04/02/2015, 00.00
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Easter: The silence of the innocent and the gag

by Bernardo Cervellera
Violations of religious freedom and the West's hypocricy surrounding this issue are likely to drag the world into an unprecedented chaos. But even in silence - of death accepted for love or death inflicted by power - God is at work. An indestructible hope rises on Easter morning and a small opening of the heart is just enough for it to invade a lifetime. Happy Easter.

Rome (AsiaNews) - Easter festivities and especially the Easter Triduum (Thursday, Friday and Holy Saturday) celebrate the victory of life over death and love over hatred, won for us by Christ, God-made-man. To obtain this victory he allows himself to be subjected to the bitterest experience reserved for a human being: loneliness, abandonment, betrayal, abuse, torture, up to death on the Cross.  On Good Friday, the day when we remember the passion and death of Jesus, the Church in the words of the prophet Isaiah, calls Our Lord who goes to the gallows "a lamb led to the slaughter", and "as a sheep before its shearers is silent" (Is 53: 7).

This "silence" of the Lamb, this not opening his mouth, this willingness to be subjected to the wickedness of men, this firm obedience to his Father' mandate of love is a characteristic of Jesus in his passion and death. But the silence of the sacrificial victim is the other side of God's committment. In that very silence that surrounds the tomb, the most unpredictable thing happens at the hands of the Father: He makes life pour forth from death, the triumph of light over the darkness that had engulfed humanity.

This victory of the Father in the silence of death gives hope to those of us who learn about and inform others of the persecution faced by the Christians of Asia and the world: the silence of the Egyptian Coptic Christians beheaded on the coast of Libya; that of thousands of Nigerian Christians massacred by the terrorism of Boko Haram; the silence of the refugees from Mosul, driven from their land.
But there is a silence that is not for life, and it happens when the fate of so many Christians (and not only Christians) is hidden for political, diplomatic or economic reasons or out of pure antipathy. In this case it is not the Father who is acting, but Pilate or Judas, or one of the pusillanimous disciples. Speaking on 15 March, after the attack on two churches in Lahore in Pakistan, Pope Francis said: "Christians are persecuted. Our brothers shed their blood just because they are Christians. " He called people to pray "for an end to this persecution against Christians, that the world tries to hide".
This hiding has become part of globalization. We only have to think of China, where in a few weeks two priests in Harbin were abducted by the police; Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang is (maybe) dead and the government refuses to return his remains to his family members; a Protestant pastor of Wenzhou was convicted for trying to stop the demolition of his church; a Buddhist monk is in danger of dying from torture endured during in 15 years in prison and few, very few media are reporting this news, rather they are gagging it, preferring to burn incense to the economic giant China, so useful in times of crisis.
Unfortunately for those who love peace, religious freedom is the litmus test for human rights, and sooner or later, other freedoms will be sent up in smoke along with it, including economic freedom.

In the silence of Christ's death, the Father acts to give life. In the silence of so much persecution, particularly in the Middle East, the West stands by imobile. In all likelihood this is not due to a sense of powerlessness but becuse of the blackmail exercised by Arab nations on the european economy.  Thus instead of leading the forces deployed against the international terrorism of the Islamic State, the West pursues a blind support for authoritarian and Sunni powers, whose Wahabi ideology is close to that of IS.
Now, even in the West, religious freedom is in danger, with a tendency towards a society in which all religions (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam...) are marginalized to the private sphere and silence, so that hands are free to manipulate public opinion with grandiose promises of new freedoms and rights and few concrete facts for the common good.
But even in the silence - of death accepted out of love or onflicted by the powers that be - God is at work. An indestructable hope rises Easter morning and a small opening of the heart is enough to allow one's entire life to be invaded in an instant.  Happy Easter.

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