On the evening of Wednesday 20 November, several Australian Cathedrals were the first in the world (thanks to Australia’s time zone difference) to launch Red Wednesday 2019, by lighting up their facades in red light. They will be joined throughout the week by thousands of other Cathedrals, Church buildings and monuments around the world (in London, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Prague and Washington D.C. to name just a few) who will also participate in the Aid to the Church in Need initiative.
The aim of Red Wednesday is to draw attention to the plight of some 300 million Christians who are living in environments where they are violently persecuted, discriminated against and prevented from practising their Faith. Red Wednesday events coincide with the release of Aid to the Church in Need’s biennial report Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith. Read the full report at: www.aidtochurch.org/reports
Red Wednesday events in Australia took place in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Adelaide; St Stephen’s Cathedral, Brisbane; St Mary’s Cathedral, Hobart; St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne; St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth; St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney, The Sacred Heart Cathedral, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Wollongong. You can see a list of all the events around Australia and all the Red Wednesday events around the world by visiting: www.redwednesday.org
Australian Catholics were asked to pray for persecuted Christians, wear red in honour of the Martyrs of the Faith and to share a picture on social media with the hashtag #RedWednesday.
The Archdiocese of Melbourne has extended Red Wednesday into a ‘Red Week’. Their events, which have been organised by the Office for Justice and Peace, started off yesterday (20 November) with a “Walk of Witness” which began with prayer in the St Mary of the Cross Chapel and then proceeded to the forecourt of St Patrick’s Cathedral, where prayers were again offered before the Cathedral was bathed in red light.
The events do not stop there, Executive Officer of the Office for Justice and Peace, Mr Mark Clarke explained that inside St Patrick’s Cathedral there will be a week-long display that features stories of religious persecution as well as other prayer events and Masses throughout the week.
Local Catholic businesses in Melbourne also joined the #RedWednesday campaign with the Central Catholic Bookshop in Lonsdale Street creating a display in their front window. Manager of the bookshop Ms. Jennifer Nowell said the display has received a lot of attention from customers and passers-by.
Regarding the Red Wednesday events in his own Archdiocese The Most Rev Peter A Comensoli, Archbishop of Melbourne said; “Daily across the world, many of our brothers and sisters continue to suffer deeply through injustice and persecution in the name of Christ. As they choose to remain close to Him, so we choose to remain close to them – in solidarity for the courageous witness they model. We are proud to be #RedWednesday Champions.”
Administrator of St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral, Fr Anthoni Adimai, was the celebrant of the Red Wednesday Mass in the Archdiocese of Adelaide. Fr Adimai is originally from the South of India and knows all too well the persecution that occurs in his country of birth. India was one of 12 countries profiled in the Persecuted and Forgotten? report and during the period of July 2017 – July 2019, attacks on Christians were reported in 24 of India’s 29 states. According to one calculation, there were 440 anti-Christian incidents in 2017. The principal threat to Christianity in India comes from Hindutva nationalism. More than 1,000 attacks on Christians have been reported, and more than 100 churches closed. Militants and state officials have stepped up a campaign of intimidation against Christians in the country.
At the Archdiocese of Hobart’s Red Wednesday prayer service, which was led by Archbishop Julian Porteous, congregation members heard powerful testimonies of persecution, lit candles, and prayed for both the victims of atrocities as well as their perpetrators.
Red Wednesday is a cause close to the heart of Fr Shammi Perera, a Sri Lankan priest who has been in Tasmania for nine years. Fr Shammi spoke at the prayer service about the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday bombings, in which 259 people were killed and more than 500 injured, while Elia Moussally, representing the Syrian and Iraqi Christian community in Tasmania, also shared his reflections on persecution.
Fr Shammi explained that on his trip back to Sri Lanka he was able to hear first-hand the stories of the victims of that heinous attack. “It was a gut-wrenching experience for me. I was part of that parish. I used to stay in that parish and go to Sunday Mass. My best buddy is the parish priest there now, appointed last June.”
“I listened to their stories and I was drained emotionally afterwards. One story is that a grandma and granddad went to see their grandson play in the church band. They usually go to a different church. That day they went to this church. It was the end of the Mass, soon after Communion, and they were sitting next to each other. There was a thanksgiving speech that went on too long so the granddad put his head down on the pew to have a rest. The blast trajectory did not touch him, but his wife, next to him, was killed instantly. The grandson in the band was outside. He witnessed this trauma as well.”
Despite the horror and destruction caused by those who detonated the bombs Fr Shammi emphasised “We do not ask for vengeance, as Christ said love your enemies, so we embrace the perpetrators and we pray for them so that they will see the truth and allow Christians around the globe the universal right of every person to practise their faith, as enshrined in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” Fr Shammi said. “The persecution of Christians is forgotten and needs to attract attention. Awareness is the first step in the struggle for freedom, and especially for freedom of religion.”
National Director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Mr Bernard Toutounji said he was grateful to all those that supported Red Wednesday. “It was incredible to see the photos of so many Cathedrals around Australia lit up in red. It sends a strong message to our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ that we have not forgotten them.” In reference to the latest ACN report Mr Toutounji said; “A report such as Persecuted and Forgotten? is of great value because it informs us on what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Faith. I would encourage everyone to read the report because we should not be ignorant to the hardships and dangers many Christians face in trying to live out their Faith,” said Mr Toutounji.
With thanks to Aid to the Church in Need.