BY Dan McGinty | December 9 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Schoolgirls lead way in calling for action to support the world’s persecuted Christians

TWO Catholic schoolgirls from Airdrie last week urged politicians to do more to support persecuted Christians across the world.

To mark the publication of Aid to the Church in Need’s new report into the persecution of Christians around the world, Emily McPate and Briony McDavitt from St Margaret’s Secondary went to Holyrood to present the report to the Scottish government. The pupils were representing the hundreds of young people who gathered in Carfin Grotto in June for the Aid to the Church in Need Scotland second annual youth rally. Centred on the theme ‘Standing up for Faith and Freedom,’ students from Catholic high schools around Scotland attended, including Emily and Briony.

In preparation for the rally, students all over Scotland signed a petition in direct response to article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which called on the Scottish government to stand with ACN Scotland in promoting Faith and freedom around the world through prayer, solidarity and interfaith dialogue.

More than 2,000 signatures were gathered and Emily and Briony represented all of the students who were present at the ACN Youth Rally as the petition was given to Dr Alisdair Allan MSP, the Scottish government Minister for International Development and Europe.

Lorraine McMahon, head of ACN operations in Scotland, spoke of the message being sent by the young people of Scotland. “It is important that our youth know that they, as individuals and together, can make a difference in our world, that they have a voice in their country and government ministers will listen; that we all have to awaken our conscience and we cannot be indifferent to the fact that there are those in our world who are being denied the human right to religious freedom,” she said.

The support of young Scottish Catholics for Aid to the Church in Need continued with a special Mass to pray for religious freedom in the world, celebrated by Bishop Joseph Toal, in Our Lady of Good Aid Cathedral, Motherwell.

Mass was attended by ACN benefactors and nine high schools in Motherwell Diocese, all of which had representatives taking part in the service, with music provided by Taylor High School in New Stevenson.

The Mass and subsequent talks were to mark the launch of Aid to the Church in Need’s report on Religious Freedom in the World, 2016.

John Pontifex, editor-in-chief of the report and head of press and information at ACN UK, highlighted the latest findings from around the world, focusing on the countries that suffered most from persecution.

Fr Andrzej Halemba, ACN’s head of projects in Asia and Africa, was present to speak as an eyewitness to the tragic situation in Iraq and Syria.

“Our charity is writing the martyrology of this age,” Fr Halemba said. “Not in some scholar’s study, but as a living eyewitness, and hence with the greatest sympathy and deepest emotion.”

Mass was followed by the visit to the Scottish Parliament, when Aid to the Church in Need in Scotland, along with John Mason MSP, hosted a drop-in session to present the report to MSPs. This was attended by several MSPs, including Dr Alisdair Allan, who listened as John Pontifex presented a summary of the report and Fr Halemba raised his concerns and gave an eyewitness account of the tragic situation in Syria and Iraq.

“The Scottish Government believes in equality for all people—whoever they are, wherever they are from and whatever they believe,” Dr Allan said. “Our aim is that Scotland should be a place where people from all backgrounds can live and raise their families in peace and where people of all faiths and none can follow their religion or belief and achieve their potential.”


—This story ran in full in the December 9 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.


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