By Lisa Zengarini
Hundreds of cathedrals, churches, monuments, and public buildings around the world will be lighting up red throughout the week of November 17-24, in an international campaign aimed at raising alarm over the rise of religious persecution.
Titled #RedWeek, the campaign is organized annually in November by the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). It was first launched in 2015 to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians and the need for religious freedom, with Christians gathering all over the world to pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters.
This year’s campaign will kick off in Austria with an event in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, followed by similar events in other countries. “A long list of buildings will be illuminated in red, among them the cathedrals of Montreal and Toronto in Canada, the Basilica of Montmartre in Paris, and major buildings in Slovakia,” a press release reports, adding that in Australia schoolchildren in six dioceses plan to wear red clothes during the week, while people in Belgium people will light candles for persecuted Christians.
Religious persecutions rising across the world
Referring to its latest report on Religious Freedom in the World, published earlier this year, ACN recalls that two-thirds of the world’s population live in countries where there are serious violations of religious freedom and that numbers are on the rise, especially in Africa. Violations occur in 42 percent of all African countries, with the most striking cases being in the Sahel region, including Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger; and in Mozambique, specifically in the province of Cabo Delgado, where terrorist attacks by Islamist militias have escalated dramatically in recent years.
Free exercise of religion, a pillar of liberal democracy
According to Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN, the #RedWeek campaign is sending a clear message of solidarity to persecuted Christians throughout the world: It is “a way to give a voice to our project partners – those who have been tragically marked by the consequences of persecution,” he says. “For us, the free exercise of religion is one of the pillars of liberal democracy. Every form of discrimination based upon religious affiliation must be decisively rejected.”
A focus on forced marriages and conversions
This year’s #RedWeek campaign will draw attention to the plight of girls and women from Christian and other faith minority communities who suffer abduction, forced marriage, forced conversion, and sexual violence. To this end, on #RedWednesday, 24 November, the UK branch of ACN will present a report titled ‘Hear Her Cries – The kidnapping, forced conversion and sexual victimisation of Christian women and girls' to the UK Parliament at Westminster. On the same day, the Foreign and Commonwealth government building is slated to be lit red.