#Red Wednesday to remember persecuted Christians

Sister Penelope Martin: It's time for the world to do more to help persecuted Christians.

Sister Penelope Martin: It's time for the world to do more to help persecuted Christians. - Credit: Archant

Opinion: Red Wednesday on November 22 is our chance to remember persecuted Christians. And there are lot of them in the world, says Sister Penelope Martin.

This Wednesday is 'Red Wednesday'. Hands up, anyone who knows what that is about – and, no, it is not about the state of Government finances! Rather, it is a day set aside to raise awareness of the plight of the many persecuted Christians in our world. It is called 'Red Wednesday' because many churches and public buildings, including St John's Cathedral in Norwich and the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham, will be flood-lit in red to remind us of the suffering of these brave men and women, and to encourage us to stand up for faith and freedom, tolerance and respect for people of faith, and between faith traditions

Sadly, this event is unlikely to be publicised by any national newspaper: religious persecution is rarely considered sufficiently newsworthy.

How do we at the monastery know about it? Recently Neville Kyrke-Smith, UK director of the charity Aid to the Church in Need, and a friend of ours, came to talk to us about his work. Lately, this has involved visiting those countries of the Middle East where there has been war and large-scale persecution and displacement of the Christian population to refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Here the charity supports makeshift schools, church communities and dispensaries, the latter often run by sisters who are themselves traumatised by the violence they have witnessed and who now minister bravely to their fellow refugees - regardless of religion. Recently some Christians have been able to return to their homes in Iraq, and here ACN provides emergency relief to rebuild thousands of houses.

China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey; sadly the list of countries where Christians suffer persecution – and this can range from discrimination in everyday life to unspeakably cruel torture and death - is growing. We in this country can only feel deeply grateful for the religious freedom we enjoy, and make a firm resolve to support our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Material support is always needed, but, as Neville has often told us, what helps these Christians most of all is to know that we pray for them. The worst thing for them is to feel that nobody in the freer, more affluent countries cares – the Christians of the West don't care. As a Christian in Iraq put it, 'The attacks on Christians continue and the world remains totally silent. It's as if we've been swallowed up by the night.'

So let us care. We may not be able to afford material help, but we can all pray for these brave people, maybe even wear red on Wednesday to show our support.

#Red Wednesday

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