Why Has Rome's Colosseum Turned Red? The Answer Lies With Pakistan

The Roman amphitheater is a symbol of the martyrdom of early Christians

The Colosseum — world’s largest amphitheater — was known for gladiator shows, executions and staging of classical plays. But on the evening of February 24, the Roman architecture was lit blood red in solidarity with persecuted Christians, including Pakistan’s Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Catholic woman who was convicted of blasphemy by a Pakistani court for allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad. She was involved in an argument with a group of Muslim women who grew angry with her for drinking the same water as them. In 2010, she was sentenced to death, however, if executed, she would be the first woman in Pakistan to be lawfully killed for blasphemy.

The blasphemy case is so sensitive that Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Pakistan Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti were both assassinated for publicly supporting Asia Bibi. Ahead of the scheduled Supreme Court hearing, one of the three members of the bench of judges resigned and refused to be a part of the hearing. In April last year, the Chief Justice declined her lawyer’s request to hear the case.

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Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary-general of the Italian bishops conference, told the gathering,

“The aim of the blasphemy laws is crush people who believe differently.”

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European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said,

“A message must be sent from this place. It is the duty of Europe to defend these values (of religious liberty) wherever on earth they are trampled on.”

The Maronite Cathedral of St Elijah in war-torn Aleppo and St Paul’s church in the Iraqi city of Mosul were also illuminated in red.