These days there is much written and spoken about how faith and the observance and practise of religion has greatly declined, especially among the younger generation. Sometimes we forget to be grateful for the fact that those of us who do want to go to Church and pray with our fellow believers have the freedom to do so.
Many in our government may themselves have little or no interest in religion, but there are no laws stopping those citizens that do from being public in their worship. Hence some of the outcry when the Pandemic resulted in a crackdown on church attendance
The Most Persecuted
Perhaps we have grown too accustomed to take religious liberty for granted; were we living in some other parts of the world we would find ourselves in a very different situation. It can come as a surprise, but Christians continue to be the most persecuted community in the world. There are places where Christians attend Mass under threat of intimidation, discrimination and even the risk of losing their lives.
It is worth noting that in countries where Christians are persecuted, other religious minorities are also subjected to such treatment. The genocidal campaign against the Rohingya Muslims has been covered in the media but less well-known is the campaign against the Christian-majority Kachin people in the North of the country. Kachin people have been killed, raped, tortured, and used to ‘clear’ landmine peppered areas. Women and girls have been trafficked as brides to China. Kachin villages have been burnt and 200 churches destroyed since 2011.
25 November we observe what is known as Red Wednesday. This refers to a worldwide action initiated by the Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic Pontificial Foundation, in 2015. It is dedicated to the support of suffering and persecuted Christians.
In order to raise awareness about the plight of fellow Christians ACN invites everyone to join their campaign by doing something peaceful and positive: unite in prayer, light the church in red, wear red, organise activities or attend themed events.
In many countries, across four continents, cathedrals, churches, and public buildings are illuminated in red light. Over the years the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey in London, the Colosseum in Rome, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Mary in Washington, DC, and many more landmarks were lit red to mark this important day.
The colour red symbolizes the blood of those who have died and still do for their faith.
Victims of Hate
Some of the worst countries to live in as a Christian include North Korea, China, Pakistan, and Nigeria. It is estimated that more Christians are killed for their faith in Nigeria than in any other country in the world.
In February 2018, 110 schoolgirls were abducted from their school in Dapci, Nigeria by Boko Haram. These words mean Western Education is Forbidden. The group want to establish an Islamic state.
One of the kidnapped girls, Leah Sharibu remains in captivity, despite the fact that all the others have been released. According to one of the other girls Leah refused to renounce her Christian faith, although her classmates urged her to pretend to so. Sadly, some reports have said that Leah has been ‘married off’ to one of the group’s commanders. It is also rumoured that she has given birth twice. One can only imagine the horrors of her life under such conditions.
In Pakistan, Asia Bibi, a Christian woman spent eight years on death row after being sentenced to death by hanging. Her crime was to contaminate the water in a well ‘belonging’ to Muslim women. Her story made headlines around the world, and she was eventually acquitted.
The mother of five is living now in a secret location in Canada and is not sure if she will ever be able to return to Pakistan. Her fears are understandable, for at one point a fanatical Muslim cleric Maulana Yousaf Qureshi announced a bounty of 500.000 Pakistani rupees to anyone who would kill her.
Many people across the world were shocked and horrified by the deadly attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015. What is less well known is that there were widespread attacks on Christians and churches through the world at the same time in reaction to the satirical cartoons
The violence was particularly bad in the West African country of Niger. Niger is a majority Muslim country with Christians making up less than 1% of the population.
In the capital Niamey 12 of the 14 churches were looted and burned down in January 2015. In the city of Zinder, all the buildings belonging to the local parish were looted and destroyed. The local people were too poor to pay for any reconstruction, so for that reason ACN pledged to provide funds to help build a new church. The old Church is going to be kept as a memorial to what happened.
It would indeed be good if we could think of Christian persecution as a thing of the long distant past, seen at its most bloody in the cruel arenas of Rome, with their crosses and lions. But it is a tragic fact that we cannot.
Written by Marie – Therese Cryan