‘Nobody comes away unmoved from the Night of Witnesses’
FOR THE TENTH year in a row, our French office has organized a series of prayer vigils in honor of today’s Christian martyrs. The highlight of the initiative was the “Night of the Witnesses” held March 16, 2018 in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
During the vigil, two witnesses described the difficult situation facing Christians in their home countries, respectively Mexico, and Egypt.
Bishop Ramón Castro of Cuernavaca in Mexico spoke about the suffering in his country. The Catholic Church in Mexico is in the vanguard of the opposition to drugs trafficking. This commitment has brought it constant threats and acts of intimidation—and no fewer than 55 priests have been murdered since 1990.
For his part, Coptic Catholic Bishop Kyrillos William Samaan of Assiut in Egypt gave testimony about the strength of faith of the Coptic Christians. Some 80 percent of all the Christians in the Middle East are Egyptians, which makes them prime targets for Islamist radicals. Yet despite the many assaults and murders, the Christians are determined to stay on in their native land and fulfil their mission as “peace builders,” the bishop proclaimed.
The director of the French office, Marc Fromager, stresses the importance of this initiative. “We wish to honor the ‘martyrs’ of our times and we feel that remembering them once a year is the very minimum we can do for them,” he said. Mr. Fromager expressed his hope that the event will “strengthen the faith of those participating” and that the witness of those living on the frontline “will help to remind us how to follow Christ, despite the difficulties.”
Referring to the sense of social and political disillusionment that is currently being felt in so many countries of the world, Marc Fromager insisted: “This Night of the Witnesses is a response to these challenges. Our aim is to present living witnesses who can enrich our own faith by their personal experience of faith and forgiveness.”
The vigil even attracts nonbelievers. It’s not only the beauty of the music and the beautiful setting, but the fact that the “the Night of the Witnesses presents accurate figures. It offers a true assessment of the state of the world and of the harsh reality faced by believers in many countries. It is hard to remain insensitive after having heard them,” said Mr. Fromager, who added: “After a decade of doing this, we are quite certain that no one comes away unmoved from this vigil.”
Since it was first held in the 2008, this special vigil has been staged in 29 different cities, and a total of 31 witnesses have given personal testimony of their experience of persecution in their respective countries, before a total audience of more than 25,000.
This year, in addition to Paris, the “Night of Witnesses” was staged in other towns and cities of France, Luxembourg and Italy. And, inspired by this initiative, other sister offices, such as those in Spain, the Netherlands, the Philippines and South Korea, will be organizing similar events later this year.
The 2018 ‘Night of Witnesses’ was held in Paris on March 16, after having previously been held in Rouen and in La Roche sur Yon. The final two events took place in Luxembourg and in Rome. (March 18 & 19, 2018)