Archbishop Peter Loy Chong | The Fiji Times | April 14, 2017
Peace — Shalom! (May you have fullness of life). Peace is the first word uttered by Jesus to his disciples after he rose from the dead. Jesus greets the disciples who were still traumatised by his humiliating and brutal death.
Easter celebrates the most important event of the Christian tradition, namely the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, the writings of the New Testament have no record of Jesus’ actual rising from the tomb. Instead it only has accounts of the appearances of Jesus to the disciples. This means that the disciples’ knowledge and experience of the Risen Jesus was given to them. In other words revelation is a gift from God. Therefore, to understand what happened on that original Easter and to reinterpret its meaning for Fiji today we turn to the disciples’ experiences of the risen Jesus.
The Easter-experience took place in the context of Jewish peoples’ suffering and hope for liberation. Ever since the Babylonian exile around 587BC, the Jews have always looked forward to their liberation when God will send a messiah. One of the earliest records of Easter is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1Cor.15:3-5); “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” The New Testament Easter narratives taken as a whole hold the following structure:
- Jesus revealed God to the disciples,
- The disciples had to overcome a certain doubt or disbelief,
- The Risen Lord charged them with a mission.
Easter began with an experience. Jesus’ life, teachings, miracles, suffering and death gave new meaning and purpose to the disciples. They experienced liberation, truth and hope. In other words they came to know Jesus as the Christ, the anointed one, the messiah. In Jesus they found the truth that was worth living and dying for. Easter and Jesus’ resurrection is not only about the dead body of Jesus coming back to life, rather it was more about how the spirit and life of Jesus lifted up the lives of believers. Easter charged them with a mission for the whole world. This is the Easter Good News.
What is the Easter mission for Fijian Christians? In this reflection I want to focus on our Easter mission in the context of climate change and caring for our environment or in the word’s of Pope Francis I, Our Common Home.
Today the message regarding the vulnerability and destruction of our common home, the earth, has been made clear. Pope Francis’ letter addressed to all the peoples of the world, “Laudato Si: Encyclical Letter on Care for our Common Home” states that the earth, our sister, now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” (Laudato Si no.2) He adds that “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” (Laudato Si’no. 66) Human beings are responsible for the cry of the earth, our sister and mother.
Pope Francis raises important questions that challenge our Easter mission to protect and raise our fallen home and all that live in it.
- “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?”
- “This question does not have to do with the environment alone and in isolation; the issue cannot be approached piecemeal.”
- This leads us to ask ourselves about the meaning of existence and its values as the basis of social life: “What is the purpose of our life in this world? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us?”
- “Unless we struggle with these deeper questions I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results.”
Last week I came to know of a quarry operating near Natadradave, Dawasamu that intends to crush all the stones and rocks it can find in the river alongside the village and sell the crushed stones locally and overseas. They have carried out an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and hence given a licence to operate a quarry. I am deeply concerned how the extraction of stones from the river will affect the environment in the nearby villages of Natadadrave and Delakado. What impact will it have on the fishes, prawns and other creatures that depend on the river including human beings? What will happen if there is heavy rain and flooding?
The people of Natadradave are not the only victims of some so-called development projects. We already have bauxite mining in Bua. There is mining interest in Wainunu, Bua. A mining company has been carrying intensive mining explorations in Namosi for the last 40 years. Some reliable sources state that their licence for Deep Sea Mining in Fiji’s ocean has been issued. Along with the extractive industries we have to take into account the logging industry and any industry that exploits our natural resources. All these projects carried out in the name of development must be evaluated and questioned in regard to social and ecological justice. How do they develop and protect human beings, creatures and the environment?
Easter brings the message of hope to the Jews and early Christians who have been oppressed for years. Easter message therefore speaks against the destruction of peoples, the environment and the planet. May the Easter services and prayers give us the strength to follow the Risen Lord courageously in his suffering, death and resurrection. Alleluia!