Königstein, 16.08.2016. With a journey back in time through stories of religious persecution and the faces of their protagonists, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is taking part in the Meeting for friendship among peoples held from 19 – 25 August in Rimini. This event is put on every year by the “Comunione e Liberazione” (Communion and Liberation) movement. On 500 square metres of show space, Aid to the Church in Need is holding an exhibition bearing the title “Your resistance is martyrdom; it is the dew of fruitfulness”. The exhibition does not limit itself to stories of persecution in far-away lands, but also includes those taking place in the West, such as at the Bataclan in France.
The exhibition concludes with a realistic portrayal of three scenes of recent mass killings. They are dedicated to the children at the park in Lahore, Pakistan, where an attack was carried out on 27 March, the lecture hall at the University of Garissa in Kenya, where 148 Christian students were murdered on 2 April 2015, as well as a table from the café in Dhaka in Bangladesh, where a mass killing took place this past 1 July. On the wall over the three stages it says, “This can happen to anyone, anyplace, all because of their faith.”
On the stages, viewers are confronted with that which the victims experienced or could have experienced: the swings and slides from the playground on which the thirty children were playing at Easter before they were killed during the attack on Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, the thesis that Mary Muchire Shee, who had just been chosen Miss Garissa University, will never be able to write because her life was destroyed together with that of other students who did not know the verses of the Koran, as well as a menu from the Café Holey Artisan in Dhaka, which was opened by the victims before they were killed because they were considered “infidels”.
Three more stages have been set up along the opposite wall to show Aid to the Church in Need’s answer to this persecution with three examples of projects that are linked to the attacks.
In contrast to that which, as in Lahore, destroys the lives of the innocent, Aid to the Church in Need is sowing the seeds of faith in the hearts of children through its Children’s Bible. The illustrated Bible was translated into 180 languages. Just under 52 million copies have been distributed worldwide. Aid to the Church in Need has put a selection of translations into 137 languages from five continents on exhibit in Rimini.
The answer to the students murdered in Garissa are the more than 11 000 future priests who receive training each year thanks to funding from Aid to the Church in Need. About 35% of them are Africans. Thousands of “Fighters for the Faith” are represented by a desk covered with holy texts that the pontifical foundation is putting on exhibit during the days of the meeting.
Finally, the response to the mass killing in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is a strengthening of the local Christian community. This is represented by the building of a church in Harintana. Thanks to the support of the foundation and the family of Simona Monti, one of the victims of the massacre, a church is being built there that will be dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. A depiction of the altar is on exhibit in Rimini. The chalices and church paraments are also a gift to the Bengali Christian minority as a response to fundamentalist barbarity.
Beyond the three stages, exhibition visitors will pass through a “Tunnel of Memories” to ensure that they will not forget the many Christian martyrs who have been killed out of hatred for the faith: P. Jacques Hamel in France, P. Andrea Santoro in Turkey, Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan as well as little Emmanuel Dike, who was killed during Holy Mass on Christmas in Madalla, Nigeria.
The pictures and scenes are intended to compel visitors to reflect upon that which thousands of Christians all over the world are experiencing today. Prominent guides will be there to answer questions and inquiries from visitors: clergy and believers from the persecuted church in such countries as Syria, Iraq or Pakistan. They will share their stories with visitors and talk about the suffering of their congregations during the exhibition days.