By Michael J Robinson
More than 1,000 young people from across Scotland took part in a youth rally Thursday, standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with those who are persecuted and oppressed for their religious faith.
The event, involving 26 Catholic schools, was organised by the Scottish office of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity for persecuted and oppressed Christians.
The focus of the day in Carfin Grotto, Motherwell, was to raise awareness, encourage prayer, and take action in support of the persecuted Church.
The keynote speaker was Sarmad Ozan, who fled Mosul, northern Iraq, after it was seized by Daesh (ISIS) in the summer of 2014.
“In 2014 ISIS invaded many cities, including my city Mosul with the ambitions to destroy all minorities, including Christians and to create an Islamic state in Iraq,” Ozan said. “One day we woke up and noticed a letter ‘N’ was marked above all our doors which stands for Nazareans, signifying the house within are Christians.
“In addition, there was a marking stating ‘This is now the property of ISIS.’ We were all terrified and then, as we walked around the city, we saw that it was barricaded and surrounded by ISIS military.”
Bishop John Keenan of Paisley read out a personal message from Pope Francis, thanking the young people: “…for their prayers and solidarity with all Christians who suffer persecution throughout the world”.
ACN called on attendees to show the Scottish Government that young people want to stand up for religious freedom.
Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Equalities on behalf of the Scottish Government, offered a message of support and thanks to the young people in attendance: “The Scottish Government strongly condemns all persecution on the basis of religion or belief.”
Constance added: “I hope that you enjoy today’s rally and thank you for your commitment to promoting religious freedom around the world.”
Event organiser Lorraine McMahon, ACN’s Head of Operations in Scotland, said: “The atmosphere at the youth rally was incredible and we are very pleased with the turn-out and participation of all involved.
“Christian persecution is a human rights issue and one that needs to be recognised more by the media and parliament.”
Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)