It was truly a dark Easter morning with the bombings of the churches in Sri Lanka, and the rising death toll on a day when all Christians are gathered to celebrate the risen King. Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa. Even if we have never travelled to these places, their names are familiar to us because their past has been a violent past oft reported in the media. It is one of the worst reasons for a place to be famous for – violence. And now the worst kind of violence has befallen it – the murder of innocents while they are at worship. It’s such a dark deed, and conceived in depravity. It will be difficult to find earthly answers to the evil that men do. Some even blame God so easily when evil things occur, as though such things were orchestrated by His hand. The grief of the survivors must be enormous. Losing a loved one to death in a natural manner is grievous enough; to lose them to a cause as horrific as a bombing would be unbearable.
It has not been long since the Notre Dame was destroyed by fire. In Paris, the media said that close to a hundred churches had been vandalized in the recent past. It’s hard to understand these events and the Christian response will not be acceptable to everyone because they would have to admit the existence of a truly evil entity behind the works. Churches are the soft targets that are getting the brunt of the attacks. Another attack is Semitism and vandalization of anything Jewish. It is Kristallnacht of a more subtle level. Kristallnacht was a series of attacks on Jewish shops and establishments in Berlin where shopfronts were broken into and shattered glass lay on the streets, giving those nights of terror their name, Crystal night. The vandalization today goes on in a more hidden manner. Vandalization of Jewish graves occurred this Spring, and bronze memorials for Jewish males taken away from their families during Nazi occupation have been damaged. Something out there hates the Jews because of what they represent. Something out there hates churches and what they represent. Something out there definitely hates Easter and tries to darken it.
One small organization called the Salvation Army chose to celebrate Easter in a different way. Members prepared an Easter Breakfast. It was free and open to anyone. All kinds of people were invited, all religions and all nationalities. Long tables were set up and the guests introduced themselves to each other. The regular church-goers were joined by non-Christians, atheists, young children from Muslim families with their mothers, Syrian refugees, Japanese students, etc. The doors of the church were thrown open and people streamed in to eat and sit through a stirring storytelling of the resurrection and all that it offered. It was an Easter Sunday like no other. The supping together led to new friendships and connections. There was more than enough food and the kindness on display made the guests unwilling to leave early. I think ‘the gathering of the nations’ might resemble something like that Easter Sunday breakfast. Total strangers came and ate in a celebratory mood because Christ had risen.
This meal happened among a minority of people. It generated kindness and fellow feeling and respect for humanity. It manifested the love that Easter is all about. What a beautiful way to celebrate Easter. Even if it did not get any media attention, I am sure it caused ripples on worlds not our own. It was not even about one religion being superior to another religion. How does one come against the spirit of terror and destruction that pits religious groups against each other, and poisons nations towards other nations? Not with more weapons. But with more love, with surprising acts of mercy and kindness that surmount hate and misunderstanding, and have the power to draw people’s hearts together. It works.