This month, red light will bathe hundreds of cathedrals, churches, monuments and public buildings around the world as part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians and the need for religious freedom.
The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) launched the #RedWeek campaign in 2015, and it has now spread to many countries all over the world.
According to this year’s Religious Freedom in the World Report, two-thirds of the world’s population live in countries where there are serious violations of religious freedom. The numbers are increasing, and such violations now occur, for example, in 42% of all African countries: Burkina Faso and Mozambique are just two striking cases.
This year, the #RedWeek campaign will put the spotlight on how girls and women from Christian and other faith minority backgrounds suffer abduction, forced marriage, forced conversion and sexual violence.
Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President of ACN, says that the 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”.
“For us,” he goes on, “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.”
Red Week is taking place this year from 17-24 November, starting in Austria with an event in St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, followed by 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; in Australia schools in six dioceses plan to wear red; and in Belgium people will light candles for persecuted Christians.
Persecuted people are often unable to speak for themselves, and this year a report drawn up by the charity’s UK office called will give a voice to young women subjected to sexual violence and forced conversion. The UK report is called ‘Hear Her Cries – The kidnapping, forced conversion and sexual victimisation of Christian women and girls’. The report will be presented in the UK Parliament at Westminster on #RedWednesday 24th November, and we have been informed that the Foreign and Commonwealth government building will be lit red.
Across the world Christians will gather to pray for persecuted brothers and sisters, for the right of religious freedom and go to church for those who are unable to go themselves.