Francis prays for the martyrs in his March video: “They are a blessing for everyone”

ACN International President Regina Lynch: “It is crucial to guarantee the right to practice faith as part of the dignity of all human beings”


“The courage of the martyrs, the testimony of the martyrs, is a blessing for everyone,” Pope Francis assures in his message in The Pope’s Video this March and asks to pray especially for them. This video is promoted by the Worldwide Prayer Network for the Pope and has the collaboration of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), which supports Christians where they are persecuted, discriminated against, or in need through information, prayer, and action.

The lives of these people who give themselves as witnesses of Christ are, above all, real stories, with characteristics that make them unique in themselves. Francis recalls the testimony and pain of a husband he met on the Greek island of Lesbos: “They saw my wife with the crucifix and told her to throw it on the ground. She didn’t, and they cut her throat in front of me.” Precisely the story of this woman, who left an “example of love” for Christ and fidelity “until death”, is reconstructed in the Pope’s Video.

22% of Christians around the world live in countries where religious freedom is not respected, and they may be subject to discrimination and persecution. The Pope’s video message remembers these Christian communities in danger and cites examples of courage: such as that of Pakistan’s first servant of God, Akash Bashir, who died at the age of 20 in 2015 to prevent a terrorist attack against a church full of Parish faithful in Lahore.

They show the right path

The Pope continues to affirm in his reflection: “Brothers, sisters, there will always be martyrs among us, it is the sign that we are on the right path.” The fact that there are martyrs means that some have risked their lives to follow Jesus, to live according to his message and embody his Gospel of love, peace and brotherhood in the world. They have not renounced or forgotten him, but have maintained their faith and fidelity to Jesus Christ.

“A person who knows told me that there are more martyrs today than at the beginning of Christianity,” adds Francis, underlining how the issue of persecuted Christians who give their lives for their faith is highly topical. In 2023 alone, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) received reports in 40 countries of people killed or kidnapped because of their faith. Nigeria became the country with the highest number of murders; in Pakistan, in the diocese of Faisalabad, the temples and homes of Jaranwala Christians were attacked; and, in Burkina Faso, the Débé Catholics were expelled from their village solely because of their faith; just to mention a few examples.

With religious freedom

Faced with this panorama, the executive president of the pontifical foundation, Regina Lynch, expresses: “Religious freedom, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is an inalienable right and no Christian should lose their lives for exercising it. It is crucial to guarantee the right to practice faith as part of the dignity of all human beings”. In order to defend this fundamental right, ACN publishes the study Religious Freedom in the World Report.

In that sense, he assures that the intention of this month of Francis is “very important to encourage praying for the victims of persecution, as well as advocating for those who suffer discrimination for their faith. In addition, we must involve politicians to defend the rights of the most vulnerable”.