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Suffering for Christ: Christians around the world re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus to mark Good Friday

Christians around the globe are observing Good Friday as part of the Holy Week of Easter to commemorate their belief in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Some faithful in the world go to extreme lengths to re-enact Jesus’ crucifixion as realistically as possible – from nailing their hands to crosses to being led through the streets by gangs of Romans.

From the Philippines to Mumbai, images show worshippers playing Jesus Christ as they mark one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar.

Sombre ceremonies are carried out in public, as crowds gather around to weep and recite prayers while celebrating the day Jesus Christ was crucified.  

According to the World Population Review, there are approximately 2.38billion practicing Christians in the world, meaning around one-third of the planet’s total population is Christian.

This makes Easter one of the most widely-celebrated holidays, with celebrations beginning on Good Friday and ending on Easter Monday.

Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate Jesus’ suffering and death, falls near the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting and reflection that culminates with Easter, the day Christians believe Jesus was resurrected.

The public Good Friday processions, also known as ‘passion plays’ often take viewers through the Stations of the Cross – the series of events that led to Jesus’ death, starting with his trial in front of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate and ending with his entombment, according to the Bible.

As the festive period begins today, MailOnline have looked at the ways Christians around the world are observing the auspicious Good Friday this year.

Indonesian Catholics participate in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday

Indonesian Catholics carried out the re-enactment at The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or Ganjuran Church

Indonesian Catholics carried out the re-enactment at The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or Ganjuran Church

A Christian devotee dressed in white robes carried a cross in India

A Christian devotee dressed in white robes carried a cross in India

Re-enactments of Jesus’ crucifixion in the heavily Catholic Philippines are famous for their blood-soaked Good Friday rituals. 

In images from San Fernando, Catholic zealots were seen nailed to wooden crosses while others whipped themselves bloody in extreme displays of religious devotion.   

While most Filipinos went to church or spent the holiday with family, thousands gathered in villages around San Fernando city, north of Manila, to watch men punish themselves in a bid to atone for their sins or seek miracles from God.

Dozens of bare-chested flagellants wearing black shrouds and crowns made of vines walked barefoot through dusty, narrow streets, rhythmically flogging their backs with strips of bamboo tied to ropes, their blood soaking the top of their trousers and spattering onlookers.

The practice, which took hold about 60 years ago as form of religious vow by poor people seeking forgiveness, a cure for illness and the fulfilment of other wishes. 

Some lay face down on the ground to be whipped and beaten by others, razor blades sometimes used to draw blood.

‘This is for my son, an epileptic,’ said Joel Yutoc, who has his 13-year-old son’s name tattooed across his chest.

Yutoc, 31, told AFP his son had not had seizures in the eight years since he began taking part in the Good Friday floggings.

The whippings are the opening act of street plays performed by devout residents.

Filipino Ruben Enaje (centre), who portrays Jesus Christ, is nailed to a wooden cross during a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to mark Good Friday

Filipino Ruben Enaje (centre), who portrays Jesus Christ, is nailed to a wooden cross during a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to mark Good Friday

The display took place in San Fernando City, Pampanga province, Philippines

The display took place in San Fernando City, Pampanga province, Philippines

The 63-year-old Enaje is on his 35th year of portraying Jesus Christ

The 63-year-old Enaje is on his 35th year of portraying Jesus Christ

The re-enactment of Jesus' crucifixion is also known as a 'passion play'

The re-enactment of Jesus’ crucifixion is also known as a ‘passion play’

Worshippers are often seen covered in blood as they are nailed to crosses and whipped

Worshippers are often seen covered in blood as they are nailed to crosses and whipped

In San Juan village, a short, wiry man with wild, white hair playing the role of Jesus Christ and two others were dragged by neighbours dressed as Roman centurions to a raised mound where wooden crosses lay on the ground.

As spectators filmed on their mobile phones, three-inch nails were driven into the men’s palms and the crosses were hoisted upright.

Several minutes later the crosses were lowered to the ground and the nails pulled out.

‘I will keep doing this while I’m alive, for as long as my body is able to do it. That is my vow,’ said retired fisherman Wilfredo Salvador, 67, who began playing the role of Jesus Christ in the mock crucifixions 16 years ago following a mental breakdown.

‘This is nothing. Sometimes it heals after a day and I am able to wash dishes and bathe,’ Salvador said of his wounds.

San Juan homemaker Marilyn Lovite, 41, said she watches the gruesome re-enactment every year to ‘learn about the suffering of Christ’.

