Iraq and Philippines Christians join Red Wednesday religious freedom solidarity display

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Landmarks in the UK, Ireland, Iraq and the Philippines are due to be floodlit in red today (22 November) to highlight the persecution of faith groups for their “peacefully held beliefs”.

The “Red Wednesday” initiative is in its second year and has been pioneered by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). This year it is also organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) – both charities advocate chiefly for persecuted Christians.

Ahead of the event, ACN, a Catholic charity, said in a communique: “Red is the Christian colour of martyrdom. Christians are the most persecuted faith group in today’s world… Red Wednesday will shine a light on Christian persecution but also highlight the injustices perpetrated against other faith groups.”

Organisers say around 50 buildings in the UK will be lit up in red, including London’s Houses of Parliament, 12 cathedrals – some Anglican, some Catholic – as well as schools and universities. More than 80 Catholic churches and universities in the Philippines are expected to be floodlit for the event after the country’s bishops’ conference endorsed the initiative.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil said his church would be lit in red. Warda, whose diocese has been caring for more than 100,000 mainly Christians who fled Islamic State in 2014, said local Catholics would also take part in a prayer vigil that will end in a church he opened last year, to cater for the influx of refugees.

According to ACN, the decision to illuminate the Houses of Parliament in red was made jointly by Commons speaker John Bercow and Lords speaker Lord Fowler following lobbying from parliamentarians.

ACN spokesman John Pontifex said the event aimed to highlight not only the suffering of persecuted Christians but also the role of UN institutions and the international community, which he said had so far “failed to help persecuted faith communities”.

Writing for the Christian Today website, Pontifex cited Christians facing state-sponsored oppression, militia violence or community-level hostility in China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Sudan, Iraq and Syria, but said Red Wednesday also aimed to highlight the suffering of other persecuted faith groups such as the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Baha’is in Iran, Ahmadiyya Muslims in Pakistan, Uyghur Muslims in China and Jews in France and Belgium.

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