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Ahead of Red Wednesday “horrific reality” of persecuted Christians highlighted

By Sarah Mac Donald - 27 November, 2018

“We state definitively that those who do not respect freedom of thought, conscience and religion must be held to account” – Chair of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alan McGuckian.

Bishop Alan McGuckian has warned that Christians are more likely than ever before to suffer imprisonment, being ‘disappeared’, sexually harassed, tortured or executed.

Welcoming the increased awareness internationally of the ‘Red Wednesday’ initiative, which takes place this week on 28 November, the Bishop of Raphoe said it was an opportunity to remember the “horrific reality of religious violence and intolerance in our world”.

Red Wednesday is an initiative whereby churches are lit up in the colour of red in solidarity with suffering Christians around the world.

The Bishop, who is Chair of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said “We state definitively that those who do not respect freedom of thought, conscience and religion must be held to account.”

Dr McGuckian referred to a recent statement signed by Pope Francis and Mar Gewargis III, Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East, calling for an end to violence against Christians in the Middle East.

The statement stressed the importance of dialogue grounded in openness, truth and love as the antidote to extremism.

According to Aid to the Church in Need, 100,000 Christians lose their lives annually, and 200 million Christians endure persecution and violence every day because of their faith, making Christians the most persecuted religious group worldwide.

On Wednesday 28 November, parish churches will join some major religious landmarks in Ireland and abroad in lighting up in ‘blood red’ to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians.

The Irish Catholics Bishops’ Conference has encouraged parishes to take part in the campaign, which is organised by Aid to the Church in Need Ireland (ACN Ireland).

Some of the venues participating in the initiative in Ireland are St Malachy’s Church, Armagh, the national shrine of Knock, Co. Mayo, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Sligo and St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin.

ACN Ireland has provided participating parishes with packages including red light filters and complimentary catechetical materials alongside a suggested format for conducting homilies on Red Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Aid to the Church in Need released its ‘Religious Freedom Report’ 2018 last Thursday, which showed that some 61 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries where religious freedom is not respected.

That means six out of every ten people around the world cannot express their faith with total freedom.

Among them are almost 300 million Christians, or 1 out of 7, who live in a country of persecution, subject to violence, arrest and human rights violations.

The report looks at 196 countries around the world, examining the degree to which the basic right to religious freedom, as defined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is respected with regard to all the world’s major religious faiths.

The report shows grave violations of religious freedom in a total of 38 countries. In 17 of them, there is serious discrimination on grounds of religious faith, and in the remaining 21, there is outright persecution of religious minorities, in some cases to the point of death.

The ACN study shows that in 22 countries the reasons for attacks on religious freedom are rooted in radical Islamism, while in other countries the dominant causes are rooted in the authoritarianism of states or governments that pursue policies of “aggressive nationalism”.

Among these countries are China, India, North Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan.

The report also pointed to an improved level of religious freedom for minorities in Syria and Iraq following the military defeat of the Islamist terrorist group ISIS/Daesh.

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