Rome/Königstein, 5 March 2019 – The March edition of the pope’s video is dedicated to the persecuted Christians who live in countries that do not guarantee religious freedom and human rights. The video is produced by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in collaboration with the international foundation ACN (Aid to the Church in Need).
To make the sign of the cross, read the Bible, go to church on Sundays, talk about Jesus, pray the rosary – for us, these are normal and everyday things. However, this is not the case in many parts of the world. Any one of these can lead to exclusion, imprisonment in a work camp or even death.
The year began with an attack carried out on Jojo Cathedral in the Philippines during Holy Mass; 23 people were killed. Forty missionaries were murdered worldwide in 2018, 35 of these were priests. Two of them were massacred in late November together with 80 believers in a refugee camp in Alindao in the Central African Republic.
One also should not forget Asia Bibi, the Pakistani mother who was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy and only released from prison after 9 years. It is estimated that more than 25 Christians are currently incarcerated on the same charges.
Also the Coptic Christians in Egypt are also under constant persecution. This calls to mind the pictures of the 21 Egyptians who were beheaded in 2015. In contrast, the murder of 33 Coptic pilgrims in 2017 and 2018 were virtually ignored.
There are thousands of cases of persecution and discrimination that go unnoticed because they are not reported by the media. In the video, Pope Francis commented, “We find it difficult to believe, but there are more martyrs today than there were in the early centuries,” because “they speak the truth and proclaim Jesus Christ,” even “in countries in which freedom and human rights are protected in theory, on paper.”
According to the Religious Freedom in the World Report of the pontifical foundation ACN, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. This fundamental human right is severely threatened in 38 countries – 21 of which are even classified as countries in which persecution occurs.
“This prayer intention of the Holy Father is quite significant for the Christian community. Praying for our persecuted and discriminated brothers and sisters is one of the pillars of ACN. We support this prayer intention of the Holy Father with great joy and gratitude,” Thomas Heine-Geldern, ACN President, said.