By Leslie Ann Aquino
While we cannot end religious persecution, the Aid to the Church in Need said Filipinos can support suffering Christians all over the world and help create awareness on their situation.
“We are an emotional people, if we see things that really need help or needs support, naturally Pinoys will support,” Jonathan Luciano, ACN Philippines, national director, said in a press briefing for the Red Wednesday campaign, which will be launched on November 22.
“If Pinoys will be aware of reality in the world, we as Pinoys can do something concretely, not just give monetary help, prayer, information and action,” he added.
ACN has lamented the scale of religious persecution is not widely appreciated. Through Red Wednesday, ACN seeks to educate Filipinos that not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.
Luciano said while Filipinos don’t feel persecuted since our country is predominantly Christian, in other parts of the world such as in the Middle East or Africa, Christianity or religion is not tolerated, or is prohibited.
Mark Von Riedemann, ACN international director for public affairs and religious freedom, said the persecution of Christians is worse today than any time in history.
He said there are actually three kinds of persecution of Christians and one of them is extremism which is what the Philippines experienced with fundamentalist groups sowing division among the people.
“It is what you have experienced here in your country where fundamentalists drive division between people who peaceably live together,” said Riedemann.
Marawi Bishop Edwin Dela Pena, one of the panelists, agreed with Riedemann citing their experience in Marawi.
“When we talk about persecution in the context of Marawi, it is a persecution that has been felt by both Muslims and Christians, the moderate Muslim. We see there is an interesting situation here where Muslims and Christians suffered and we suffered together,” he said.
To note, the Maute terrorist group attacked Marawi last May 23, prompting President Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.
In view of the launch of Red Wednesday, a Mass will be held at 5:30 pm Wednesday at the Manila Cathedral to be presided by the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in endorsing the Red Wednesday campaign already invited all cathedrals, minor basilicas, national and diocesan shrines to illuminate their façade in red, the color of martyrdom in the Christian faith.
Several Catholic universities in Manila have also expressed interest to join the campaign.
It was in November 2016, when ACN first launched the campaign in United Kingdom to promote the latest Religious Freedom in the World report. At that time, key buildings, churches and schools were lit in red including Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Houses of Parliament, and the University of Oxford.
This initiative of the UK office of ACN has since been adopted by other countries. To complement their own respective awareness campaigns for persecuted Christians, famous landmarks around the world were lighted in red, including the Fontana De Trevi in Italy, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in France and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.
ACN supports Christians wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or suffering material need. Every year the charity responds to more than 5,000 requests for aid from bishops and religious superiors in around 140 countries, including: funding training for seminarians and priests; printing Bibles and religious literature; supporting priests and religious in difficult circumstances; building and restoring churches and chapels; broadcasting religious programmes; and helping refugees.
Tags: Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, CBCP, Manila Bulletin, Manila Cathedral, martyrdom, persecution, Red Wednesday, Red Wednesday launched to aid suffering Christians, religious freedom