‘If you were to merely read it in the Bible you would not really understand. In action it is clearer for us to see how he suffered for us,’ the mother-of-four said.

Ten people were nailed or strung up on crosses at three crucifixion sites, San Fernando city councillor Reginaldo David told reporters.

At the biggest event, veteran performer Ruben Enaje, 63, had his hands and feet nailed to a cross for the 35th time in his role as Jesus Christ.

The Catholic church and government health officials have for years urged devotees to refrain from self-inflicted pain

The Catholic church and government health officials have for years urged devotees to refrain from self-inflicted pain

Practices of flagellation and painful depictions of the suffering of Jesus Christ to express faith and penance have become traditions that are hard to break in Catholic communities all over the country

Practices of flagellation and painful depictions of the suffering of Jesus Christ to express faith and penance have become traditions that are hard to break in Catholic communities all over the country

A worshipper playing Jesus Christ is seen wearing a crown of thorns as other Christians dressed in Roman costumes gather around him

A worshipper playing Jesus Christ is seen wearing a crown of thorns as other Christians dressed in Roman costumes gather around him

Enaje said this year might be his last appearance as Jesus

Enaje said this year might be his last appearance as Jesus

Locals gather to watch the incredible display of religious devotion

Locals gather to watch the incredible display of religious devotion

A cross is carried through the streets by a worshipper dressed as Jesus Christ

A cross is carried through the streets by a worshipper dressed as Jesus Christ

Enaje remained nailed up for more than 10 minutes as storm clouds gathered overhead. It began to rain as he was carried on a stretcher to a medical tent where his wounds were bandaged.

‘I feel no pain in my hands but my body as a whole feels sore,’ Enaje said.

‘The Passion Play was longer this year because we lengthened the script. Maybe that was why my body feels sore.’

Enaje said this year might be his last appearance as Jesus.

‘I can’t say if I will still be able to do it again next year because my body feels like it is about to give in,’ he said.

The extreme acts are frowned upon by the Catholic Church in the Philippines and health experts.

The Philippine health department urged the public this week to ‘avoid acts or rites that lead to physical wounds and injuries’.

‘We join the pastoral guidance of our faith leaders, guiding all towards religious practices that are safe and healthy,’ it said in a statement.

But for devotees like 23-year-old Ian Bautista, who has been taking part in the floggings since he was 15 and is one of four flagellants in his family, the suffering was for a good cause.

‘It’s for my mother,’ Bautista said, explaining that she had surgery for an ovarian cyst on Monday and that he believed taking part would help her recovery.

‘It’s painful but I will do this until my body gives up.’

Indonesian Catholics also participated in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday at The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or Ganjuran Church.

Indonesian Catholics participate in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Indonesian Catholics participate in a re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

The bloody display took place at The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The bloody display took place at The Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Christians playing Juses were nailed to crosses in a public display of devotion

Christians playing Juses were nailed to crosses in a public display of devotion

Large wooden crosses are carried through crowds as Christians celebrate Good Friday

Large wooden crosses are carried through crowds as Christians celebrate Good Friday

In Hyderabad, India, Christians were photographed re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to mark Good Friday at Holy Family Church.

Devotees are seen in carrying a large wooden cross as they don white robes and a mock crown of thorns.

As they parade through the sandy streets, other worshippers dressed in red and yellow Roman costumes trail behind as they whip the individual playing Jesus Christ.

Incredible images show the man beaten to the ground, laying atop the cross as he takes a lashing in a demonstration of belief and religious devotion.

Although Christians make up only 2.4 per cent of India’s huge population, worshippers still put on the powerful displays that wind through the streets in public processions. 

Christians across Mumbai and Amritsar also took part in processions. 

In Hyderabad, India, Christians were photographed re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

In Hyderabad, India, Christians were photographed re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ

A worshipper is seen covered in blood as he wears a white robe

A worshipper is seen covered in blood as he wears a white robe

He is seen knocked to the ground as those dressed as Romans whip and lash him

He is seen knocked to the ground as those dressed as Romans whip and lash him

Worshippers carry out the processions as a show of faith

Worshippers carry out the processions as a show of faith 

A man playing Jesus is whipped with ropes

A man playing Jesus is whipped with ropes 

Christians all over the world attend mock crucifixions and passion plays that mark the day Jesus was crucified, known to Christians as Good Friday

Christians all over the world attend mock crucifixions and passion plays that mark the day Jesus was crucified, known to Christians as Good Friday

Christians devotees re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ during a Good Friday procession in Amritsar

Christians devotees re-enact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ during a Good Friday procession in Amritsar

A man dressed as Jesus carries a wooden cross through the streets

A man dressed as Jesus carries a wooden cross through the streets 

Indian Christians reenact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to mark Good Friday in Mumbai, India

Indian Christians reenact the crucifixion of Jesus Christ to mark Good Friday in Mumbai, India

Christians devotees take part in a Good Friday procession in Amritsar

 Christians devotees take part in a Good Friday procession in Amritsar

Sri Lanka also celebrated Good Friday with a public display.

