“In many western countries – even here in Ireland – to publicly espouse Christian ideals can lead to ridicule, insult and aggression”, an Irish bishop has lamented.

Driving the news

Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh Michael Router was speaking in a homily at a Mass November 24, the Feast of Christ the King, that served as the launch for the Irish Bishops’ ‘Week of Witness’ for persecuted Christians.

The ‘Week’ is “an invitation to Christians across the island of Ireland to stand in solidarity with, and bear witness to the heroic example of, our persecuted brothers and sisters in faith across the world”, according to a press release.

From today until December 1, Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will hold talks and exhibitions across the island on the theme of the worldwide persecution of Christians.

ACN has also organised a ‘Red Wednesday Prayer Vigil’ for November 27, “to pray not just for persecuted Christians – but also for the persecutors of Christians”.

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In his sermon Bishop Router said the ‘Week of Witness’ is “a week to remember the martyrs of yesterday and today”.

“The persecution and martyrdom of Christians is not just an historical footnote but something that is very real today and will, continue into the future”.

“Christians are the most persecuted religious grouping in the world at present”, Router decried, citing Pew Research Centre figures that reflect that Christians suffer persecution and harassment in 143 of the 195 countries around the world.

Why it matters

The Armagh auxiliary bishop said a key reason Christians suffer “intimidation and discrimination” around the world “is because the Christian Churches challenge the systems of injustice, oppression and brute force that exist”.

“True Christianity has always stood for the rights of everyone particularly the basic rights that come before all else; the right to life, the right to food and shelter, the right to education.

“Often in defending these rights Christians have had to stand against the powerful, the wealthy and the tyrannical and have suffered as a result”.

Decrying the persecution of Christians in countries such as North Korea, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, or Pakistan that have seen 4,305 Christians lose their lives for their faith since 2017, Router warned oppression can also happen closer to home.

In the face of that mistreatment, we Christians “are all called to be witnesses and to take on a kind of martyrdom in standing up for what we believe in and what we know is right and just”, the bishop urged, before calling on the “strength and courage” of the saints “to live the Christian faith in an increasingly hostile world”.

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