Can you spare an hour to pray for the suffering Church and for people around the world who are being persecuted for their religious beliefs?
The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is staging a Prayer Vigil for Religious Freedom at the Metropolitan Cathedral on Friday 6 February (7.30pm). The vigil, which will last around 90 minutes, will be hosted jointly by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon and will feature a talk from Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of ACN UK, who will speak about recent visits to projects supported by ACN in countries including Lebanon and Ukraine.
The Cathedral vigil is one of a series of 18 taking place across the north-west in the weeks running up to Easter to mark the publication of ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World 2014 report, launched in the House of Lords last November. The vigils are being held around the five Dioceses of the north-west and North Wales, each comprising informative talks, scriptural readings, guided prayer and silent reflection to foster compassion and prayer for those undergoing discrimination and persecution simply for attempting to maintain their faith in a hostile environment.
The Religious Freedom report, published every two years by CAN, is compiled by academics, foreign correspondents and other experts, and is regularly consulted by journalists, politicians and policy-makers the world over. Assessing the situation in 196 countries worldwide, the 2014 Report concludes that there has been a serious decline in religious tolerance throughout the world. It calculates that nearly 60% of countries have experienced some degree of violations against religious freedom over the period 2012-14, with 20 countries labelled as ‘high’ offenders in terms of limiting religious freedom (among them Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, China and Pakistan).
We in western Europe are also experiencing a notable decline in religious freedom; as the religious and cultural demographics of our society develop and change, many living in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe experience intolerance of their personal religious beliefs and practices in an increasingly secular society. More information about the Religious Freedom in the World 2014 Report – including a link to individual accounts of levels of religious freedom in each of the countries assessed – can be found on ACN’s website (www.acnuk.org). Executive summaries of the report will be available to those who attend any of the upcoming vigils.
Please join Archbishop Malcolm at the Metropolitan Cathedral vigil to reflect on the current state of affairs regarding religious freedom and to pray together for greater religious understanding and tolerance both here at home and elsewhere in the world.
There are two further vigils scheduled within Liverpool Archdiocese: St Mary’s, Chorley (Sunday 8 March, 3pm) and St John’s, Wigan (Friday 13 March, 7.30pm).