#Redweek shines a light on violations of religious freedom

IN NOVEMBER RED LIGHT WILL BATHE HUNDREDS OF CATHEDRALS, churches, monuments, and public buildings around the world as part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the persecution of Christians and the need for religious freedom.

Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) launched the #RedWeek campaign in 2015, and it has now spread to many countries all over the world.

According to this year’s Religious Freedom in the World report—which is produced by ACN every two years—two-thirds of the world’s population live in countries where there are serious violations of religious freedom. The numbers are increasing, and such violations now occur, for example, in 42 percent of all African countries: Burkina Faso and Mozambique are just two striking cases.

This year, the #RedWeek campaign will put the spotlight on how girls and women from Christian and other faith minority backgrounds suffer abduction, forced marriage, forced conversion and sexual violence.

Thomas Heine-Geldern, executive president of ACN, said that the campaign is “sending a clear message of solidarity with persecuted Christians throughout the world.” It is “a way to give a voice to our project partners—those who have been tragically marked by the consequences of persecution.”

“For us,” he continued, “the free exercise of religion is one of the pillars of liberal democracy. Every form of discrimination based upon religious affiliation must be decisively rejected.”

Red Week is taking place this year Nov. 17-24, starting in Austria with an event in
St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, followed by other countries. A long list of buildings will be illuminated in red, among them the cathedrals of Montreal and Toronto in Canada, the Basilica of Montmartre in Paris, and major buildings in Slovakia; in Australia schools in six dioceses plan to wear red; and in Belgium, people will light candles for persecuted Christians.

Persecuted people are often unable to speak for themselves, and this year a report drawn up by the ACN’s UK office called will give a voice to young women subjected to sexual violence and forced conversion. The UK report is entitled “Hear Her Cries—The kidnapping, forced conversion and sexual victimization of Christian women and girls.” The report will be presented in the UK Parliament at Westminster on #RedWednesday, Nov. 24, and the Foreign and Commonwealth government building is slated be lit red.

Across the world, Christians will gather to pray for persecuted brothers and sisters, for the right of religious freedom and they will go to church to honor those who are unable to go themselves.

—Eldred Willey