Why are so many people still losing their lives for religious belief?23 November 2017 | by Ruth Gledhill
Churches and cathedrals around the country were turned red in a day set aside to remember those who are persecuted for their faith.
Churches and cathedrals around the country were turned red on Wednesday in a day set aside to remember those who are persecuted for their faith.
Westminster Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament were among the buildings that shone blood red with the colour of martyrdom as Catholics and other Christians and faiths united to highlight the sufferings of Christians and others who risk everything by staying true to what they believe.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity that sponsored the event, said: “Surely in this day and age, it is unacceptable that someone should be denied work, housing, liberty – or even lose their life – because of their religious belief. Yet, that is what is happening in so many parts of the world."
#RedWednesday, sponsored also by CSW, in its second year, is organised to highlight the need "to stand up for the rights of everyone to follow their faith without coercion, reprisals or persecution", he added.
At the end of the day, hundreds turned out for a service at Westminster Cathedral, including Lord Alton and the MP Mike Kane, with music led by Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir.
Speakers included the MP Jim Shannon, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Working Group on International Religious Freedom of Belief.
He reiterated the call in the group's recent report to move the right to freedom of religious belief from "from discussion to practice, from rhetoric to reality" He said: "Through implementing the recommendations of the report, we believe that Governments- both our own, and across the world, can help improve the lives of millions of vulnerable people worldwide.
"The right to freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental human right and it is under threat around the world. It is vital that we come together on days like this to remember that the freedoms we sometimes take for granted are denied to so many. I hope and pray that through all our efforts, and through events like these, we can help to create a world in which all religious or belief groups are free to live and practice their beliefs in peace."
Other speakers included Bishop Nicholas Hudson, an auxiliary in Westminster, Mervyn Thomas of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod, Coptic Orthodox Bishop Angaelos, Ahsan Ahmedi of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community UK and Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Christian Association.
Chowdry's 13-year-old daughter Hannah spoke of the torturous life that faces Christians in Pakistan. Hannah, a student at Kantor King Solomon High School in Barkingside, Redbridge and a volunteer for the BPCA, said millions of Christians were suffering in Pakistan.
The event ended with a minute’s silence in which those present knelt in front of the large wooden cross which had been led in procession from Westminster Bridge through to Westminster Cathedral.
At the same time, Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a joint call for more aid to reach Middle Eastern refugees, especially Christians, and for robust safeguards against extremist ideology, which they said has spread “like an epidemic”.
In their statement released during Archbishop Welby's three-day trip to Russia this week they said: “We appeal to the international community to render speedy help to support the Christian and other populations of the Middle East. Wide-scale humanitarian aid is needed for those who are suffering and for the vast numbers of [refugees], including those who have ended up in Europe and America.”
They also called for “preventative measures against the ideology of extremism that has spread throughout the world under the influence of militants like an epidemic,” and urged religious and political leaders to devise an effective response. “An important aspect of this co-operation is interreligious dialogue,” they added.
“In many countries of the Middle East and Africa there is persecution of Christians, manifested in mass killings, the barbaric destruction of churches, the desecration of holy sites and the expulsion of millions of people from their homes."
According to the charity Open Doors' World Watch List, the ten countries where Christians are most persecuted worldwide are North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea.
(Pictures of Red Wednesday at Westminster Cathedral. Top pic featuring John Coles, chairman of New Wine, by Ruth Gledhill, second two pix c.WeensonOo/picture-u.net, last pic of Hannah Chowdry and her father c.BPCA)
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