International day for persecuted Christians

1207international_neville-kyrke-smith.jpgBy John Pontifex
THE UK Director of a leading Catholic charity has backed Vatican calls for an international day in support of Christians oppressed for their faith.
Neville Kyrke-Smith, from Aid to the Church in Need, praised an address by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, in which he proposed the international day initiative as “an important sign that governments are willing to deal with this serious issue”.
Speaking at a conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held yesterday and today in Vilnius, Lithuania, Archbishop Mamberti said that up to 200 million Christians were suffering today as a result of “legal and cultural structures that lead to their discrimination”.
He also said: “The right to religious freedom, despite being repeatedly proclaimed by the international community, as well as in the constitutions of most States, continues to be widely violated today.”
Responding to the archbishop’s address, Mr Kyrke-Smith said: “We in the West are used to defending animal rights, the rights of people with disabilities, the equality of women, the need to respect ethnic and cultural diversity. And rightly so.
“But there is a deafening silence in the face of widespread reports of persecution in many parts of the world – especially against Christians.
“Again and again, the cry for help that comes to us at Aid to the Church in Need from the suffering Church demonstrates the vital need for every government to make religious rights a priority for all.”
The Vatican’s support for the international day for persecuted Christians comes after Pope Benedict XVI stated in his January 2011 World Day of Peace message that Christians “are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith”.
Later that month, Aid to the Church in Need published its Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith (2011) detailing and assessing acts of violence and intimidation against the faithful in more than 30 countries.
The Persecuted and Forgotten? report quotes statistics showing that at least 75 percent of all religious persecution was directed at Christians.
The Middle East was a central focus of the Persecuted and Forgotten? report and concern about the plight of Christians in the region has escalated in response to political and economic turmoil stemming from the Arab Spring.
In his statement supporting the international day for persecuted Christians initiative, Mr Kyrke-Smith stated: “Particularly in the light of the worrying fall-out from the Arab Spring, this call by Archbishop Mamberti is in itself an important sign that our brothers and sisters in Christ are not forgotten.”

Editor’s Notes

Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.

While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.

For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161.