Despite closed churches, Easter is a time to appreciate religious freedom
It’s another Covid Easter for Christians in Bermuda.
Churches and places of worship have been ordered to close as the Government attempts to curb the current outbreak of positive coronavirus cases on island.
This decision was disappointing for the Christian community as it came just one week before Easter. It’s the second year that Easter has been ‘cancelled’ and it’s safe to say that the new normal is definitely taking its toll.
But in other parts of the world Christian worship is prohibited entirely – pandemic or not – and Christian persecution is on the rise. According to the 2021 World Watch List compiled by the Open Doors Christian advocacy group, more than 340 million Christians around the world face persecution and discrimination because of their faith.
Open Doors has been monitoring global Christian persecution since 1992. It brings awareness to some of the injustices that are taking place around the world and raises funds to assist those impacted by such religious discrimination.
In Bermuda we enjoy freedom of religion and we often take it for granted. Everyone is free to worship who they want, how they way and when they want. But there are places around the world where freedom of religion is still an anomaly.
North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia are listed as the top three countries for Christian persecution and censorship, with other countries such as India, Nigeria and Iran also making an appearance on the 2021 World Watch List.
Their statistics show that 13 Christians are killed daily because of their faith. An additional 12 are unjustly arrested and another five abducted, every day. In 2020 there was a global total of 4,761 deaths of Christians because of their faith; 4,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked.
The statistics show a 60 per cent increase over previous years, as dictatorial paranoia and religious nationalism have risen. The coronavirus pandemic presented another avenue for discrimination. Open Doors documented discrimination against Christians receiving Covid-19 relief in Ethiopia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Vietnam, and the Middle East.
These are facts that the average person does not know or think of often. Especially as we are navigating this pandemic and keeping our own health and safety a priority. The longing for community and corporate worship is amplified this weekend as believers remember the death and resurrection of their saviour in a way that may not feel celebratory at all.
The celebration of Good Friday and Easter are embedded in Bermudian culture and family tradition. But for others around the world acknowledging these holy days is a risk. What is a normal celebration for us is an act of courage for others.
Just last Sunday, March 28, suicide bombers attacked worshippers leaving a Palm Sunday service at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Makassar, Indonesia. At least 20 people were injured.
As we lament over the increased restrictions may we also find gratitude and peace in knowing that these measures are temporary, and we live in a country where we are free to believe and to practice our faith – whatever that faith is – safely and without fear.
May we show this gratitude through tolerance and love in our daily lives, remembering those whose freedoms are denied and compromised.
To learn more about Open Doors and the World Watch List visit www.opendoorsuk.org