Shining a red light on persecution of the faithful

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Home > Media > News > Shining a red light on persecution of the faithful
Shining a red light on persecution of the faithful
St Mary's Cathedral, Hobart, Archbishop Julian Porteous

St Mary’s Cathedral in Hobart turned red on November 20 as part of a movement to highlight the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

It is a cause close to the heart of the Cathedral parish administrator, Fr Shammi Perera, a Sri Lankan priest who has been in Tasmania for nine years.

Fr Shammi spoke at the Red Wednesday prayer service about the Sri Lankan Easter Sunday bombings, in which 259 people were killed and more than 500 injured, while Elia Moussally, representing the Syrian and Iraqi Christian community in Tasmania, also shared his reflections on persecution.

In Sri Lanka, more than 100 died at one church alone, the Catholic Church of St Sebastian in Negombo. Fr Shammi spoke of his harrowing visit home in August, where he met victims of the atrocity.


“It was a very traumatic trip back,” Fr Shammi said before the Red Wednesday event. “To hear stories was a gut-wrenching experience for me. I was part of that parish. I used to stay in that parish and go to Sunday Mass. My best buddy is the parish priest there now, appointed last June.

“I listened to their stories and I was drained emotionally afterwards. One story is that a grandma and granddad went to see their grandson play in the church band. They usually go to a different church. That day they went to this church. It was the end of the Mass, soon after Communion, and they were sitting next to each other. There was a thanksgiving speech that went on too long so the granddad put his head down on the pew to have a rest. The blast trajectory did not touch him, but his wife, next to him, was killed instantly. The grandson in the band was outside. He witnessed this trauma as well.”

Fr Shammi said it was the first time that the Hobart cathedral had taken part in Red Wednesday and was an opportunity for Tasmanians to stand up for faith and freedom. Archbishop Julian Porteous attended the service, during which congregation members lit candles, and prayed for both the victims of atrocities and their perpetrators.

“We do not ask for vengeance, as Christ said love your enemies, so we embrace the perpetrators and we pray for them so that they will see the truth and allow Christians around the globe the universal right of every person to practise their faith, as enshrined in the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights,” Fr Shammi said.

“The persecution of Christians is forgotten and needs to attract attention. Awareness is the first step in the struggle for freedom, and especially for freedom of religion.”

St Mary’s was one of eight cathedrals around Australia to take part in Red Wednesday, an initiative of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. Seven of the eight Cathedrals lit their facades in red to represent the blood of the martyrs.