A teddy bear, a diploma, a menu – items owned, achieved and touched by Christians who were brutally killed in attacks this year – are on display in an exhibit aimed at drawing people into a visceral experience of the persecuted faithful.
The display was created by the Italian branch of Aid to the Church in Need at the ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation’s annual meeting in Rimini from Aug. 19-25.
A swing and a small carousel for children, six university desks, and a restaurant table set represent the three most recent scenarios where the anti-Christian persecution reached a peak: the suicide attack on Easter Sunday in a park in Lahore, that resulted in 72 deaths and 280 injured; the April 2 Garissa University massacre in Kenya, with a toll of 149 Christian students assassinated; the July 1st attack in a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The relics of the martyrdom are also significant: the exhibit will show the teddy bear of one of the 30 children killed in Lahore; the graduation certificate that Muchire Shee was not able to complete, as she was killed in Garissa; the menu of the Holey Artisan Bakery of Dhaka the victims browsed before being held as hostages, tortured and assassinated.
Visitors will will also pass through “a tunnel of martyrs,” a dark space that will show images and audio of nine of the martyrs of our time. Among those, Fr. Jacques Hamel, the 85-year-old priest recently assassinated in Rouen; Fr. Andrea Santoro, the Italian priest killed in Turkey in 2006; Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani ministry for Religious Minorities killed in 2011 because of his opposition to local blasphemy laws.
There will be also living testimonies of the Christian persecution taking place all over the world.
Seven witnesses will be present at the exhibit, to testimonies visitors the situation of Christians in their countries: Msgr. Mtanios Haddad will talk about the situation in Syria; Professor Shaheed Mobeen will provide details of the situation in Pakistan; Fr. Issa E.H. Abusada will discuss the Holy Land; the plight of Christians in Iraq will be recounted by Fr. Rebwar Basa.
Fr. Herman Tanguy will talk about the Central African Republic, a land that was blessed by Pope Francis’ visit last November while enduring a difficult and long term political situation. Fr. Martino Serrano will provide updates on the peace process in Colombia, while Fr. Olekasandr Khalayin will talk about the “forgotten conflict” in the Ukraine, that Pope Francis recently brought under the spotlights with the promotion of an extraordinary collection for the Ukraine Apr. 24.
Talking to CNA, Fr. Basa underscored that what is going in Iraq must be called a “genocide” as “our houses were seized and labeled with the ‘N’ of Nazarene; our churches have been turned into mosques, or into military headquarters or even in places where women are sold, raped and treated like slaves; many of our faithful were attacked and killed, or kidnapped and tortured and liberated after a very high ransom; many of us were assassinated for the only reason that they were wearing a cross.”
In the end, he said, “there is a serious attempt to cancel everything that links us to our land: our language, religious identity, places of worship, properties, traditions, culture, liturgy, monuments, manuscripts.”
Aid to the Church in Need also showed in the exhibit its response to the dire situation: the delivery of the Child’s Bible, printed in 52 million copies and translated into 180 languages (include Pakistan’s urdu and Central Africa’s sango) and its supports the formation of 11,000 seminarians, more than one third of those are Africans. Additionally in Dhaka, Aid to the Church in Need is building a church in Bangladesh together with the family of Simona Monti, one of the victims. The Church will be dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, and will be built in Harintana.
Communion and Liberation’s Rimini event this year will host 106 conferences, 14 shows, 17 exhibitions and 22 sporting events. More information can be found at: http://www.meetingrimini.org/eng/.