What Chesterton had to say about the Resurrection:
Maundy Thursday: Pope Francis washes the feet of refugees…
Carrying their cross
Why the United Kingdom should start acting on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East
On Good Friday, Christians will pray and – in many churches – also walk the way of the cross – the Via Dolorosa – a tradition dear to those who attend the Easter services. Each year I am profoundly moved as I watch my sons shoulder our own parish cross as they, and other parishioners, carry it to a joint Good Friday Service with Christians from other denominations.
The Via Dolorosa – the way of sorrows, the way of grief, the way of suffering – is commemorated in the fourteen stations of Jesus’ suffering. Pausing at each we try to understand what was happening on the way to Mount Calvary – the place where the most inspiring figure in history was executed. To more than a billion believers, He is more than just an inspiration. Having suffered greatly Himself, the Son of God represents redemption to all of mankind.
Over the centuries, Christians have lived in the knowledge that they are subject to persecution for their faith. Today, Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world. However there is one particular region of the world where the suffering of Christians has reached levels of persecution comparable to what the early Christians experienced under the Roman Emperor Nero – where their existence is under threat of eradication.
The cross is not just something Christians in the Middle East under the reign of the so-called “Islamic State” or Daesh will be remembering when they will join their brothers and sisters in faith around the world during this year’s Easter celebrations. They may be facing it themselves – as they have done for the last two years.
There is no need to endlessly recount the atrocities Christians in the Iraq and Syria have been subjected to. Abundant evidence is accessible to everyone online. All major newspapers, radio and television stations have reported on the beheadings, the rapes, the crucifixions, the abductions, the intentional targeting of Church leaders and strategic destruction of Church buildings. There are very few instances of such crimes against humanity being committed where the perpetrators have been so outspoken about their goals and objectives to the global public.
Daesh have issued countless statements, video-messages and official declarations clearly stating that there is no room for any religion other than Islam – and only their particular version of Islam – in areas under their control. In fact, there might be hardly anyone who is yet to be confronted with the reports of extreme violence carried out against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East. Modern technology has enabled all of us to become eye witnesses, in a way, to what is happening.
And yet despite our awareness we react like the Apostle Peter on the night Jesus was arrested: we claim to have nothing to do with what is going on. We refrain from officially recognising that the ongoing plight of Christians and other religious minorities in Syria and Iraq is a genocide, even though all the criteria defined under international law that determines the “crime of all crimes” appear to be met. We rather vaguely defer the matter to the judgment of the international judicial system, wash our hands and remain silent, while Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities are being forced to shoulder their own cross and continue their march towards Calvary.
Of course, use of the term genocide should not be made lightly. Its recognition sets into motion legal obligations to “prevent and punish” acts of genocide. If we take human rights seriously, we would be obliged to start acting and to actively seek ways to bring this genocide to an end. As a permanent member to the UN Security Council, the United Kingdom could play a highly influential role in referring the ongoing situation in Syria and Iraq to the International Criminal Court.
Alternatively, the U.K. could use its influence to call upon the UN Security Council to establish a commission of fact-finding experts, which could lead to the establishment of an international tribunal, as was the case with the genocides committed in Bosnia and Rwanda. Either option would ensure the prosecution of the perpetrators and bring justice to the victims. However, the main objective would be to bring an end to the killings.
A recent ComRes poll commissioned by legal organisation ADF International showed that just under two-thirds of the British public support not only an official recognition of genocide, but also believe that the U.K. should use its international influence to bring the genocide to an end. 69% of the public was of the view that the U.K. should be looking to raise the issue with the United Nations Security Council with the aim of referring the situation to the International Criminal Court – a proposition that only 7% opposed. The Government however seems to be of a quite different opinion, as it has not yet engaged the UN Security Council on either of the aforementioned fronts.
Standing up for religious minorities in the Middle East may come at a cost. France has always been very clear on its concern about the ongoing atrocities being carried out in the Middle East, and the European Parliament recently condemned the Daesh atrocities as genocide in early February. Both have paid an incredibly high price for their courage. The appalling bombings in Paris, and more recently in Brussels, could well be perceived – at least in part – as retribution for open opposition to Daesh. Courage provokes consequences. But to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as Baroness Cox did in a recent debate on the topic in the House of Lords; “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
For Christians, the cross has always been a sign of hope. At Easter, we remember that after death comes life; that after having carried the cross, resurrection awaits. It is my hope that this Easter, we all keep our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East firmly in mind, and that we do not neglect them as they continue to carry their weighty cross along their Via Dolorosa.
“On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realized the new wonder; but even they hardly realized that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but of the dawn.” (G. K. Chesterton; The Everlasting Man)
G.K. Chesterton and the Resurrection
‘God raised Jesus from the dead!’ This was the fundamental and unalterable testimony of those who had physically seen Jesus dead and then alive again. The historical fact of Jesus resurrection is the ground and basis of all true love, hope, and joy; for if Jesus is still in the grave then all of humanity will remain in the grave too. But he is not in the grave, and this makes all the difference. Now those who put their hope in Jesus may find their way into a fullness of joy: partially in this world; fully in the next. May praise to God and joy in Jesus be the main thing in your Easter. He is risen indeed!
Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live…The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss. To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth. The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on. But when he has found his feet again he knows it. Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man’s ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small…Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian.
The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels [namely, Jesus] towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn Super-men and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth. (“Orthdodoxy” ).
“Cry, for today is Easter Day”.
Yea; if the dead might rise; then he
Might rise for one thing verily.
He has not heard the mouths that moved
The faint and fallen that he loved
The wheels that rack, the lips that rave
Stern is God’s guard about the grave.
Peace—for the priests in gold array—
Peace—for today is Easter day.
The bannered pomp: the pontiffs wise
(Great God—methinks he might arise)
Might break for once from death’s eclipse
To smite these liars on the lips.
Some Good Friday/Easter Day reflections:
From the Holy Week Carnage of Brussels, Sneha Mehta’s message of hope to her unborn child – a promise of new life:
Sneha Mehta is 28 years old, 16 weeks pregnant and a survivor of the suicide attacks on the Brussels airport.
She and her husband had just landed after a trip to Dubai. They had collected their luggage when the explosions began.
Through the smoke they made their escape, initially into a car park and then out onto the road nearby where a passing taxi stopped and drove them to safety.
Sneha could run no more but despite the terror she was utterly calm – determined that every move she made would protect the life of her unborn baby.
In a book of memories for her first child, she has written about their shared experience and her hope for a kinder world:
Hi sweetheart. I don’t know if we already acknowledged this with you in person, but when you were 16 weeks old, mum and dad were at an explosion at Brussels Airport.
And no matter where humanity is today, I just want to tell you that life is a wonderful thing, and the world is really full of remarkable people.
You didn’t just give mum and dad faith and reason to live, you gave us the awareness and presence of mind like never before.
I felt more alive than I ever have, and I knew I had to protect you, so I was calm, composed and fully aware that we will survive.
When we reached Sint-Augustinas [hospital] emergency, and we saw you oblivious and sucking at your thumb at the ultrasound, and doing your general acrobatics, all the mistrust, hate and angst for the terrorist attack vaporised.
I do hope with all my heart that you are born into a better world, and if not, then you do absolute best to make it that.
You are absolutely precious to us, and have already been a hero today. I guess much of the world,and has sent so much love your way.
May you always be brave and healthy. We love you beyond words. Mum and Dad
– SNEHA MEHTA
Liverpool’s St George’s Hall lit up in the colours of the National flag of Belgium after the Brussels terror attacks: Holy Week 2016
Christian Heritage Centre : Easter News See…