In an effort to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world, Rome’s Colosseum will be bathed in red light on the evening February 24.
The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), will be held in conjunction with several churches in Syria and Iraq, according to a report by Catholic News Agency.
The St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral in Aleppo will be lit, as will the Church of St. Paul in Mosul. Last year London’s Parliament building was lit up in red, as well as Paris’ Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines.
Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN Italy, said that, “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”
“One of the children was killed,” he said, “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”
Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said.
Last fall, ACN issued a report on religious persecution that condemned the West and the United Nations for not coming to the aid of Christians in the Middle East.
“Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution. It is in this context that the Report concludes that in 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms in the period 2015-17 than within the preceding two years. Estimates for the number of Christians worldwide who suffered some form of persecution for their faith in 2016 range from some 200,000 to as many as 600,000,” the report said.
“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East,” it concluded.