Manchester Vigil for Persecuted Christians

An overnight vigil of silent and guided prayer for persecuted Christian communities in Iraq and around the world will take place at Holy Name Church in Manchester this weekend. The Jesuit community in Manchester will be hosting talks on Aid to the Church in Need’s work in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; the event will also include personal testimonies from Iraqi Christians, workshops, music and roundtable discussions.

ONE NIGHT for Religious Freedom has received support from large sections of the community in a city which is now home to 18,000 people with Iraqi origins. It has been organised by Caroline Hull, ACN UK’s Manager for the North West. “ONE NIGHT is a chance for all of us to stand together in solidarity with the thousands of suffering and persecuted Iraqis now living in camps in Kurdish Northern Iraq, as well as in neighbouring countries like Lebanon and Jordan," she says. “While many displaced and refugee Iraqis are Christians, there are substantial numbers from other religious minorities, notably Shi’a Muslims and Yezidis. ONE NIGHT offers a chance for all to come together with the goal of more open discussion, increased understanding and greater tolerance of different faiths.”

Among those participating in the event will be students involved with the University Chaplaincies run by the Jesuits at  Avila House, next to Holy Name Church

ONE NIGHT has been devised within a Christian, Catholic framework, but is open to people of all faith backgrounds and none. Manchester–based journalist Hussein Al-alak, from the Iraq Solidarity Campaign UK, said: “For us, supporting ACN’s work for Iraqi Christians is a natural step in helping the Iraqi people overcome the trauma, displacement and bereavements which result from war and other conflict.”

Devotions

Mass will be held both at the start and at the end of the vigil and in between there will be talks on religious minorities in Iraq and ACN’s work in support of Iraqis and Syrians fleeing persecution and other violence. Devotional hours for Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Pakistan, Egypt and Ukraine will run throughout the night. The event will include recorded messages from Catholic bishops in the North-West region and ACN partners who coordinate the charity’s projects for displaced Iraqi Christians. It will conclude with an Iraqi-themed breakfast.Holy Name icon

A chapel within the Holy Name will be dedicated to the persecuted Church and will house the ONE NIGHT Icon, an image of the Madonna and Child which has recently toured churches throughout Iraq, Jordan and Palestine. This icon was painted in Russia and once belonged to Maggie Fleming, an aid worker from Manchester who helped to run an orphanage in Romania until her death in 2002.

London-based electronica band Ooberfuse, whose work provided the musical backdrop for Pope Benedict XVI’s UK visit in 2010, will be premiering the new video of its single We are One around 10pm at the vigil. Ooberfuse has just returned from a visit to Erbil, northern Iraq, and band members Cherrie and Hal will talk about their experiences meeting and filming the displaced community there.

Cherrie says Ooberfuse was delighted to “be involved in any way [with ACN] in raising awareness relating to the plight of Christians in Iraq ... It’s a blessing for us to be part of ONE NIGHT for Religious Freedom.”

If you are unable to attend the vigil but still wish to follow it, you are invited to donate to ACN's work among Iraqi Christians by sponsoring a votive candle.

Main photo: Christian refugees in Mar Elia parish centre in the Christian neighbourhood of Ankawa in Erbil, Iraq. Copyright: ACN/Anton Fric

Right: The icon which will form the centre-piece in the Chapel in Holy Name Church, Manchester, devoted to persecuted Christians.