In France, Aid to the Church in Need hosts the ‘NIght of Witness’

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE TOOK PART, either in person or virtually, in the ““NIght of Witness”,” a series of events focused on the theme of persecuted Christians organized by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) January 20-28, 2022, in several cities of France.

Portraits of 13 Christian martyrs, murdered for their faith in 2021, were carried in procession to the altars of various cathedrals and basilicas—in Marseille, Albi, Cambrai, Chartres and Paris, the main centers where the ““NIght of Witness”” was held. Four of these martyrs were from Nigeria, one of the most dangerous countries for Christians to live in today.

On the occasion of the 13th year of the “Night of Witness,” guests from Nigeria, Armenia and Sri Lanka gave moving testimonies about the situations Christians are experiencing in their respective countries.

Nigeria is living an ongoing martyrdom because of Muslim jihadist attacks, many of which specifically target Christians. Bishop Oliver Doeme of Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria, the so-called “capital” of the Islamist terror group Boko Haram, gave a testimony of hope which had a profound impact on those who heard him: “The shootings and bombings are not stopping people from going to Mass with the same fervor as before. The terrorists can destroy everything in our country, but there is one thing they cannot destroy—our faith. For in truth, our people are brave, courageous and constant in their powerful determination to serve God despite all the obstacles.”

‘Night of Witness’ (photo by Laurence Mullenders/ACN)

In Armenia, in the mountainous region of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), the predominantly Armenian and Christian population experienced a terrible ordeal during the 44 days of war in late 2020 between the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh and the Azerbaijani army. Sister Haguinta Marudian, who belongs to the Armenian community of the Immaculate Conception, testified to the fact that “the war in Artsakh was a source of great suffering. In our chapel the only thing you could hear was the murmuring sound of the rosary as the beads slipped through the innocent fingers of the silently weeping children. After the ceasefire many families returned to Artsakh, but many of them found their homes in ruins.”

In Sri Lanka, Christians feel under constant threat ever since the suicide attacks during Holy Week 2019, in which 258 people were killed. The small Christian community in the country suffered terrible fear and anxiety. Thanks to the courageous voice of Cardinal-archbishop Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo, the Church has not ceased to demand the truth about these attacks. “It is clear now that the former leaders, especially the former president, despite knowing about the imminent attack, did nothing to prevent it and simply allowed it to happen.”

The cardinal was unable to attend for reasons of security but sent a video message along with the testimony of Father Janith Kushalya, who was present in Sri Lanka at the time of the attacks on Palm Sunday morning.

For Benoit de Blanpré, national director of the French office of ACN, “every one of these “Nights of Witness” is an opportunity to draw closer to our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters. Through our prayers and our closeness, we hope to be able to comfort them in their suffering, while they can revive our own faith, thanks to their indomitable hope.”

—Natalie Chambon