Rome's Colosseum to Be Lit Red for Persecuted Christians

(Photo: REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)Iraqis attend the first Palm Sunday procession in the burnt out main church of the Christian city of Qaraqosh since Iraqi forces retook it from Islamic States militants, Iraq April 9, 2017.

The Roman Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, will be illuminated with red lights on Feb. 24 to raise the issue of the persecution of Christians around the world. Churches in Syria and Iraq will also be lit in red.

Sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need, the event involves illuminating the Colosseum, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral in Aleppo and the Church of St. Paul in Mosul, according to Crux Now.

The illumination of the Colosseum will have two symbolic figures, Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian mother on a death row for alleged blasphemy; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by the Boko Haram terror group along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third, according to director of ACN Alessandro Monteduro.

"One of the children was killed," Monteduro said, adding that she later decided she "could not hate those who caused her so much pain."

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was sentenced to death in 2010 on accusations of blasphemy.

In June 2009 while picking berries with a group of Muslim women in the town of Sheikhupura in the Punjab province, the women got upset that she drank from the same water bowl as them. An argument ensued, and the women went to police and accused her of saying something along the lines of "My Christ died for me, what did Muhammad do for you?" She was promptly arrested.

Pakistan's blasphemy laws, which are embedded in Sections 295 and 298 of the Pakistan Penal Code, carry the death penalty, and yet there is no provision to punish a false accuser or a false witness of blasphemy. Allegations of blasphemy often stem from the Muslim accuser's desire to take revenge and to settle petty, personal disputes, according to Christian groups working in the country.

The Church of St. Paul in Mosul celebrated the first Mass this past Dec. 24 after the city's liberation from the Islamic State terror group, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

Last year, London's Parliament building was also lit in red, as was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines.

"Red is the Christian color of martyrdom. Christians are the most persecuted faith group in today's world and #RedWednesday will honor all Christians who suffer and die for their faithfulness to Christ's message of peace and love," ACN said at the time. "#RedWednesday will shine a light on Christian persecution but also highlight the injustices perpetrated against other faith groups. Our campaign calls for respect and tolerance for people of faith and between different faith traditions."

Edward Clancy, ACNUSA director of outreach, told The Christian Post in an interview in October 2017 that the Middle East had seen drastic reductions in its Christian population.

"Iraq might very well have lost 80 percent of their native Christian people," Clancy told CP. "Syria might have lost 50 percent. This is compounded by the fact that Christian families have not been secure enough to have many children. The loss of population and the very low birth rate will put great pressure on the Christian communities."

Trump's administration announced earlier this year that it had renegotiated an agreement with the U.N. to ensure that vulnerable Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities victimized by IS in Iraq will get the U.N. assistance they were previously denied.