Stonyhurst hosts Aid to Church in Need event for Salford pupils

Pupils from eight schools in Salford diocese at Stonyhurst
Pupils from eight schools in Salford diocese at Stonyhurst

The Bishop of Salford addressed Catholic school pupils at an Aid to the Church in Need North-West (ACN-NW) event at Stonyhurst College last Wednesday. The ACN-NW event, ‘Stand Up for Faith and Freedom’, aimed to raise awareness among pupils from schools across Salford Diocese about the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world.

It was organised by Dr Caroline Hull, the manager of ACN-NW with guest speakers and volunteers from Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy and elsewhere. The day included presentations, talks and statements from persecuted Christians, and a mix of music and personal witness from electronica band Ooberfuse. The MC for the day was Fr Frankie Mulgrew, a priest from Salford diocese.

During Bishop John Arnold’s homily at the closing Mass, he  emphasised that  those who persecute Christians do not represent true religion. Many of the personal stories that the pupils had heard highlighted the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ persecution which some Christians experience in countries where they are in a religious minority.

“Those who persecute Christians are not people of faith at all. These people are using disruption and corrupting faith as a means to persecute Christians.”

Representatives from countries where persecution of Christians is commonplace gave statements about their experiences which were read out at the youth event. One of these witnesses from Pakistan gave a moving account of ‘soft’ persecution she had experienced.
“I attended a prestigious school in Pakistan,” she said. “It struck me that it was the most educated who aroused feelings of hatred in the pupils. In a mandatory Ramadan assembly, the sermon included a closing prayer: ‘May Allah rule the Christians. Amen. May Allah destroy the West. Amen.’”

“I couldn’t believe what my ears heard,” she went on. “Tutors would regularly mock me for my faith. I must admit – I did cry. I still remember the hatred in their voices and in their eyes. Classmates changed their attitudes towards me when they discovered I was a Christian. Only a few were sympathetic.”

Pupils were reduced to silence by the harsh realities they heard. Fresh back from a visit to Iraq and Lebanon, Lorraine McMahon, ACN head of operations in Scotland, gave an account of the persecution she had encountered there.

In total, eight schools from Salford diocese attended, with around 150 pupils present on the day. Concluding the event, Bishop Arnold issued a call to action: “Knowledge is important; knowledge haunts us. You can now pass on the  knowledge of what you’ve seen and heard today – to your family and friends. “And do not underestimate the power of prayer – let’s place persecuted Christians in God’s hands.”

By Lisa Burns in the Universe