Pope Francis prays for the martyrs in his March video: Their witness “is a blessing for everyone.”

ACN International Executive President, Regina Lynch:Guaranteeing the right to practice the faith is crucial, as a component of the dignity of every human being.”

“The courage of the martyrs, the witness of the martyrs, is a blessing for everyone,” the Holy Father reflects in the message for the March Pope Video. This video is being promoted by the Worldwide Prayer Network, produced in collaboration with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), who support Christians wherever they are persecuted, discriminated against or in need through information, prayer and action.

Millions of Christians worldwide live in countries where religious freedom is not respected and may be subject to discrimination and persecution. In the Pope’s video message, these Christians communities are remembered, and examples of courage are cited, such as that of the first Servant of God from Pakistan – Akash Bashir – who died at the age of 20 in 2015 while trying to prevent a terrorist attack on a Church in Lahore filled with members of the faithful.

They show us the way

Pope Francis continued in his message: “Brothers, sisters, there will always be martyrs among us. This is a sign that we’re on the right path.” The fact that there are martyrs means there are people who have risked their lives to follow Jesus, to live according to his message and incarnate his Gospel of love, peace and fraternity in the world. They have neither denied nor forgotten Him, but have remained firm in their faith, thus demonstrating their fidelity to Jesus Christ.

“A person who knows told me there are more martyrs today than at the beginning of Christianity,” Pope Francis adds, emphasizing how the issue of persecuted Christians and those who give their life for the faith is highly relevant today. In 2023 alone, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) received reports in 40 countries of people who were assassinated or sequestered because of the faith. Nigeria has become the country with the highest number of assassinations; in Pakistan, in the diocese of Faisalabad, the churches and homes of the Christians in Jaranwala were attacked; and in Burkina Faso, Catholics in Débé were expelled from their village solely because of their faith – just to mention a few examples.

Religious Freedom

Taking this scenario into consideration, the Executive President of the Pontifical Foundation, Regina Lynch, notes: “Religious freedom, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is an inalienable right. No Christian should have to lose their life to exercise it.” In order to defend this fundamental right, ACN publishes the Religious Freedom in the World Report. 

In this sense, she affirms that Pope Francis’ intention for this month is “very important in order to encourage prayer for the victims of persecution, as well as advocacy for those who suffer discrimination for their faith. In addition, we must involve politicians so that they defend the rights of the most vulnerable.”

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