JUST seven days after bomb attacks killed 44 people at two Egyptian churches (News, 13 April), the country’s Coptic Christians gathered again in defiance to proclaim the resurrection on Easter Day — because “the resurrection is a reality that changes everything in our lives,” the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
Archbishop Welby, delivering his Easter Day sermon in Canterbury Cathedral, said: “Christians in Egypt live surrounded by bombs and terror. We and those we love know the grim, grey moments of illness, suffering, arguments, poverty, ill health — mental and physical — prison, guilt, and failure. We experience a world of pain and despair, grief, and death.
“In our world today the only certain ground for hopeful expectation is the news of today; it happened, Jesus is alive.”
In a separate Easter letter to Churches and Christian leaders across the world, the Archbishop urged all Christians to join together in an “ecumenism of action” by taking part in this year’s Thy Kingdom Come prayer event between Ascension Day and Pentecost (News, 9 September 2016) .
“The calendrical differences that lead to us celebrating the resurrection on different days are a cause of continuing sadness,” he also wrote. “However, whenever we proclaim the resurrection we proclaim the same message. I am delighted, in this period of Easter joy, to invite you and your churches to join me in this time of prayer.”
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, wrote in the Yorkshire Post of his experience of prostate cancer, as well as the suffering of those killed or injured in the terror attack on Westminster, and “famines and civil wars raging across continents right now”.
There were no easy answers to this suffering and pain, but hope was found in Jesus Christ at Easter time, in his death and resurrection, Dr Sentamu suggested.
The Prime Minister used her Easter message to urge the country to unite behind the “opportunities that lie ahead” after the UK leaves the European Union.
“Easter is a moment to reflect, and an important time for Christians and others to gather together with families and friends,” Theresa May said. “This Easter I think of those values that we share — values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage — values of compassion, community, citizenship; the sense of obligation we have to one another.
“And, as we face the opportunities ahead of us, our shared interests, our shared ambitions, and, above all, our shared values can, and must, bring us together.”
Christians could be proud and confident of the part their faith played in the life of the nation, and they must feel able to speak out about their faith. “We must be mindful of Christians and religious minorities around the world who do not enjoy these same freedoms, but who practise their religion in secret and often in fear,” Mrs May said.
The leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, also connected Easter to politics, urging Christians and others to remember “Jesus’s example of love and sacrifice, and the Easter message of redemption and peace. . . At a time of growing conflict, that message of peace could not have more urgency throughout the world,” he said.
The Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, an Evangelical, used his Easter message to refer to the National Trust Easter egg row that flared up earlier this month (News, 7 April). Nostalgia and nationalism might be the “mood of the moment”, but Easter confounded this with its “radical and disturbing” story of pain, death, and ultimately resurrection, he said.
The Bishop of Oxford, Dr Steven Croft, also saw politics in the Easter story, writing in The Oxford Times that the Christian message of reconciliation, made possible by Jesus’s death and resurrection, was needed now more than ever as Brexit got under way and international tensions rose.
The Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, said that the whole continent found itself in a kind of Holy Saturday — caught in uncertainty, fear, and angry protests against the liberal globalised order.
“The European Commission has published a White Paper that offers five very different scenarios, and both Protestant and Catholic Churches are holding conferences on the future of Europe,” he wrote in his Easter message.
“There is, as yet, little in the way of genuinely convincing and inspiring ways forward. We feel ourselves to be in a kind of Holy Saturday, with old hopes having gone and a new vision yet to crystallise.”