Belfast Telegraph

We struggle to find the hope of Easter after so many tragedies

By Alf McCreary

On this Easter Saturday, there are even more reasons than usual to reflect upon the reality of life and death and of the comfort and reassurance of the seasonal message.

The past week has been one of the worst in a long time for bad news. The horrific deaths of five people in the Buncrana tragedy are still beyond words, and everyone still thinks deeply and prayerfully about the members of that entire family, and the local community.

Just as we were reeling from that shock, the news came through of Isis terrorist attacks in Brussels, in which 31 innocent people died and many others were badly injured.

There was also the funeral in Belfast of prison officer Adrian Ismay, murdered by republican dissidents, and further pictures of his family and friends in utter despair.

What can we make of all this? Many people cannot accept the Christian Easter message, and they have a right to their views. They may look on the events of the past week as further proof of meaningless suffering, and they may also ask why this is so prevalent in a world where so many innocent men, women and children die in an instant.

What is just or fair about that? The question hangs heavily on all our hearts, and there is no simple or clear answer. This week, there has been the usual outpouring of comments from leading Church and community figures, and I sympathise with them in trying to say something meaningful, when a busy journalist - merely doing his or her job - asks for a comment.

The late Senator Gordon Wilson, a treasured friend of mine, knew all about trauma when he lost his daughter Marie in the Enniskillen bomb blast.

He once said to me: "There are no words you can offer at such a time, but a handshake says it all."

Some months later, he attended the funeral of my late brother-in-law who had died tragically young. After the service, he said to me: "You spoke well", and firmly shook my hand, before disappearing into the crowd. There was nothing more to be done or said.

This week, one of the clergy who was asked to comment in the wake of the Buncrana tragedy said: "This is not a time for pious platitudes. It is a time to stand with those who are suffering and to listen to what they are trying to say."

Symbolically and in reality, that is what we must try to do, and to keep these suffering people in our thoughts.

This is a time when it would not be too difficult to give in to the bad news and the despair that can so easily sweep into our minds.

However, it is also time to give thanks for miracles such as the survival of the little baby who was taken literally from the jaws of death as the family car slid into the waters at Buncrana and disappeared.

It is the time also to give thanks for the heroism of the young man who saved the baby, and also the rescue services both at Buncrana and in Brussels.

In the midst of darkness, there is much human courage and kindness, and we must try to hang on to that.

The message of Holy Week is one of triumph, quickly changing into betrayal, injustice, torture and despair, but Easter also denotes new hope and new life. We must cling to that, most of all.

Belfast Telegraph

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