Easter Message from the EBF
Easter Message from the EBF
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This year our churches in East and West both celebrate the same day for Easter. It’s a powerful sign of our unity in the faith of the Risen Christ. I write to wish our EBF family the joy of the Risen Christ this Easter time.
But first we travel through the events of Holy Week leading up to Easter. If you do this in Jerusalem, you will walk the different stages of the Via Dolorosa, the way of sorrows, and remember the lonely journey of Jesus as he carried his cross to Calvary. This week we remember followers of Jesus who still walk the way of the Cross as persecuted Christians in our region, especially in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Last week Jan Saethre and I were on the first EBF visit to Iraq. The picture above was taken by me in a Christian village, liberated only six months ago from ISIS/Daesh occupation. In this village and the neighbouring large town all the residents (99% Catholic Chistians) fled when Daesh arrived in 2014. We met some of them living in refugee acccomodtaion in Erbil, a ‘safe’ city in the Kurdistan region of the country.
We visted the ruins of their large churches which had been attacked, desecrated, and burned, and also some of their homes. The Chistian communities in the Plain of Nineveh can trace their orgins almost back to the time of Christ. At one time they numbered around 1.5 million, but since 2003 persecutions and the killings have meant that their numbers are less than 250,000. Their towns and village are free form the ocuntrol of Daesh, but many refugees are still afarid to return because they fear a new wave of persection against them.
So the picture shows the damaged tower of one of these churches. This Holy Week and Easter let it stand for our prayers for all who seek to follow Jesus Christ in the midst of persecution and even the threat of death itself. We were moved last week as we stood in the ruins of church after church and thought of that cry of Jesus from the Cross, which must be the cry of many of our brothers and sisters in the MIddle East also. ‘My God, My God, why have you abandoned me….?’
But somehow, miraculously, the cross still stands at the top of the tower. So let it symbolise our conviction that death and destructions can nevr have the last word. The suffering of Good Friday leads on to the joy of Easter Day as death gives way to new life.
And so it was that in all the evidence we saw in Iraq of religiously based inhumanity and violence we also saw signs of hope. We met our two Baptist pastors in Iraq, Ara in Baghdad and Sabri in Erbil. Both are gifted dedicated leaders who are boldly proclaiming the Easter message of new life in Christ. And their churches are taking that message out in love to refugees from all backgrounds caring for their practical and spiritual needs.
And we met Dr Rabi, a veterinary surgeon who fled with his peopel to Erbil when Daesh overran his town. And in Erbil he started a remarkable work of care for the refugees, finding them housing and schooling, and now returning to his home town to start the rebuilding there so that those who have not emigrated might somehow be able to return. Rabi talks openly about how he has discovered a new reality and depth to his faith which has sent him back to rediscover the truth of the Bible. You can find more about his story here.
The Christians of Iraq are indeed ‘Easter people living in a Good Friday world.’ They know the reality of the words of the Apostle Paul (Philippians 3: 10):
‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death…’
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!
Grace and peace