‘Red Wednesday’ for world’s persecuted Christians
Nov. 22 is “Red Wednesday,” when the world’s persecuted Christians will be remembered and prayed for in a special way. It is also a call for action. The Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines has called for the illumination or floodlighting in red of the facades of churches and other buildings on this day. ACN has also issued the call in other parts of the world.
Illuminating iconic structures in certain colors has become a practice to call attention to important issues, to denounce tragic events, or to simply celebrate.
Although the Red Wednesday Campaign is a Catholic Church initiative, it does not focus entirely on persecuted Christians who are Catholics but on all others of the Christian faith. And, more broadly, the call should equally apply to believers of other faiths who are persecuted because of their religion. The Red Wednesday Campaign’s call is “Stand up for Faith and Freedom.” Red is the color of blood and martyrdom.
ACN was founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and was elevated as a papal foundation in 2011. It is “dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or suffering material need.” ACN publishes and disseminates the Religious Freedom Report.
The Red Wednesday Campaign began in 2016 as an ACN-United Kingdom initiative. Lit in red were the Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Houses of Parliament and Oxford University. Also lit up were the Fontana de Trevi in Italy, Sacred Heart Basilica in France, and Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.
According to ACN-Philippines, numerous studies consistently show that Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world. Filipino Christians do not feel this because they are the majority. But unknown to many, there are areas in the Philippines where practicing the Christian faith is not easy.
ACN cites a study by Christian advocacy group Open Doors revealing that the global persecution of Christians has risen in the past four years. ACN also cites the findings of the Center for New Religions that over 90,000 Christians were murdered in 2016 and that half a billion Christians are unable to freely express their faith. The details are heartbreaking. These findings, ACN says, affirm Pope Francis’ statement that there are more Christians suffering today than there were in the early years of Christianity. Percentage-wise, that is.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has endorsed the Red Wednesday Campaign. To light up in red on Nov. 22 are 41 cathedrals (including the Manila and Davao cathedrals), 21 basilicas and national shrines (Quiapo, Baclaran and Edsa, among them) and three Catholic universities in the Philippines. Feel free to join. Christians are enjoined to make a statement by wearing red on that day.
ACN-Philippines’ call: “Let Red Wednesday be the start for Filipinos to lend their voice to the global call to uphold religious freedom and advocate for interfaith harmony. As one global Christian family, may our expression of solidarity be a witness to the power of love over hate and be a source of strength and comfort for Christians all over the world by sending a message that they are not alone and we are one with them in fighting for a better world where acceptance, love and respect for each other is the ultimate expression of faith in God.”
Cynics may say that Christians, at some point many centuries ago, were also persecutors. Well, we are now in the age of ecumenism, when religious freedom, not only in the name of grim tolerance but also out of genuine respect and appreciation for the diversity of faiths, should be — to borrow a millennial catchphrase — the “new normal.” Sadly, this is not so.
The Red Wednesday Campaign is only one of ACN’s projects. ACN-Philippines’ office is in the CBCP compound in Intramuros, Manila. Those who wish to help endangered Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other troubled spots may do so through ACN. For info, visit https://acnuk.org/about/ or https://www.facebook.com/acnphilippines.org/.
Controversial theologian Hans Kung said it succinctly many years ago: “There can be no peace between nations if there is no peace between religions.”
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