“Your resistance is martyrdom; it is the dew of fruitfulness” - ACN Exhibition in Rimini
by Marta Petrosillo
With a journey back in time through stories of religious persecution and the faces of their protagonists, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) is taking part in the ‘Meeting for friendship’ among peoples held from 19th – 25th August in Rimini, Italy. This event is put on every year by the “Comunione e Liberazione” (Communion and Liberation) movement. On 500 square metres of show space, Aid to the Church in Need is holding an exhibition bearing the title “Your resistance is martyrdom; it is the dew of fruitfulness”. The exhibition does not limit itself to stories of persecution in far-away lands, but also includes those taking place in the West, such as at the Bataclan in France.
The exhibition concludes with a realistic portrayal of three scenes of recent mass killings. They are dedicated to the children at the park in Lahore, Pakistan, where an attack was carried out on 27th March, the lecture hall at the University of Garissa in Kenya, where 148 Christian students were murdered on 2nd April 2015, as well as a table from the café in Dhaka in Bangladesh, where a mass killing took place on July 1st. On the wall over the three stages it says, “This can happen to anyone, anyplace, all because of their faith.”
(Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore visiting people wounded in the bomb blast on Easter Sunday at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Lahore © Catholic TV Pakistan)
On the stages, viewers are confronted with that which the victims experienced or could have experienced: the swings and slides from the playground on which the thirty children were playing at Easter before they were killed during the attack on Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park in Lahore, the thesis that Mary Muchire Shee, who had just been chosen Miss Garissa University, will never be able to write because her life was destroyed together with that of other students who did not know the verses of the Koran, as well as a menu from the Café Holey Artisan in Dhaka, which was opened by the victims before they were killed because they were considered “infidels”.
Three more stages have been set up along the opposite wall to show Aid to the Church in Need’s answer to this persecution with three examples of projects that are linked to the attacks.
In contrast to that which, as in Lahore, destroys the lives of the innocent, Aid to the Church in Need is sowing the seeds of faith in the hearts of children through its Children’s Bible. The illustrated Bible was translated into 180 languages. Just under 52 million copies have been distributed worldwide. Aid to the Church in Need has put a selection of translations into 137 languages from five continents on exhibit in Rimini.
(A little girl with an Arabic version of ACN’s Child´s bible "God speaks to his children" that was distributed in food packages distributed at Christmas time to the Christian refugees in northern Iraq © Aid to the Church in Need)
The answer to the students murdered in Garissa are the more than 11 000 future priests who receive training each year thanks to funding from Aid to the Church in Need. About 35% of them are Africans. Thousands of “Fighters for the Faith” are represented by a desk covered with holy texts that the pontifical foundation is putting on exhibit during the days of the meeting.
Finally, the response to the mass killing in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is a strengthening of the local Christian community. This is represented by the building of a church in Harintana. Thanks to the support of the foundation and the family of Simona Monti, one of the victims of the massacre, a church is being built there that will be dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel. A depiction of the altar is on exhibit in Rimini. The chalices and church paraments are also a gift to the Bengali Christian minority as a response to fundamentalist barbarity.
Beyond the three stages, exhibition visitors will pass through a “Tunnel of Memories” to ensure that they will not forget the many Christian martyrs who have been killed out of hatred for the faith: Fr. Jacques Hamel in France, Fr. Andrea Santoro in Turkey, Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan as well as little Emmanuel Dike, who was killed during Holy Mass on Christmas in Madalla, Nigeria.
The pictures and scenes are intended to compel visitors to reflect upon that which thousands of Christians all over the world are experiencing today. Prominent guides will be there to answer questions and inquiries from visitors: clergy and believers from the persecuted church in such countries as Syria, Iraq or Pakistan. They will share their stories with visitors and talk about the suffering of their congregations during the exhibition days.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
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