To express solidarity with persecuted Christians, including Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman recently acquitted of blasphemy, the city of Venice was illuminated in red light Tuesday night.
In a message of support for the initiative, Pope Francis said the event “will draw the due attention of all to the serious problem of discrimination that Christians suffer in many parts of the world.”
“There are countries where a religion is imposed, others where there is violent persecution or systematic cultural mockery towards the disciples of Jesus!” he said.
Starting after dark Nov. 20, eight historic Venetian buildings, as well as the Rialto Bridge and the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, were lit up in the color red to bring awareness to the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.
The same evening, young people from the Archdiocese of Venice made a walking pilgrimage through the city to pray for persecuted Christians.
The event, sponsored by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), follows a similar initiative in February, when the Colosseum was illuminated.
In 2017, ACN also illuminated in red London’s Parliament building, as well as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris and the cathedral in Manila, Philippines. The year before, the famous Trevi Fountain in Rome was lit.
From Nov. 21-Nov. 28, other major landmarks in the cities of Montreal, Toronto, Paris, Barcelona, London, Sydney, and Washington, DC will also be illuminated in red for an evening.
This year’s initiative, organized in conjunction with the city of Venice and the Patriarch of Venice Francesco Moraglia, is being put on in a particular way for Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi.
The mother-of-five was acquitted of blasphemy charges by Pakistan’s Supreme Court Oct. 31. However, her life is still in danger, as the ruling is under government review as part of a deal to appease groups that were leading riots in the streets.
Bibi had spent eight years on death row in Pakistan after she was accused of blasphemy for making disparaging remarks about the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Bibi’s family has asked that she be granted asylum in the United States, the United Kingdom, or in other countries around Europe. Italy has offered to help Bibi obtain asylum.