Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:10
According to the Catholic News Agency, the Trevi Fountain will be dyed red on the evening of on April 29 “in recognition of all Christians who even today give their life for the faith.”
The Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need has organized the event to “call attention to the drama of anti-Christian persecution.” Vatican Cardinal Mauro Piacenza will introduce the ceremony, which will feature testimony from Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, as well as other witnesses to Christian massacres in Yemen, Pakistan, Turkey and Kenya.
In a statement posted on their website, the group said they hope this program will create “a long-lasting, concrete reaction everywhere so that the persecuted people of the 21st century can return as soon as possible to fully enjoying their natural right to religious freedom.”
The Italian daily Il Giornale noted that there are 150 million persecuted Christians throughout the world, “a genocide that too often silent Western institutions refuse to recognize.”
The organizers added that “the systematic violation of the right to religious freedom, especially that of Christians, must become the central issue of the public debate.”
The year 2015 saw “the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” according to a watchdog organization that has been monitoring Christian persecution for decades.
Open Doors, an organization founded in 1955 to assist persecuted Christians, publishes an annual “World Watch List,” reporting on attacks against Christians and ranking the most hostile national environments for believers.
“The 2016 World Watch List documents an unprecedented escalation of violence against Christians, making this past year the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” Open Doors CEO David Curry said at the rollout of the list.
Persecution in “continuing to increase, intensify and spread across the globe,” he said.
Pope Francis has spoken frequently during his papacy on modern-day martyrs. On April 7, the Pope called martyrs “the lifeblood of the Church.”
“It is the witness of our martyrs of today – so many! – chased out of their homeland, driven away, having their throats cut, persecuted: they have the courage to confess Jesus even to the point of death,” he said.
In his Good Friday ceremony of the Stations of the Cross last month, the Pope denounced the global persecution of Christians, who are still “killed, burned alive, throats slit, and beheaded with barbarous blades amid cowardly silence.”
The ceremony was held in the iconic setting of the Roman Coliseum, a symbol for many of the earliest Christian persecutions and martyrdom.
Francis underscored the evil of these atrocities, carried out in the name of God and religion.
“O Cross of Christ, we still see you today in the fanaticism and terrorism of the followers of a religion who profane the name of God and use it to justify their unprecedented violence,” in evident reference to the Islamist terrorists behind much Christian persecution today.
According to the biblical account of the plagues of Egypt, God commanded Moses and Aaron to turn the Nile and all the waters of Egypt to blood, as a sign to Pharaoh. “Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone,” God tells Moses.
Yet despite this sign, Pharaoh’s heart was “hardened” and the persecution of God’s people continued.