American Christians wear orange in solidarity with those persecuted for faith

A number of campaigns to get American Christians to wear orange in solidarity with persecuted Christians are gradually gathering momentum.

In February, Islamic State (IS) released footage showing the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians captured in Libya. The group were lined up, wearing the orange jumpsuits which have become a characteristic feature of their brutal videos.

Now, Christians across America are calling on the church to use the colour orange to identify with those who are suffering, to pray for them, and to donate to initiatives which support the persecuted.

The painting shared by Leonard Sweet on Facebook.

In February protestors in orange jumpsuits demonstrated outside the White House, calling for more determined action to counter IS, the Washington Post reported.

"Obama, Obama, did you see? Christian blood in the sea" the protestors chanted.

Around the same time, theologian Leonard Sweet posted a painting of Jesus bearing the cross, wearing an orange jumpsuit, and followed by IS victims and the militants – depicting him sharing the suffering of the persecuted.

Ahead of Holy Week, Rev Patrick Mahoney, pastor of Church on the Hill in Washington DC, and director of the Christian Defense Coalition, started a campaign on social media using the hashtag #orangejumpsuit, encouraging Christians to wear orange and pray for persecuted Christians in the days leading up to Easter.

On Maundy Thursday a group from Mahoney's church gathered to mark the Stations of the Cross on Embassy Row in DC – the part of the city populated by diplomatic buildings and foreign embassies. They stood outside the Iraqi embassy to pray for American-Iranian pastor Saeed Abedini currently imprisoned in Iran for his faith.

Mahoney explains on the campaign's Facebook page that the campaign is underpinned by Hebrews 13:3: "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

Other churches have picked up the idea, encouraging churchgoers to wear an item of orange on a Sunday in order to demonstrate their solidarity.

Rev Frank Karwacki, priest of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, which has joined the initiative, told Fox News: "We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. It's so sad to see how they are being tortured – we need to get prayer power going."

Another group, Ribbons for Rescue, launched by Lydia O'Leary in New Hampshire last week, is encouraging Christians to wear orange or tie ribbons in their local area, as well as donating to organisations that support the persecuted.

The idea was inspired by the Yellow Ribbon Campaign in 1979 when 52 Americans were taken hostage and people tied yellow ribbons on trees in their communities until the hostages were freed.

"We want to do the same thing with the church. The image of the martyrs in their bright orange jumpsuits have created a lasting imprint in the minds of people everywhere and so we are choosing the same color orange for the ribbons we will be putting up as a symbol of standing with those persecuted," the group says on its Facebook page.

Diane Foley, the mother of IS beheading victim James Foley, spoke at the group's launch event on April 10.