March 14 is #MyFreedomDay – a CNN day-long Freedom Project which is a student-driven event to raise awareness of Modern Slavery.
CNN Freedom Project for #MyFreedomDay is being held on March 14, 2018. Throughout this day, students around the world will take part in activities within their schools and communities, to raise awareness about human trafficking. They were asked to celebrate freedom and speak up for those who are unable to. As a student, it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do something!
What does freedom mean to you? We take it for granted while others can only dream of it. This is what #MyFreedomDay highlights.
Rome’s Colosseum turned red to remember persecuted Christians.
The event is meant to draw the world’s attention to those who have suffered for practicing their faith.
Rome’s ancient Colosseum was lit in red on February 24th, 2018 in solidarity with persecuted Christians, particularly Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian condemned to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.” The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), was held in conjunction with similar events at several churches in Syria and Iraq, including the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral in Aleppo and the Church of St. Paul in Mosul.
Hundreds gathered on a rainy night outside the Roman amphitheatre that is a symbol of the martyrdom of early Christians to hear the husband and daughter of Asia Bibi. The Catholic woman has been living on death row in Pakistan since 2010, when she was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbors objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim. Human rights groups such as Amnesty International say the blasphemy law is increasingly exploited by religious extremists as well as ordinary Pakistanis to settle personal scores. “The aim of the blasphemy laws is to crush people who believe differently,” Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary-general of the Italian bishops conference, told the gathering. The law does not define blasphemy and evidence might not be reproduced in court for fear of committing a fresh offense. There are no penalties for false accusations. Asia Bibi’s case drew international attention after the murder of two politicians who tried to intervene on her behalf.
At the Rome gathering, her husband Ashiq Masih said his wife was innocent of blasphemy. “This is just hate against Christians, who are considered impure,” he said. The husband and daughter, who broke down in tears as she addressed the group, were earlier received by Pope Francis, who told her: “I think often of your mother and I pray for her”.
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, who has been tipped as a possible Italian prime minister said that persecution of Christians was “a genocide”. “A message must be sent from this place. It is the duty of Europe to defend these values (of religious liberty) wherever on earth they are trampled on,” Tajani said.
Rebecca Bitrus, a Nigerian Christian woman who was held for two years after she was abducted by Boko Haram Islamist militants, told of how she was repeatedly beaten and raped. “One of the children was killed,” Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN Italy, said that: “she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.” Once she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain,” Monteduro said.
During the event, organised by the Catholic group “Aid to the Church in Need,” there were live link-ups with Aleppo, Syria and Mosul, Iraq, both of whose minority Christian populations have been hit hard by wars.
Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution. It is in this context that the Report concludes that in 12 of the 13 countries reviewed, the situation for Christians was worse in overall terms in the period 2015-17 than within the preceding two years. Estimates for the number of Christians worldwide who suffered some form of persecution for their faith in 2016 range from some 200,000 to as many as 600,000,” the report said.
“Governments in the West and the U.N. failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway,” the report said. “If Christian organizations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East,” it concluded.
What does freedom mean to you? We take it for granted while others can only dream of it.
Today let us remember Asian Bibi, Rebecca and all the millions like them in slavery. We can pray for them and reach out to them in any way that is possible for us today and everyday.