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Church leaders issue Easter messages of hope over darkness

By Alf McCreary

Church leaders have spoken of hope at a time of uncertainty and violence in their Easter messages.

Methodist President Rev Bill Mullally said that as we look around our world, on the surface "all we see is murder and mayhem."

"Whether it is Coptic Christians in Egypt being targeted, or children dying of starvation in many parts of Africa, hope seems to be in short supply", he said.

"Yet at the heart of the Easter message is that word 'hope.' Easter morning with its empty tomb cried out 'hope has been reborn.'"

In a joint message, Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Richard Clarke and Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin reflected on the importance of truth.

"Christians must not be content to keep silent in a world where truth has almost become a disposable commodity - occasionally of value but capable of being twisted or discarded when it is awkward, disturbing or embarrassing", they said. "It is truth that is at the heart of the story of Holy Week and Easter.

"Jesus Christ goes to the cross because He is the embodiment of truth betrayed by grubby ambition and squalid self-interest.

"The resurrection is the ultimate vindication of the truth that the God who is love will in the end prevail over darkness, hatred and suffering.

"We may live in a miasma of half-truths and untruths, but the truth that is Christ Himself is challenging us, on a daily basis, to take our place at His side in the name of unconditional truth and of absolute integrity."

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Frank Sellar said that there are many people in Irish society today who are "searching for meaning and a realistic spirituality that will bring inner peace and forgiveness from guilt, as well as a fresh way of relating to God and to the world."

"Easter is the story of hope, because Jesus died for all the un-God-like wrong things that we have done, so that we can be forgiven. We can start anew, start fresh, and hope is offered for all", he said.

"We can live our lives free from guilt and shame in the knowledge that Jesus, who died and rose again, is with us still.

"Filled with the same Holy Spirit who raised Christ, we can make Him visible within our land North and South, by loving God and loving our neighbours, those like us and those different from us. This is a message to proclaim from the rooftops."

Dr Sellar also issued a separate letter to all the ministers in the Church's 539 congregations asking them to pray for the governments in London and Dublin, and their leaders.

"At this particular time please pray especially for hope in Northern Ireland's political leaders and their continued engagement in the goal of restoring the Assembly and its institutions", he said.

Dr Sellar also encouraged ministers to pray for persecuted Christians around the world.

He mentioned in his letter the attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt, the situation in Syria and the Middle East, in addition to the drought, famine and political instability being suffered in East Africa.

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