You are invited to join us at the Fish Interfaith Center this Thursday, April 25, at 4 p.m. for a remembrance of those killed in Sri Lanka, and of their families. Come to offer your words, prayers from your traditions, or to light a candle in memory. If you cannot join us then, I hope you will pause, whether it is this Wednesday when a day of national mourning has been declared in Sri Lanka, or whenever and wherever you can. Throughout the day this week there is a station with memorial candles for you to light in the Fish Interfaith Center.
To awaken on Sunday morning to the news of these terrible attacks killing over 300 people was devastating for us all, particularly when we learned most were in the act of Easter morning worship.
Easter is the culmination of forty days of Lent to contemplate ways to bring peace out of violence – including hurt we may have caused through our own deeds or misunderstandings. Throughout the month of Lent leading up to Easter, many Christians “give up” something to indicate devotion. This year, I gave up social media on my phone (it’s easy, by the way – just delete those icons!) to create room in my life for more reflection. This reflection culminates in contemplation on Good Friday on the death of Jesus. I am persuaded by the careful scholarship of persons like Chapman’s former Griset Chair in Religious Studies, the late Marv Meyer, that Jesus was in large part killed for political (rather than religious) reasons, as he was too popular among the poor and too threatening to the tyrannical Roman government. Good Friday, in Christian tradition, gives way to resurrection, and the good news that death never has the last word – but hope and new life triumph. Whether that “death” takes on the form of every day disappointments or grieving the loss of loved ones, we are assured that there is always hope and life ahead.
So to awaken on Easter morning to the news that shook the world of massive, violent loss of life of people in Sri Lanka, made it feel like it was still a “Good Friday” world. Still a world where violence triumphs as religion is used to justify violence caused by political unrest and poverty. Yet we have to believe hope is real. This is the hope we heard from Pope Francis following the devastating destruction of the years of art, history, religious devotion and sacred place as we watched flames billowing from Notre Dame Cathedral last week. He tweeted solidarity with the people of France for the “sorrow inflicted by the serious damage to be transformed into hope.” On Easter Sunday addressing the news of terror in Sri Lanka, Pope Francis called upon the international community not to hesitate in condemning these terrorist and inhuman acts that are never justifiable, to work to end the arms race, and to choose dialogue over force.
At Chapman University, we are dedicated to being religiously inclusive and spiritually expansive, and that means working against violence and toward peace for all people. We commit to peace as humanitarians deeply moved by senseless violence, Jews celebrating Passover and remembering the liberation of the Hebrew people from oppression, Muslims anticipating a month of fasting and prayer for peace during Ramadan about to begin in early May, or Christians following Easter, the most holy day of the year.
As the season of spring emerges, may each of us do our part to oppose violence, bring about new life and peace in our lives and our world, and offer hope to hearts in need of healing.
Gail Stearns, Dean, Wallace All Faiths Chapel