Catholic bishops across the world will be ringing church bells in their dioceses at noon tomorrow on the Feast of the Assumption, in solidarity with persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
For example, Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, Ireland, chair of the Council for Justice and Peace of the Irish Bishops’ Conference, has invited parishes to support this important symbolic moment of solidarity and reflection.
Bishop McAreavey said, “Christians are now the world’s most oppressed religious group, facing religious discrimination and persecution in over a hundred countries. Each year, thousands of Christians are being tortured and killed because of their faith. Yet the international community has been slow to recognise Christians as victims of religious persecution. The lack of protest at their treatment is truly shocking. In parts of the Middle East ravaged by conflict Christians have lost everything for their faith. Many have lost their lives. Those who remain face a terrifying and uncertain future.
“Tomorrow, on the Feast of the Assumption, the global silence on the persecution of Christians will be broken by the sound of church bells at midday. As Christians throughout the world gather to celebrate Mass on a Holy Day dedicated to Our Lady, it is appropriate that we pause to remember those who are suffering because of their faith. Our fellow bishops in Iraq have told Irish bishops how important spiritual solidarity and prayer are to them in their suffering. As Archbishop Petros Mouche of Mosul told us during his visit to Maynooth in June: ‘With so many people praying for us, it reminds us that God cannot forget us’.
“On the Feast of the Assumption we pray to Our Lady for the protection of vulnerable and displaced populations in the Middle East. We pray for peace and healing for all those who suffer. I invite all parishes to join the ‘Christian Bells’ initiative, by ringing their local church bells for up to fifteen minutes, and thereby expressing solidarity with our fellow Christians suffering in the Middle. I also urge people to support this initiative on Facebook and on Twitter.”
In England and Wales, churches will ring their bells on Sunday, since the feast of the Assumption will be celebrated Sunday there and in many other countries.
The lead Bishop for International Affairs at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Bishop Declan Lang, will have the bells of his cathedral rung at 12.30 on Sunday as a mark of prayer, solidarity and support for persecuted Christians and all religious minorities across the Middle East.
Bishop Declan said he would be remembering all minority communities who are experiencing persecution. He invites people to pray for peace in the Middle East Region, and to remember all those who are refugees from their homeland.