Show your support for the persecuted this #RedWednesday

Dominic Robinson SJ, parish priest at Farm Street Church, writes about the importance of #RedWednesday

Over the last five years, November has been a special month for Aid to the Church in Need (https://acnuk.org/) and their #RedWednesday campaign has been hugely successful in drawing attention to the persecution of Christians and the general issue of religious freedom. It’s now a global initiative and I would ask everyone to make this year’s #RedWednesday on 25 November a campaign day that can really change lives. 

As well as being Parish Priest at Farm Street, I am also the Ecclesiastical Assistant for Aid to the Church in Need, supporting the organisation’s spiritual heart. ACN is full of wonderfully prayerful, committed Catholics and others who share our ethos, and so it’s a joy to both be part of this and to encourage it. 

The Catholic Church in Britain is a very multicultural body so we naturally have compassion for Christians and others from a diversity of ethnic groups here and abroad. As British Catholics we also have a strong sense of being a Church that has come out of persecution. I think that history of being a persecuted minority helps us to identify with those who suffer. When I’ve hosted Church leaders from places like Iraq and Syria, I’ve always taken them to nearby Tyburn, the spot where the gallows stood on which our English martyrs were hanged - and which is just a stone’s throw from Farm Street. And this has clearly resonated. 

Prayer – Information – Action

We are acutely aware of how the pandemic is leaving so many on our doorstep in dire straits – losing jobs, losing homes, on the verge of destitution.  The gap between rich and poor is growing by the week. But I hope still we can mark #Red Wednesday by considering what those who suffer on account of faith can teach us so much about hope, love and indeed faith. And perhaps also think about how we can help Christians suffering in other countries. Aid to the Church in Need has three pillars:

Prayer: praying for those who suffer and know that they now are praying for us too. It’s always so inspiring when I meet Christians who suffer for their faith in terrible circumstances who say “we are praying for you”.  There are lots of suggestions for prayer with our suffering brothers & sisters on the ACN website.

Information: continue to raise awareness of the persecuted Church – there is plenty of material available on the ACN website.  #RedWednesday -  25 November 2020 - will see the launch of our Set Your Captives Free report and other events, so please mark your diaries for that.

And Action: At the moment we are working for the release of Maira Shabhaz, a 14-year-old girl unjustly seized at gunpoint close to her home in Pakistan and bundled into a car at the height of the lockdown on 28th April 2020. 

Maira Shabhaz

Maira’s life would never be the same again. She was drugged, gang-raped and blackmailed. When her family went to the police to get her back, the girl’s abductor, Mohamad Nakash Tariq, declared the two were married and that she had converted to Islam. The Lahore High Court upheld his claims. 

Research shows that every year up to 1,000 Christian and Hindu girls in Pakistan suffer in this way.

This year, ACN is devoting #RedWednesday (25th November) to campaigning for Maira and girls like her. 

Although she escaped, Maira’s life is in still danger from the man who considers her rejection of him as an act of apostasy. And that’s why the charity is running a petition calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to grant Maira and her family asylum in the UK. At the time of writing, signatures have topped 8,200. 

We want to stand up for others girls too – Arzoo Raja, Huma Younus and Sadaf Khan (Masih) – all of them sexually abused, forced to convert, and living in fear.  

Please sign our ACN #RedWednesday Maira Shahbaz petition. https://acnuk.org/petition and find out more about her and other cases by ordering ACN’s new ‘Set Your Captives Free: A Report on Christians unjustly detained for their Faith’. 

#RedWednesday events

Please come to one of our ACN #RedWednesday events on 25th November - including the #RedWednesday 2020 Mass that will be livestreamed from Farm Street (https://www.farmstreet.org.uk/livestream) and a launch event for the new report (https://acnuk.org/event/redwednesday-digital-event/). 

We invite everyone to see how you can get involved - and please pray for all who are persecuted simply on account of what they believe.