Written by Lorna Dueck, Crossroads CEO
Originally published by the Globe & Mail
Perhaps that is the best and truest way to consider what happened last Sunday as two Egyptian churches filled with worshipping Christians were targeted by ISIS bombs.
Like their fellow Christians around the world, the Coptics (an Orthodox Christian group) were celebrating Palm Sunday recalling the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and preparing themselves for the upcoming Holy Week.
At St. George’s Church, north of Cairo, social media postings showed worshippers singing and waving palm fronds in celebration. That is, until a bomb, hidden beneath a front pew, exploded; and what was a heavenly moment in worship turned into a nightmare of pure hell.
Images of joy were instantly transposed to ones of grief and anguish as the explosion settled, revealing blood-stained palm fronds, pews and walls. The horror of pain and death was everywhere.
Several hours later, in the city of Alexandria, CCTV video showed a suicide bomber entering a second Coptic church. Shortly after, there is detonation. In the blink of an eye, 47 Christians lost their lives and more than 100 more were injured. The online videos and images clearly illustrated the juxtaposition of these of two deliberate acts, worshiping and killing, by two very different groups of people. An instant analysis of the events and human damage would lead us to assume that evil had triumphed over good.
But has it? The answer to that question is not found by analyzing the motives and strategies of ISIS, or its cowardly ways of targeting innocents such as Christians, children, women and fellow Muslims who dare to have a different, and peaceful, interpretation of Islam.
Ironically, the answer is found by considering Easter, which celebrates events which are the foundation of the Christian faith. Scripture’s ancient historical record tells of hundreds of eyewitness accounts who saw and encountered Jesus risen from his grave. The formerly dead body of Jesus, now walking, eating, loving and encouraging people. A deity that overcomes death is a game changer. So as Egyptian wails of grief subside to the endless ache of loss, watch what rises out of the ashes. The world’s oldest church will respond as it has for centuries, the believers in Jesus will not responding with killing. There will not be retaliation. There will be determination to continue to proclaim that because of Jesus, a grieving identity in the face of evil is one of love and hope. Nothing in humanity’s toolkit can equip us for that response, it’s a God gift that enables peace. The supernatural message of Easter is that Jesus overcomes death, and when people believe that and act upon it, it changes the headlines. Spiritual beliefs do change how people respond to evil. The bloody cross of Good Friday which carries a nailed body of Jesus lifted over the crowds is a gruesome sacrifice. It was a punishment that paid for sin like church bombings, chemical warfare, famine and any terrible thing I might do to the heart or home of the person next to me. Sinners, that’s who are, we’ve been messing up the world since it began.
Easter teaches us that because of Christ’s sacrifice, there is a cosmic repair job coming, and until then, the journey to the new begins like it always has, one heart at a time. The ancient Gospel stories show us small beginnings; two stunned women at an empty tomb, two other out of touch men getting caught up with a resurrected Jesus while walking an Emmaus road. The Christian hope was not intended to be forced as a majority view, it only makes sense when it is personal, and that’s how we discover Christian belief that life gets better than this. A great hope anchored in the facts of Easter, and for both global and personal loss it makes all the difference.