The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in Whitehall was among the public buildings lit in red on 23 November, as the UK marked the plight of persecuted Christians on Red Wednesday.
In Westminster Hall, MPs met the Bishop of Ondo, Jude Arogundade, whose Nigerian diocese includes St Francis Xavier’s Church where 41 worshippers were killed by Islamist militants during Pentecost Mass on 4 June this year.
Bishop Arogundade asked the UK government to intervene on behalf of Nigerian Christians.
An Aid to the Church in Need petition, supported by 15 parliamentarians, has called on the government to act on this persecution. A report published by the charity on 16 November, Persecuted and Forgotten? warned that evidence of violence towards Christians in Nigeria “clearly passes the threshold of genocide” and that the country “teeters on the brink of becoming a failed state”.
More than 7,600 Christians were killed in Nigeria between January 2021 and June 2022. Globally, the report found that persecution of Christians had increased in three-quarters of the countries surveyed.
The Bishop of Clifton, Declan Lang, who chairs the international affairs department of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, welcomed the report.
“I encourage fellow Catholics to share this report with their local MP,” he said. “I also urge Catholics in England and Wales to join me in prayer for our sisters and brothers who have been affected by human rights abuses and for all those working for change.”
Marking Red Wednesday itself, Bishop Tom Neylon, an auxiliary in the Archdiocese of Liverpool and the bishops’ conference’s lead on Asia, noted Pope Francis’s emphasis “that freedom of conscience and religious freedom are inseparably linked to our innate dignity” and “that this is not limited to freedom of worship alone, but the right of all to live in accordance with their religious convictions”.
In his pastoral letter for the first Sunday of Advent, the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Mark Davies, cited the “daily threat” to Christians described in Persecuted and Forgotten?
“Their brave witness reminds us of what brings us together, Sunday by Sunday in the face of perhaps trivial difficulties and inconveniences,” he said, emphasising the importance of the sacraments at Advent.
“Remembering today those Christians who will begin Advent at personal risk and exposed to violence, may your example with its own quiet heroism help many to find in the Church Christ founded the sure road to everlasting happiness,” he told his diocese’s congregations.