Then (the Risen Jesus) opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:45-48
Alleluia, Christ is risen! Al-Masih kam! Hakan kam!
Dear beloved in Christ, I wish you all a Happy Easter from Jerusalem, the City of the Resurrection. As Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, I join Christians around the world in joyfully proclaiming the Good News that Christ is risen, and we have been raised to life with Him! Through the cross and the empty tomb we have been liberated from sin and death. By God’s amazing grace, we have been granted eternal life with God in heaven and abundant life here on earth. Wherever you are in the world, I pray your Easter celebration is one of abundant life, peace, hope, and joy. May God bless you all.
Of course, as we join with family and friends to celebrate the Good News of the resurrection, our hearts are with all those who are suffering this day. We remember those affected by gun violence, by poverty and hunger, by prejudice and war. We pray for the oppressed who are still waiting for the stone to be rolled back from the tomb, for those who are still waiting for liberation.
We are also especially mindful of the situation for Arab and Middle Eastern Christians today. With so many wars, and so much political turmoil in various parts of the globe, it seems the world has forgotten about the Christians in the Middle East. The church in Syria is quickly disappearing. Christians are suffering persecution and terror in Egypt and in other places. Here in Palestine, the occupation has entered a second half-century, and the Christian population continues to diminish.
This reality is one the church dares not ignore. We must remember that it was on the evening of the first Easter, just hours after Christ arose from the grave, when the disciples received the command to go and share the Good News. Jesus said this witness must be preached to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. But now, those who received this commission are struggling to survive in this region. Those who first witnessed the resurrection are struggling to remain in the City of the Resurrection. For this reason, Christians in the Middle East are wondering: Will the churches here soon become only museums? Where is the international church? Where are our siblings in Christ?
The message of Easter is one that proclaims the awesome power of love over hate, of life over death, of liberation over oppression and occupation. I wish to implore my fellow Christians around the world to pick up and proclaim this bold message during the Easter season. Be not afraid to share the power of the resurrection! Be not afraid to speak the truth that all people deserve life and life abundant! Be not afraid to stand against the politicians and pundits who say nothing can be done, who say nothing can change, who say we must accept a certain level of inequality, of oppression, of violence. Our faith shows us that nothing can stand in the way of the love of God—no stone, no dictator, no wall, no occupation, not even death itself.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. And Christ will come again!
Dear friends, we are witnesses of these things. Our church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, is a small church. But we continue to stand steadfast in this land, and to proclaim God’s Good News to every nation, beginning from Jerusalem. Will you join us? Will you stand with the Christians of the Middle East, who desire to stay in the land of the first disciples? Will you be our partners in boldly proclaiming peace, justice, liberation and reconciliation for all people?
My prayers, and the prayers of the ELCJHL, are with all of you this Easter season. May you know the liberating love of Christ’s resurrection.
And may you be empowered by the cross and the empty tomb to boldly proclaim to the world: Alleluia, Christ is risen! Al- Masih kam!
Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar