THE suffering of Christians in the Arab world and elsewhere needs to be understood “in the light of Jesus’s resurrection”, the Archbishop of Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, told worshippers in St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, on Easter Day. Hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern Christians celebrated either the Western Easter, on 27 March, or the Orthodox Easter the following Sunday.
Many people around the world were struggling with their beliefs, Archbishop Dawani said. “The world often looks more like Good Friday than Easter Day. I know it does for the people of Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Africa, and for many now in Europe. Every front page brings ample reason to grieve. Pain and loss continue to make their way through our lives.”
Suffering and violence disfigure many people, he continued, including some of those “in our city and our region today”. The challenge was to understand the history of human suffering “in the light of Jesus’s resurrection. As Christians, we have to make our protest against death in the midst of life.”
Archbishop Dawani joined 12 other patriarchs and heads of Churches in Jerusalem in delivering a joint Easter message which also addressed the issue of human suffering. The passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus was a universal act of salvation, the statement said, that “invites our world today to look upon the suffering and pain of many people across the globe with compassion and mercy.”
This would not be achieved through “building walls of alienation, intolerance, or rejection. Rather, our world needs to build bridges so that acceptance, friendship, and hospitality can become true realities for those who suffer, and those whose human dignity is denied and are exposed to so many calamities.”
The church leaders urged Christians to pray for the millions of refugees around the world “who are strangers in foreign lands; people who are victims of violence, intolerance, and discrimination”. Others are oppressed in their home countries. The statement continued: “The power of the radiant light of Easter, we pray, must shine in all these places, and open the eyes and hearts of the whole world to these realities.”
The church leaders called, too, for a just peace for the people of Jerusalem and the Holy Land: “The city of peace deserves to live in peace through living together as people of God, who respect every human person.”
Hundreds of Christians in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, took part in Holy Week ceremonies and Easter celebrations at St George’s, which has been damaged by five bombs over the past three years. The Bishop in Cyprus & the Gulf, the Rt Revd Michael Lewis, took part in the ceremonies, and, after lighting the Easter candle, joined the Curate of St George’s, the Revd Faiz Jerjees, in officiating at the Easter day communion service.
One jarring note in the Easter period came from Bethlehem, where Palestinian police arrested Archbishop Sewerios Malki Murad, of the Syrian Orthodox Church, while on his way to the Church of the Nativity. A police spokesman said he had been detained in connection with alleged civil charges, without giving details.
Senior figures in the Syrian Orthodox Church have appealed to President Mahmoud Abbas to intervene to free the Archbishop.