions, while nationalist Hindus regularly target both Christians and Muslims in India. In the Middle East the Christian population has been driven out of countries like Iraq and Syria by Daesh jihadists.

Now in Western countries denials of freedom of conscience, expression and association are increasing. Legislation is being passed that limits the freedom of Church agencies to operate under the tenets of the Christian faith. In a number of countries, the burning of churches has now become a mode of violence against Christians.

Red Wednesday is an initiative of Aid to the Church in Need. It aims to bring attention to suffering and persecuted Christians across the world. The Archdiocese will be participating in this event on Wednesday, 24 November. The cathedral will be lit up in red. There will be a prayer service which will include testimonies from people who have been exposed to persecution in their country of origin.

Let us remember and pray for our brethren in the faith who are suffering because of their faith in Christ and membership of the Catholic Church.

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