The Roman Colosseum is set to be lit up in bright blood red to draw attention to the troubling issue and growing indifference towards Christian persecution around the world, especially in Syria and Iraq.
On February 24th at 6 p.m., the Colosseum will be spotlighted in blood red to represent the shed blood of Christians who have been injured or lost their lives because of religious persecution. In addition to the Colosseum, two prominent churches in both Aleppo and Mosul will be spotlighted. In Aleppo, the Saint Elijah Maronite Cathedral, and in Mosul, the Church of Saint Paul will be spotlighted.
Turning the lights on in Mosul, who only very recently celebrated their first Mass in the city on December 24th after its liberation from ISIS, means “means bringing back hope to Iraqi Christians who have suffered so much,” says Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako I.
The event is sponsored by global organization Aid to the Church in Need, and is designed to bring attention to the growing indifference towards the vast numbers of Christians being persecuted for holding steadfast in their Faith around the globe. Alfredo Mantovano, president of ACN-Italy, says the event is a condemnation of “the martyrdom suffered by our brothers and sisters,” with the intention “to involve them directly through two of the communities who have suffered the most in recent years, those of Syria and Iraq.”
The director of Aid to the Church in Need, Alessandro Monteduro, spoke on the specific symbolic nature of lighting up the Colosseum, referencing two girls persecuted for their faith:
“Illumination 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. She lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”
Around the globe, Christianity is one of if not the most oppressed religious faiths. In their bicentennial report, Aid to the Church in Need reported that Christianity is “the world’s most oppressed faith community” and in recent years persecution has reached “a new peak.”
Their report reviewed 13 countries, and found that in all but one, conditions for Christians from 2015-2017 was significantly worse than the prior two years. They mentioned that “the one exception is Saudi Arabia, where the situation was already so bad it could scarcely get any worse.”
With the report focusing mainly on the Middle East, they concluded saying that no Western governments nor the U.N. seems to have any inclination towards helping the thousands of brother and sisters persecuted for their faith.
“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. 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.”