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I am not a Christian, but there is much to be taken from the meaning and spirit of the Easter holiday. Jesus is, and has been for centuries, the symbol of the resurrection and of renewal. I often say that if the world would follow the teachings of Jesus, it would be a better place.
It is astounding to me that we have Christians in South Sudan fighting each other. My first time in South Sudan, I was honored to be there during Palm Sunday. Churches, some made of reeds and thatched roofs, were filled with worshippers.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been signed with the Khartoum government, but Sudan was still one country and what was then Southern Sudan was in recovery from years of war and slavery from the Muslim-led government in the North. At these church services which took place all over South Sudan, there was no distinction between the Dinka and Nuer tribes. Now these tribes are engaged in some of the worst fighting ever. Arabs from the North lived peacefully with the Christians from the South. This week, however, 300 Muslims were shot while taking refuge in a mosque from the civil war. It did not make the news in American newspapers. Only Ukraine’s fighting got coverage.
This Easter, the lessons of the Bible have been forgotten. Although, most of the people fighting in South Sudan, it is as if they are from two different worlds and ethnicity is trumping religious training.
We are seeing the same type of battles happening in Ukraine, where ethnic Russians (after communism many returned to Christian Orthodox roots) are fighting with the Christians in Ukraine. It seems inconceivable to those of us who are citizens of a multicultural society where we have respect for religion and racial and ethnic diversity. This is not taking place in Ukraine or South Sudan.
Often, when I fly to South Sudan, we are able to charter with a group called Mission Aviation. Mission Aviation has a large terminal in Kenya, and on the wall is the quote from Jesus from Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV): “… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sister of mine, you did for me.” Mission Aviation, which brings missionaries and helpful people and organizations to the less fortunate in South Sudan, understands that we must all act to help the “least of these.”
Now the task for all of us who care about the world is to point to the teachings of Jesus and to do our best to stop ethnic fighting and pain and suffering that comes part and parcel of war. It is the message of Easter and Holy Week for Christians and non-Christians alike. It is our duty and our responsibility to make the world a better place for all.
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