A Catholic faithful was pictured carrying a large wooden cross during a procession at a church in Colombo.

Black and white colours are worn by followers of Christianity throughout the period of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as they take to the streets while sharing the weight of the cross.

The procession, starting at 2pm is then followed by a crucifixion service in the Viharamahdevi open-air stadium.

‘We are thrilled to extend a warm invitation to you for a deeply meaningful Good Friday procession and service. 

‘Let’s come together to reflect on the profound significance of Good Friday and honour the greatest sacrifice made for humans by our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ,’ the Jesus Lives Evangelical International Ministry in Colombo wrote on Facebook.

Sri Lankan Catholic faithful carry a cross during the Good Friday procession at a church in Colombo, Sri Lanka,

Sri Lankan Catholic faithful carry a cross during the Good Friday procession at a church in Colombo, Sri Lanka,

The procession, starting at 2pm is then followed by a crucifixion service

The procession, starting at 2pm is then followed by a crucifixion service

Black and white colours are worn by followers of Christianity throughout the period of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

Black and white colours are worn by followers of Christianity throughout the period of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

A massive wooden cross is carried through the streets by thousands of worshippers

A massive wooden cross is carried through the streets by thousands of worshippers

Christians gather to recite prayers and sing hymns on the auspicious day

Christians gather to recite prayers and sing hymns on the auspicious day

Children gather around a cross to celebrate the holy day as onlookers stand by and watch

Children gather around a cross to celebrate the holy day as onlookers stand by and watch

In the Old City of Jerusalem, Christians walked the Way of the Cross procession that commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day, on Good Friday.

Photos showed thousands of worshippers solemnly traverse the Via Dolorosa towards the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, some carrying wooden crosses.

The Via Dolorosa, a religious route within Jerusalem’s old city, marks Jesus’s path to the cross after judgment by Pontius Pilate 

The Christians chant and sing hymns, commemorating the sufferings of Christ, in a ritual aligned with the Catholic calendar. 

According to All Is Israel, the celebration of the Passion of Christ on Calvary in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre began at 7:15am. 

The procession of the Way of the Cross at the Via Dolorosa with the Franciscan Fathers starts at 12:15pm. 

Along the route of the Via Dolorosa of Jerusalem’s old city, the pilgrims pause at each of the 14 stations, engaging in rituals that commemorate the events of Christ’s first sufferings and to his crucifixion. 

The ‘Funeral Procession’ in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre will commence at 8:10pm.

The revered Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Catholics and Orthodox Christians (and even some Protestants) believe Jesus was entombed before his resurrection on Easter Sunday. 

Finally, there is a Good Friday meditative service at the Garden Tomb for Protestants and other reformed churches and denominations.

Christian faithful carry a cross during the Good Friday procession along the Via Dolorosa

Christian faithful carry a cross during the Good Friday procession along the Via Dolorosa

In the Old City of Jerusalem, Christians walked the Way of the Cross procession that commemorates Jesus Christ's last day, on Good Friday

In the Old City of Jerusalem, Christians walked the Way of the Cross procession that commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day, on Good Friday

They headed towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old city of Jerusalem

They headed towards the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old city of Jerusalem

Along the route of the Via Dolorosa of Jerusalem's old city, the pilgrims pause at each of the 14 stations, engaging in rituals that commemorate the events of Christ's first sufferings and to his crucifixion

Along the route of the Via Dolorosa of Jerusalem’s old city, the pilgrims pause at each of the 14 stations, engaging in rituals that commemorate the events of Christ’s first sufferings and to his crucifixion

The revered Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe Jesus was entombed before his resurrection on Easter Sunday

The revered Church of the Holy Sepulchre is where Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe Jesus was entombed before his resurrection on Easter Sunday

Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations that observe the new, Gregorian calendar, mark Easter week this week. 

Holy Week this year began on March 24 with Palm Sunday and will conclude with Easter celebrations on March 31.

Orthodox Christians, who follow the old, Julian calendar, will mark Good Friday on May 3.

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