The Colosseum on Feb. 24, 2018, will be lit up in red, always the symbol of Christian martyrdom, as will be the Maronite Cathedral of Saint Elias in Aleppo, Syria, and Saint Paul’s Church in Mosul, Iraq.
The initiative, made possible by Aid to the Church in Need, which has on various occasions lit in red the world’s most important monuments to denounce martyrdom and suffering of so many, was presented during a press conference in the Vatican on Feb. 7.
Louis Raphael I Sako, Patriarch of the Chaldean Church, told those present: “For us, light has a liturgical significance and to turn the light on Mosul means to take hope to Iraqi Christians who have suffered so much.”
Saint Paul’s Church, the Patriarch stressed, has an important value for Chaldeans, because the mortal remains rest there of the martyred Bishop, Monsignor Faraj Rahho, killed exactly 10 years ago at Mosul.
Thanking ACN for the initiative, Patriarch Sako said: “You are the voice of those that don’t have a voice. It’s very important, for the heroic Iraqi Christians that Western brothers mobilize to make the world aware of their suffering.”
Other important sites the pontifical foundation has turned red, include the Trevi Fountain, Westminster Palace in London, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, the Sacred Heart Basilica in Paris and Manila’s Cathedral.
The evening will witness the participation of eminent representatives of the Church, such as Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, ACN’s International President, and the Secretary General of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, next to authoritative institutional figures, such as the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, who will intervene in Rome on the stage set up in Largo Gaetana Agnesi, in front of the Colosseum.
Moreover, it was shared that Ashiq Masih and Eisham Ashiq, husband and one of the daughters of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Catholic woman sentenced to death and in prison since 2009, accused unjustly of having insulted the prophet Mohammed, will give witness that evening. Also a hostage of Boko Haram, Nigerian Rebecca Bitrus, will share her story.
In Mosul and Aleppo, there will be moments of prayer and spiritual union organized.
“Our intention,” said Alessandro Monteduro, President of Aid to the Church in Need, “is to defeat indifference, especially of the International Community, so that from February 24 no one can ignore the persecution of Christians,” as he presented the event that the papal foundation will organize this coming February 24 at 6 p.m. near Largo Gaetana Agnesi.
Since 2011, Aid to the Church in Need has financed projects for Iraq amounting to some 35.7 million euros, and in these months it continues to gather funds for the Project of Reconstruction of 13,000 houses damaged or destroyed by ISIS in the Christian villages of the Nineveh Plains. The estimated cost of this “Marshall Plan” for Iraq is over $250 million. Support for the Iraqi Christian minority represents a seed of hope for the population, scourged by the terrorism of Islamic matrix, but not only that. The reconstruction of the social fabric of the Nineveh Plains will also constitute a peaceful check against the spread of the politico-religious ideology of extremism, by no means eradicated, despite the military defeat of ISIS.
ACN for 70 years has supported the Church throughout the world and, in particular, where she is persecuted or deprived of means to fulfil her evangelizing mission.