The Persecution of Christians is Increasing
So is anti-religious violence.
On Wednesday, November 18, Aid to the Church in Need Canada (ACN) will be marking Red Wednesday for the third consecutive year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the use of technology, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Abuja, Nigeria, Sister Micheline Lattouf of Lebanon, the archbishops of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and many others will gather for two broadcasts at 7 pm and 9 pm Eastern Standard Time to listen, reflect and pray. (See below how to register on Eventbrite).
“Based on our virtual experience with the One Million Children Prayer Campaign, we now want to bring together people who will testify to the great difficulties they are experiencing, as well as those who are in solidarity with them,” says Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of ACN Canada. “Even in times of a pandemic, we need to be reminded that anti-religious violence, and especially the persecution of Christians, is still as present as it was last year. What is worse is that it seems to be increasing significantly this year. The recent example of Chile (photo), where two churches were burned on the fringes of demonstrations calling for socio-economic change, is a cause for great concern in a country that is known to be peaceful.”
Then, the crisis experienced by Nigerians shows no indication of diminishing. In Nigeria, Christians continue to be the victims of Fulani shepherds and terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, Archbishop of the capital Abuja, – who had already come to Canada in June 2018 at the invitation of ACN – will recall, in a video, the problems experienced in the field and the lack of action by his own government. “Little has changed since he came. In fact, the situation has even deteriorated,” says Ms. Lalonde.
Sister Micheline Lattouf of the community of Sisters of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd will give a testimony on the situation in Lebanon. The August 4th explosion in the port of Beirut has made the situation catastrophic for the population, already impoverished by years of corruption. Other guests will be added to the list of witnesses, including one from Pakistan, which remains to be confirmed. (Addition on Novembre 11). Father James Channan, OP, has confirmed his presence. Father Channan is the director of the Peace Centre in Lahore, Pakistan. Moreover, the story of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani woman who has become a true symbol of the struggle for religious freedom, will be told during the event.
“We will also have the pleasure of welcoming three Canadian archbishops to this virtual meeting,” says Ms. Lalonde. “Archbishops Christian Lépine of Montreal and John Michael Miller of Vancouver, as well as Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto, have accepted our invitation.”
As for the illumination of buildings in red, large parts of the cathedrals of Montreal and Toronto will be illuminated, while the Hungarian Embassy in Ottawa has also confirmed its participation for a third consecutive year.
Witnesses, actors of peace in their environment
“This year’s guests are bound together by common points, but one of these catches my attention more than the others: they all believe in inter-religious dialogue,” explains Marie-Claude Lalonde. “Indeed, as I reflected on their lives and actions, I realized that they share this common trait, in line with one of the main orientations of Pope Francis’s most recent encyclical, Fratelli tutti, All Brothers. I am very happy about this, because in these times of violence against Christians, the temptation of vengeance can lodge itself in any heart, including that of Christians. Our witnesses are the living signs, on their own scale, that we can do otherwise. But we must still be able to listen to them.”
Red Wednesday will therefore be an opportunity “to listen, pray and hope at a time when, unfortunately, violence seems to prevail over peace,” Ms. Lalonde says.
To register, participants must sign up for the virtual activity, on Eventbrite at the following address https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/redwednesday-registration-128123895019
Individuals and organizations interested in receiving more information about this event, or who plan to illuminate a building in red, contact ACN Canada : firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-800-588-6333, ext. 223.