Jesuits mark Red Wednesday
Red Wednesday is an initiative of Aid to the Church in Need, an international Catholic organisation which aims to help Christians in need wherever they are repressed or persecuted. It was founded in the wake of World War II by Fr. Werenfried van Straaten and initially provided food and clothes for millions of East German refugees. Today, the organisation has 23 national offices in 140 countries around the world and offers financial support to more than 5,000 projects.
The issue of persecution has gained renewed importance. The Anglican Bishop of Truro, Philip Mounstephen, published a report earlier this year looking at how the British government had responded to the global persecution of Christians. The report confirmed what many had suspected, that this issue does not get much airtime in Whitehall, or indeed Parliament.
An article cited by Bishop Mounstephen in The Times titled ‘Spectators to the Carnage’ encapsulates this tragic reality. The article begins: 'Across the globe, in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, Christians are being bullied, arrested, jailed, expelled and executed. Christianity is by most calculations the most persecuted religion of modern times. Yet Western politicians until now have been reluctant to speak out in support of Christians in peril.'
Jesuits are no strangers to persecution. Last month we marked the 30th anniversary of the El Salvador martyrs – six Jesuits, their housekeeper and her daughter who were murdered by members of the El Salvadorean military. In the UK, we also remember the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales, including Saint Edmund Campion SJ. After four months of questioning and torture, Campion was hung, drawn and quartered at Tyburn. His feast day is celebrated on 1st December, the day of his martyrdom.
Jesuit parishes, schools and works participated in Red Wednesday this year, as they did last year. Custom red lighting was installed at Farm Street and other churches to mark the event. In the build-up, Fr Dominic Robinson, Priest at Farm Street, blessed a display of desecrated objects from Iraq (on loan to ACN from the Archdiocese of Erbil). On Red Wednesday, Fr Dominic carried the cross at Westminster Cathedral and gave the blessing jointly with Fr Andrew Thoma, Chaplain to the Chaldean Community in London. Fr Thoma gave the blessing in Aramaic, the langauge of Jesus which is still spoken by Iraqi Christians in the Nineveh Plain.
In helping to highlight the global persecution of Christians, we showed our solidarity and joined together in support of the persecuted who are unable to speak freely and who look at us – their brothers and sisters in Christ – to speak on their behalf.