Belfast Telegraph

Easter's central message of hope is still relevant in today's broken world

By Alf McCreary

In their joint Easter messages, the Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic Primates have echoed Pontius Pilate's question to Jesus during His trial - "What is truth?" Far be it from me to criticise Archbishop Richard Clarke and Archbishop Eamon Martin, but I disagree with their claim that Pilate was being " self-serving and flippant".

One could also argue that Pilate was being desperately honest and trying to find a way to save Jesus, whom he knew was framed and was being set up by the Jewish authorities for execution.

Whatever Pilate's motive, his question is just as relevant today as it was some 2,000 years ago.

The church leaders put the point well when they stated: "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 awkward, disturbing or embarrassing."

One thinks immediately of President Trump and his tirades about the media's alleged fake news, though some of his lame chickens are now coming home to roost. Already there is evidence of significant changes of direction, so what was the truth in many of Trump's election promises?

What is the truth about the chemical weapons attack in Syria? Did Assad's regime carry it out? And did Russia know about it and back it?

The truth of these urgent questions may hold the key to world peace, or trigger off unimaginable destruction.

Here, what is the truth about the Stormont talks? Is Sinn Fein telling the truth when it claims that it wants an Assembly to work, or is it cynically using every excuse not to share power and to try and bully Mr Brokenshire into a second election which will be a sectarian headcount and a prelude for a dangerous border poll?

Equally, is the DUP sincere when it claims to be trying to do its best to share power?

The trouble with politics here is that people have been let down so badly that they do not trust politicians, even when they claim to be telling us the truth.

The question 'What is truth?' permeates all our business and personal relationships. Most of us begin by believing that people tell the truth, but if they let us down, it is hard to trust them again. As an old picture editor colleague often said to me, "If a man tells me he is a Christian, I watch him like a hawk".

The church leaders in their Easter message conclude: "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 absolute integrity."

These qualities are also to be welcomed in the lives of non-believers who have a strong sense of truth and justice in a world that seems more broken with each day.

The Methodist president, the Rev Bill Mullally, states bluntly: "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, yet at the heart of the Easter Message is that one word 'Hope'."

The theme of 'hope' is central to the Easter message of the Rt Rev Dr Frank Sellar, who underlines that because of this we can make Christ visible "within our land, North and South, by loving God and loving our neighbours - those like us and those different from us".

Certainly, we have problems in Northern Ireland, but they are nothing compared to the plight of millions of our fellow human beings around the world.

Christians in the Middle East are being murdered daily simply because of their religious beliefs.

The latest attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt are the latest evidence of wholesale ethnic and religious cleansing in many parts of the world where Islamic extremists are found.

Only this week I heard in a church service of the horrendous oppression of Christians in Iraq by Isis, which is one of the most evil organisations in history.

Faced with such evil and mayhem abroad, and with political bloodymindedness and opportunism at home, it would be easy to become down-hearted, especially on the 19th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which brought us all hope.

Yet the whole point about Easter is to have hope continually. If we do not have hope, we are incomplete human beings. I wish you all a peaceful and a hope-filled Easter.

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