A red wave swept over the Czech Republic. Tens of events around the country commemorated people persecuted for their faith

More than 80 initiatives to support religious freedom took place in towns and communities around the Czech Republic as part of Red Wednesday (#RedWednesday) on November 27, 2019. Local churches, religious communities and other organizations, including the Prague local government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, were all involved in the event. In the Czech Republic, the Red Wednesday international initiative is organized by the Czech Bishops' Conference (CBC), the Ecumenical Council of Churches (ECC) and the Federation of Jewish Communities (FJC).
Published: 28. 11. 2019 10:00

“I am greatly pleased that this initiative met with such a response and that non-religious organizations were involved in it as well.It shows that society is not indifferent to the problem of religious freedom.I take it as a positive sign and motivation to support people suffering for their faith and convictions,”said Stanislav Přibyl, CBC General Secretary.

An international conference entitled Problems of Religious Freedom in Europe kicked off the program’s main events in Prague in the Karolinum. The conference was organized by the Institute for Christian Democratic Politics (ICDP).Its participants included leaders such as David Rosen, Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee in Jerusalem and Martin Kugler, Director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe.

“In the past two years we have focused on religious freedom in the Third World.This year we decided to sweep before our own door.If we want the foundations of our civilization, which are Jewish and Christian, to be in order, we must make sure that everything is in order with religious freedom in Europe.That is because religious freedom is the litmus test of the relationship between the state and human rights in general," said ICDP director Pavel Svoboda at the start of the conference.

The conference concluded with a joint Jewish-Christian prayer in the great hall of the Karolinum, which was led by Charles Daniel Balvo, Apostolic Nuncio, Rabbi David Rosen and Daniel Ženatý, Head of the ECC.

“Pope Francis says that freedom of conscience and religious freedom are inseparably linked to human dignity.In this respect it is necessary to constantly look beyond the horizon of mere tolerance to respect and esteem for others.This leads to coming together with others, including accepting their different religious beliefs.We can work together in the search for different paths,” Balvo emphasized.

After the prayer, roughly 150 people gathered in front of the Karolinum building. Carrying red candles, they set off through the streets of Prague on a march in support of those persecuted for their religious beliefs.The path led past red-illuminated buildings, from the Karolinum to the Church of St.  Havel and on to the Old Town Church of St.Nicholas and the Old New Synagogue.There, Rabbi Rosen concluded the gathering, singing an elegy for the deceased in front of the synagogue.

Besides other churches around Prague, the Petřín Lookout Tower and the Černín Palace building were illuminated with red lights.Outside of Prague, approximately 35 sacred buildings were also illuminated, including the Premonstratensian Monastery in Milevsko, Olomouc’s St. Wenceslas Cathedraland the Church of All Saints in Litoměřice, among others.Several church schools were also involved in the event.

Around the world, Red Wednesday (#RedWednesday) is remembered primarily in Great Britain, where this initiative was started in 2016 at the impulse of the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN International).In Europe, churches and religious communities in Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal and Hungary have joined the initiative.This year, communities in the USA, Canada, Australia and the Philippines also participated in the initiative.

Find out more at www.cervenastreda.cz and www.facebook.com/cervenastreda. 

The Red Wednesday initiative took place with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic.

Tomáš Tetiva

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