The Colosseum in Rome will be floodlit in red later this month to highlight the persecution of Christians around the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

Rome’s Colosseum will be floodlit in red to highlight persecuted Christians. Photo: David Iliff. Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The iconic landmark, in which some of the earliest Christians are believed to have been martyred under the Romans, will be floodlit red on 24 February, the colour representing the blood of Christians who have been killed or injured for their faith.

Two churches in Syria and Iraq will also be lit in red: the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral in Aleppo, and St Paul’s church, Mosul, where the first Mass since Islamic State’s 2014 power-grab was celebrated on Christmas Eve.

The event is sponsored by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which has pioneered an event called Red Wednesday in which landmarks including Britain’s Houses of Parliament have been floodlit in red. Previously, Rome’s Trevi Fountain, Paris’ Sacré Coeur Basilica and Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer have been similarly lit to highlight the persecution of Christians.

Aasiya Noreen is a Pakistani Christian woman who has been on death row for over seven years for alleged blasphemy. Earlier this month she was nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)
Aasiya Noreen, also known as Asia Bibi, who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy

Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN Italy, said the illumination of the Colosseum “will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third.”

“One of the children was killed,” he told journalists. “She lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”

However, after she was freed and reunited with her husband, she decided she “could not hate those who caused her so much pain”, Monteduro said.

Pope Francis has lamented the persecution of Christians during the annual Good Friday Via Crucis services that take place at the Colosseum.