The Easter holiday has profound meaning in the Christian faith for it represents the mystery of the Resurrection, a great symbol of hope that the Savior will one day return to unite humanity and make everything holy for eternity. Although news headlines closely follow Easter celebrations conducted by the Roman Catholic Church, it is important to note that Christianity has a global reach that dates back to ancient times in Africa. Many historians agree that the region currently known as Ethiopia adopted Christianity as a state religion as early as the 4th century.
The Orthodox Christian faith is stronger in Ethiopia, and thus some of the Lent traditions are slightly different; for example, fasting lasts more than 50 days when Roman Catholics observe 40 days. In 2017, the Vatican leadership of Pope Francis has resulted in a stronger ecumenical stance; for example, Pope Matthias I, Patriarch of Ethiopian Orthodox faithful has visited the Vatican and has welcomed the Holy See’s call to unity based on peace and respect. Pope Francis will visit Egypt in late April, and this may result in future visits to African nations.
Bunnies, Eggs, and Politics
In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma addressed his people ahead of the holiday weekend; meanwhile, an online news portal in that country got into the real spirit of Easter by organizing a small fundraiser for a poor family that had purchased two small fish on credit for the traditional pickled fish meal on Good Friday. This family was not only able to settle the debt with the fishmonger but also filled the kitchen pantry with fresh groceries; furthermore, the children will enjoy Easter eggs on Sunday, and this is what should really matter for Christians.
To an extent, the Easter egg tradition symbolizes the decoration of the empty tomb left by Christ after the Resurrection. The Easter bunny, however, remains a mystery. In the United States, the traditional White House Easter Egg Roll was organized in haste this year; in previous years, the hapless White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has donned the Easter bunny suit, but it is not certain whether he would do it again this time. The Easter bunny is even more of a mystery for countries such as Malta and Costa Rica, which are Roman Catholic by virtue of their political constitutions. In these nations, historical events such as Palm Sunday and the Crucifixion are solemnly reenacted in community pilgrimages to local parishes, but the Easter eggs and the bunny are mostly reserved for expatriate communities.
Easter is never devoid of politics; in Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali delivered an Easter message that riled against government corruption, particularly in the public health sector. The Archbishop also mentioned that climate change cannot be ignored as the threat of malaria is returning, but he commended government efforts in this regard. In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Theresa May criticized the decision of the National Trust to not mention the word “Easter” when it announced its agenda for the annual Easter egg hunt.
In the end, the best example of what Easter should be about comes from County Cornwall in England, where a local radio station prompted listeners to donate more than 3,000 pounds for a local charity that helps British children living in poverty. The money collected will ensure that poor families have a nice meal and their children will have Easter eggs and toy bunnies to play with. Christians should not limit their contemplation in this holiest of days to themselves; they should include the neediest in their prayers, thoughts and actions.