Aid to the Church in Need’s #RedWeek sheds light on persecution of Christians worldwide

The #RedWeek campaign, organised by international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), will take place from 19 – 26 November, with the aim of calling attention to the lack of religious freedom and challenges faced by persecuted Christians in several parts of the world.

Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain

In a world increasingly marked by conflict, the persecution of Christians and the erosion of the universal right to religious freedom can go unnoticed. The goal of ACN’s initiative, which includes lighting in red monuments and buildings around the world, is to make sure they are not forgotten. Many national offices will also be organising events to raise awareness about this issue, focusing on prayer and the testimonies of those who suffered persecution first-hand.

Over 10,000 people are expected at the many initiatives organised by ACN in over a dozen countries. Around twenty cathedrals will be illuminated in red, including St Patrick’s in Melbourne, Australia, which will be hosting the second annual edition of The Night of the Witnesses on 22 November, with the presence of the Patriarch of the Melkite Catholic Church, Joseph Absi, who will be speaking about the situation of Christians in Syria and the Middle East in general.

Over 100 parishes have confirmed they will be taking part in the initiative in Austria, where churches and public buildings, including the Austrian parliament, will be lit up in red. Highlights will include a flashmob planned for Vienna’s Stephansplatz, and a meeting with the Speaker of the Austrian Parliament. A similar event is planned in neighbouring Slovakia, where the impressive Nitra and Bratislava castles and other major monuments and churches, such as the cathedral of St Elizabeth, in Kosice, will be illuminated in red. A good crowd is also expected for a fundraising concert for persecuted Christians in the church of the Holy Family.

Cathedrals in red

Around 100 churches – among them the cathedrals of Passau, Regensburg, Freiburg, Dresden and Paderborn – will be lit up in red in Germany, which will also see moments of prayer and the testimonies of Bishop Ashkarian, from Aleppo, Syria, and Archbishop Shaw of Lahore, Pakistan, two countries where Christians face difficulties because of their religion.

Inside Freiburg Cathedral
Inside Freiburg Cathedral

The #RedWeek campaign has also been met with enthusiasm in the Netherlands over the past few years. This edition will again bring together around 150 Catholic and Protestant parishes that will be hosting and participating in a wide array of activities and conferences. Many of the churches will be celebrating Masses, prayer services and ecumenical meetings, or simply opening their doors for the faithful to pray and light candles for suffering Christians.

The United Kingdom will focus its events on #RedWednesday, which falls on 22 November this year, and will be especially aimed at showcasing the difficult situation in Africa, with the presentation of a report on religious freedom in that continent and the unveiling of two key features of its campaign: the praying of 100,000 decades of the Rosary for  Africa, and the “£100,000 Matched Challenge for Africa” to raise funds to help victims of religious persecution. Furthermore, a Nigerian couple will be sharing the story of how they survived the 2022 Pentecost terrorist attack in Owo, in the diocese of Ondo, which left 39 people dead and around 80 wounded.

In France, the cathedrals of Chartres, Bayonne, Reims, Angers, Caen, Bourges and Versailles will be illuminated in red, and there will be prayer and information sessions in Paris, including vigils in the Basilica of Montmartre and in the Holy Trinity, the latter especially dedicated to young people. Both of these will be led by diocesan bishops, with the buildings lit in red.

#RedWeek in America

Canada will be hosting events in several different places, including the Oratory of St Joseph in Montreal – the largest shrine to this saint in the world. There will also be a Mass in the Cathedral of Mary Queen of the World.  The vigil in Toronto will take place in St Michael’s Cathedral. Diocesan bishops will lead both vigils, and the respective buildings will be illuminated in red.

The Cathedral of Morelia illuminated in red light - at night
The Cathedral of Morelia illuminated in red light – at night

#RedWeek will also be held in several Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Colombia, where the shrine of Las Lajas will be lit in red. There will also be several events in Cali and Bogotá, especially aimed at young people, including a “Via Lucis” where participants can hear the testimony of a priest from Uganda and a missionary sister from Venezuela who work in Colombia’s Pacific region.

The #RedWeek initiative traces its origins to Brazil, in 2015, when the local ACN office arranged for the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro to be illuminated to symbolise the persecution of Christians in Iraq. Inspired by this, the Italian ACN office had the Fontana de Trevi similarly lit up in April the following year, with the United Kingdom office later expanding on the idea and introducing #RedWednesday to honour people persecuted for the faith all over the world on a specific Wednesday in November. Several other countries have since followed suit, and the initiative has received the support of several Christian denominations in many other regions in a strong showing of solidarity.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) supports over 5,000 projects every year in around 140 countries, helping Christians to live their faith in situations where they are oppressed, or lack the necessary means to cover their pastoral needs.

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