As World Youth Day kicks off, ACN champions cause of persecuted Christians worldwide


null / Credit: ACN

CNA Newsroom, Aug 1, 2023 / 11:00 am (CNA).

As World Youth Day (WYD) kicks off in Lisbon, Portugal, this week, the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is launching several initiatives to raise awareness of Christian persecution worldwide. The aim is to encourage pilgrims and participants to actively support the suffering Church in their own countries.

Catarina Martins de Bettencourt, the national director of ACN’s national office in Portugal, stated in a July 25 press release: “We aim to enlighten as many WYD participants as possible about the reality of the persecuted Church worldwide, which unfortunately remains unknown to many.”

The ACN team in Lisbon has been busy with preparations, rallying volunteers, preparing materials for exhibitions, and finalizing plans for the event. “This is a unique opportunity, and we don’t want to waste it,” Martins de Bettencourt said. “Participating in an event as significant as WYD is not an everyday occurrence, and for ACN, we are treating it as a significant responsibility.”

Throughout the weeklong festival of the faith, ACN will host several events under the title “Heroes in Faith.” These events aim to highlight the reality of the persecuted Church in the world and the testimonies of faith that the organization receives from countries where religious freedom is absent.

The head of ACN Portugal stated: “Our goal is to invite each person who visits our booth, the exhibitions and conferences we will be holding, and also the films we will be projecting, to delve deeper into the subject of Christian persecution.”

One of the main venues for these initiatives will be the Martyrs Basilica in the Chiado neighborhood. Here, ACN will hold an exhibition featuring Christian artifacts desecrated in Iraq during the occupation by Islamic State jihadists. The exhibition aims to showcase the brutal experiences of the country’s Christians.

The basilica will also host a conference with testimony from two Christians: Joseph Fadelle, an Iraqi convert from Shia Islam who was arrested, tortured, and forced to flee the country, and Rafi Ghattas, a Palestinian Christian from the Holy Land who will speak about the experience of his community, which currently makes up only 1% of the population.

In addition, ACN Portugal has organized a photography exhibition in the cloisters of the old Graça convent that portrays the persecuted Church in the world through personal stories of men and women from different countries who have been examples of faithfulness to Jesus in the face of adversity.

Another initiative being prepared by ACN for World Youth Day is the showing of several documentaries about the lives of people whose faith is tested every day. These will be on exhibition at the São Jorge cinema.

“We hope to be able to plant a seed in their hearts, a desire to also take part in this mission of helping and standing in solidarity with persecuted Christians and the Church in Need,” Martins de Bettencourt added.

This article was originally published on ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa. It has been adapted by CNA.

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