Today, for the second year running, the Houses of Parliament will be floodlit red in support of #RedWednesday, an initiative by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), in partnership with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), that aims to put religious freedom on the public agenda and to encourage people to stand up for faith and freedom.
Throughout the day, a bright red Faith and Freedom bus will be visiting churches that are supporting #RedWednesday, and this evening, there will be a procession with Christians carrying the cross across Westminster Bridge and into Westminster Cathedral ahead of a special service.
It’s a flurry of campaigning and colour, but why does it matter?
1. Religious freedom is under threat worldwide
We're facing a serious problem that’s getting worse. All over the world, Christians and other religious minorities face challenges ranging from everyday discrimination to harassment, imprisonment, threats of violence and even death. Red is the theme for the day that recognises the high price that so many pay simply for following their faith.
The scale and extent of religious freedom violations taking place on a daily basis around the world is vastly under-reported. According to the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom, the state of international religious freedom is worsening in both the depth and breadth of violations. Its new report states: "the blatant assaults have become so frightening—attempted genocide, the slaughter of innocents, and wholesale destruction of places of worship—that less egregious abuses go unnoticed or at least unappreciated."
2. We must stand in solidarity with the suffering
#RedWednesday is a way of expressing solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world and defend the right of every person to be able to choose, change and practise their religion.
For the Houses of Parliament to light up red in recognition of this serious issue sends a powerful message that freedom of religion or belief should be on the agenda of policymakers who can make a difference. It’s an important symbolic act and one that will be replicated by Lambeth Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral, London’s Westminster Cathedral and other cathedrals and churches around the country.
3. It demonstrates Christian unity
The bright red Faith and Freedom bus is travelling around London raising awareness of this issue and stopping off at various churches that are supporting #RedWednesday. Tonight there will be a procession with Christians carrying the cross across Westminster Bridge and into Westminster Cathedral for a service to pray for our brothers and sisters who are under pressure globally. They will be Christians from different denominations and different parts of the world, united in one voice.
Unity matters. Today we are demonstrating that we are members of one family, and that as the Bible states of the Church as one body: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Corinthians 12:26)
By praying, campaigning and speaking out together we can ensure that a worsening state of international religious freedom is put on the public agenda and take a stand for faith and freedom for all - defending the right of every person to be able to choose, change and practise their religion.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice. They are calling for Christians to join them in prayer for the persecuted church today, use the hashtag #RedWednesday and write to their MP about why freedom of religion or belief matters. For more information visit csw.org.uk