Pontifical Charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN)’s annual Red Wednesday campaign — taking place on November 16 this year — aims to shed light on the persecution and discrimination of Christians around the world. ACN’s Liane Bayard reflects on the importance of this day of solidarity.
Many today are displaying bravery in their fight against injustice. While human rights are considered fundamental, sadly, they are not universal.
Religious freedom may not feel as relevant to Christians in the West, who, for the most part, are able to express and practice their beliefs without fear. But this freedom, which is often taken for granted, is not a given for Christians elsewhere in the world – for whom living out their faith comes with enormous challenges and risks.
Second largest continent particularly vulnerable
Africa has been especially affected by a rise in persecution. For example, members of the Church in Burkina Faso are suffering immensely due to the escalating violence and diminishing sense of safety. Many Christians have had to flee to survive while others have been forced to adopt Islamic practices. It is estimated that the Church can only operate on 20 per cent of the territory now, limiting its provision of pastoral, social, health and educational services. The lack of education and structure also renders youth more susceptible to the draw of armed groups.
In Mozambique, terrorists shot a nun dead in September and burned the mission church, health centre and a room used to serve malnourished children. Shortly after this event, it was reported that extremists gathered a crowd together and slit the throats of those identified as Christians.
In Nigeria, this year alone, many priests have been kidnapped or murdered, a young student was stoned to death and burned for alleged blasphemy, and a church was attacked on Pentecost Sunday. A 16-year-old held in captivity by Boko Haram for nine years and forced to convert to Islam recently shared her harrowing ordeal in an interview with ACN. “Words cannot do justice to what I’ve gone through. . . . I just want to be me again.”
Time, prayer and solidarity
These are but a few examples and Christians in many other countries are also suffering. Those who witness and survive these horrific events—parishioners and Church staff alike—are left to try to heal from the wounds and trauma amidst persistent instability.
Red Wednesday provides an opportunity to stand in solidarity with them and to provide strength they can draw from, reminding them they are not alone in their plight.
Activities and illuminations in support of Red Wednesday have been confirmed at several participating locations across Canada, including in Montreal (where it first began), Sherbrooke, Thetford Mines, Toronto, and Calgary.
Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director of ACN Canada, said, “I am very happy to see the extent to which Red Wednesday is growing across the country because the extent of Christian persecution is not diminishing. It is imperative to raise awareness of the issue, which, at its core, is one of basic human rights.”
To learn how you can help, please visit: https://acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/