For those of us who follow the Gregorian calendar, Easter was three days ago. In my faith tradition we gathered early in the park for a “sunrise” service, then met again in the sanctuary of our church, to give thanks for the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a joyous time. A time that rang with hallelujah’s. A time for hugs and smiles and gratitude. Even our lousy weather was greeted with a wry smile. We saw rebirth all around us–the daffodils in the fields, the robin on a branch, the silver lining on a storm cloud. Easter – holy day and holiday.

For the people of the Ukraine, who follow the Julian calendar, Easter is four days from now. As I watch the horrors shown on television news night after night, I cannot help but wonder how they can celebrate Easter this year.  Then I saw a priest in a bombed church, sorrow etched deep on his face. Yet his answer to the reporter was “Jesus forgave. How can I not forgive?” Last night I listened to an old woman from one of the recently occupied Ukrainian towns speak of meeting a Russian soldier. Even though the bodies of her slain countrymen lay in the street around her, she had taken pity on the young soldier and gave him food. 

With a humbled and aching heart, I pray for the people of Ukraine — and their oppressors. There will be no peace in the world until the bullies and aggressors turn their hearts and minds toward love of their fellowmen. The pope has called for an Easter “pause” this weekend to let peace talks go ahead. I am not a Roman Catholic but I fervently echo his plea. 

As the natural world welcomes rebirth in the spring, may humanity welcome a rekindling of compassion and a deep desire to live at peace with our neighbours.           

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