Solidarity with persecuted Christians
Religious freedom remains under pressure throughout the world
After the year 2020 being marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the holding of a virtual event, in-person activities were held across Canada as part of #RedWednesday, promoted by the Canadian office of the charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), as part of #RedWeek, an international event underway since 2015 to remind the world of the tragic situation of persecuted Christians and to reflect on the issue of religious freedom.
“The 2021 results are very positive,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, Director of the ACN Canada office. “Many people shared our publications on social media, publicizing the event or advertising their own activity. It is difficult to know how many people participated, since the invitation is extended to everyone and no one is obligated to inform us of what they are doing for that day or for the week. However, I think we can easily talk about at least 500 people from all over the country who participated in one or another of the activities proposed for the occasion. Moreover, we sensed a new dynamism for this activity in social media, beyond our expectations: this bodes well for next year, which will be the fifth Red Wednesday in our country,” she rejoices.
To explain this new dynamism, Marie-Claude Lalonde believes that one of the elements is a greater understanding of the phenomenon of religious persecution in Canada. “It seems to me that, in general, the issue of religious persecution, and that of Christians in particular, is becoming better understood by Canadians. Our outreach work is partly responsible for this.”
Enlightenment, Vigils, Masses, Information
The Red Wednesday initiative began in 2015, to raise awareness and alert public opinion to the issue of religious freedom and the persecution of Christians; to the fact that martyrdom for the Christian faith is not a thing of the past. The famous Christ the Redeemer statue, perching over Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, was the first to be illuminated as part of the event. Since then, several of the 23 ACN national offices have followed suit and began offering the activity in their areas.
“In Canada, we had two firsts: the illumination of the dome of Saint Joseph’s Oratory on Mont-Royal and the façade of the Basilica of the Notre-Dame-du-Cap Shrine in Trois-Rivières. These are two of Canada’s five national shrines,” explains Valerie Vulcain, Campaign Coordinator for ACN Canada, who helped to organize Red Wednesday. “And then, teenage girls from a Catholic high school in Ontario wore Red Wednesday shirts, their social justice committee also launched a web page on the subject of the persecution of Christians around the world. A nice surprise that we saw on social media on that day.”
The year 2022 will mark the fifth year that the event has taken place in Canada. “We are already in preparation mode,” says Lalonde. “We hope to reach even more people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who will join this international movement of solidarity that says to those who often suffer in silence: we have not forgotten you. In Canada, the next Red Wednesday will be on November 16, 2022.
Elsewhere in the World
From Sydney (Australia) to London, Paris and Manila, the illuminations were the most spectacular aspect of this activity, which was primarily devoted to prayer and raising of awareness. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Montmartre was entirely lit up in red on November 24th, while the leaders of more than 450 churches, monasteries, convents and civil buildings throughout Europe – Germany, Austria, Slovakia and, for the first time, Ukraine – also partially or entirely lit up their buildings.
Christians who are familiar with fear and doubt about their future in the Middle East also wanted to participate. The Maronite Cathedral of St Elias in Aleppo, a martyred city in the endless war in Syria, was lit up in red and an ecumenical vigil was held there. The cathedral was badly damaged during the conflict. It has since been rebuilt with the support of ACN. Finally, as in Canada, many primary and secondary schools participated in Red Week in Australia, the United Kingdom and Slovakia.