St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica in Toronto is illuminated by red lights for Red Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022. Red Wednesday is an annual commemoration for persecuted Christians around the globe. Michael Swan

Red Wednesday highlights Christian persecution worldwide

  • November 15, 2023

Aid to the Church in Need marked Red Wednesday Nov. 15, drawing attention to the worldwide plight of Christians suffering as religious persecution and intimidation of religious minorities becomes a daily occurrence in Canadian cities.

At press time for The Register, St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto and Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal were to be illuminated in red during the evening, as were two major shrines of Our Lady of the Cape Shrine in Cap-de-la-Madeleine and Saint-Joseph’s in Montreal.

Masses were planned for both cathedrals, presided by Archbishop Francis Leo in Toronto and Archbishop Christian Lépine in Montreal. 

Marie-Claude Lalonde, national director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Canada, emphasized the universal welcome for the Masses and the possibility of viewing the celebrations on Salt + Light TV. 

Red Wednesday, now in its eighth year, was conceived in 2015 by ACN Brazil. That year, the imposing statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro was bathed in red light. 

Since then, the pontifical organization’s event has become international in scope with over 20 countries involved and the Red Wednesday message, “let us act on behalf of persecuted Christians,” taken up by Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches.

Mario Bard, director of communications for ACN Canada, told The Catholic Register that “the movement is growing and has awakened a sensitivity to the matter of persecutions of Christians.”

Bard points to the recently released ACN Religious Freedom Report that states that 75 per cent of those persecuted for their faith are Christian.

This is partly due to “the identity itself,” said Bard, “but also the work that they do, as doing the social work of the Church is something that can put one in danger.”

Bard cites Sr. Dorothy Stang as one example of a Christian who was martyred because of the “work of the Church.” Stang, a religious sister and activist, was killed in 2005 because of her work for environmental and worker rights in Amazonia.

The forward to the Religious Freedom Report is written by Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narváez Argoty, a Franciscan religious sister, who in 2017 was abducted and held for five years as a captive in Mali.

“From my mission work in a Muslim environment and sharing a good part of my captivity with two women, one Muslim and the other Protestant,” wrote Sr. Gloria, “I learned that if we love, accept and respect one another, we can live as brothers and sisters and that acceptance does not mean giving up one’s beliefs, for true respect is about listening, welcoming and acknowledging everyone for who they are.” 

“I would really underline what Sr. Gloria said here,” said Bard. “She is a model for us. This is something one could find naïve, but though she experienced something very traumatic, she came out of it stronger.”

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