For more than two-thirds of the population in the United States, today marks one of the two holiest days of the annual calendar.
Christians throughout the West today celebrate their faith’s foundational belief in the resurrection of Christ, and culminate the 40-day season of Lent that underpins the world’s single largest religion. As history.com puts it, “ Lent ... is a time of reflection and penance and represents the 40 days that Jesus spent alone in the wilderness before starting his ministry, a time in which Christians believe he survived various temptations by the devil.”
In that spirit of reflection, we offer some thoughts on this day so solemn for so many.
It is an inescapable truth of history that, as on virtually every Easter, this time of peace and joy is celebrated when violence and despair afflict too many of our fellow citizens of the world. As Easter approached, conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan -- the list is dismaying -- are displacing millions from their homes and homelands, killing combatants and innocents alike.
From our nation’s perspective, much of this violence is far away, a distant drama that for many is easy to ignore even as for many others the images and headlines scar each day. But recent events -- our retaliation for chemical weapons attacks in Syria and deployment of a massive conventional bomb in Afghanistan, saber-rattling by both sides on the volatile Korean peninsula, to cite but a few -- are reminders that at any moment more of our forces could be in harms way.
Perhaps today, too, is an appropriate time to reflect that the Christian faith that galvanizes so many, especially in this holy season, is in fact a minority faith in the world at large. Around the globe, the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life identifies some 2.2 billion people, a third of the world’s population, as Christian.
Close behind, Islam, one of two other great Abrahamic religions, claims 1.6 billion adherents, or nearly one in four people on the planet. It’s worth noting that the Pew center projects that within a generation or so there will be more Muslims than Christians in the world. It should go without saying that it behooves us for both moral and practical reasons to understand and accept the faith of others, and to wary of demonizing the many of any faith, be it Christian, Muslim or other, because of the reprehensible acts of a few.
Whether a person of faith or one of the billion humans who profess no religious affiliation at all, let’s remember a prominent tenet of the faith at the forefront of today’s holiday is to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”