By Emily Drooby
17,000 red lights and 2,500 red bows adorn the Diocese of Brooklyn’s 2019 Christmas tree as a nod to Christians who have been victimized for their beliefs.
“When you go to Mass in Pakistan on Sunday, you don’t know if you’re going to come back,” explained Crux’s Rome Bureau Chief, Inés San Martín as she spoke about the issue of Christian persecution plaguing the globe.
Christians are facing violence in countries like Pakistan, Syria and Sri Lanka.
“There are 300 million people who live in places where saying that word — ‘Christmas’ or ‘Christ’ — could be potentially dangerous,” said Ed Clancy, the Director of Outreach and Evangelization for Aid to the Church in Need, one of the biggest organizations assisting persecuted Christians.
The world-wide issue has been growing. In 2014, it affected 108 countries. By 2017, it had spread to 143 countries.
“This is all over the world…It’s not exclusive to the areas of the hot spot-talk about in the Middle East, South America, or in Asia, it’s happening in a lot of places,” explained Clancy.
It’s not just from Islamic Extremists: Christians around the world are facing all different types of persecution.
Persecution happens in China, where the government closely monitors religion.
Persecution also happens in Mexico and South America, where religious leaders tend to clash with criminals.
“Priests tend to be the only thing between drug dealers and the youth, so priests are killed but most of them are constantly threatened, have their parishes attacked,” explained San Martín.
“They are heroes, they are martyrs, they are people of faith that we should revere and really constantly keep in our prayer, their sacrifices,” said Mario Paredes, a longtime leader in the Hispanic-American community.
This year, Aid to the Church in Need is asking everyone to place a red ribbon on their Christmas tree as a reminder of those who face persecution for their faith.