Death and Life, Suffering, Passion and Easter

I am writing this column on the 23rd of March, the day after the bloody terrorist attacks in Brussels.

Similar attacks have taken place in e.g. Paris, London and other cities and also in countries like Turkey and Lebanon. We have also heard about attacks in African countries like Tunisia, Kenya, Mali, Burkina Faso and recently Côte d’Ivoire.
Many are in shock at the news of the large number of innocent casualties suffered at such terrorist attacks. We are confronted over and over again with the sudden and random ripping away from life of people who are on their way home or to work, fathers, mothers and children. This causes immense suffering with those involved. What grief, what great suffering, what untold misery.
The attacks in Brussels took place in the middle of what we call in Dutch the Silent Week (Eastertime), that special period of time during which Christians from all over the world celebrate both Good Friday and Easter Sunday. In this week people remember the Passion of Jesus Christ, but at Easter we also celebrate His Resurrection and a New Life. We may rejoice at the empty grave and know that life will overcome death eventually. A heavenly vision.
But this is something hard to explain to a person who has just lost someone during a terrorist attack. One cannot get used to terrorism and we certainly hope that this will never ever be the case! Generally, losing one of your loved ones is a terrible thing. Maybe your grief will be even greater, nearly impossible to understand and more unfathomable when the one you love is killed out of nowhere and at random by someone who is convinced that this should be done on the basis of a strong and incomprehensible conviction.
Then for a while the suffering of the whole world seems to accumulate in one person, one family, one community of people, who grief for all those victims.
Right in the middle of life there is sudden and violent death and the heavenly vision of “a life that is stronger than death” seems even farther away!
Just like elsewhere in the world we also celebrate Good Friday and Easter in PCC this week. In PCC the brokenness of the world is visible in a completely different way, not because of physical violence but because of the presence of all those rejected and abandoned children who are often seriously intellectually and physically handicapped.
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The suffering of the world is certainly present in PCC, but the wonderful thing about our Community is that the Peace of Christ is not only to be found in the name Peace of Christ Community, but it is also clearly felt in the atmosphere and daily contact with its residents. The suffering of people and a life in His Peace are walking Hand in Hand here.
In English Eastertime is often called Passion Week. Thinking about it “passion” is a rather exceptional word. At first sight it is a very positive word, e.g. when you have a great passion for doing something. However, the selfsame word is used when you are in a state of rage or great suffering. In Passion Week it is used for the suffering and death of Jesus Christ at the cross, but also for his Resurrection and victory over death.
Maybe that is the reason why the word Passion suits PCC so well. PCC is not a paradise, because human suffering is visible here. But care is given and received passionately and life is peaceful here. We are experiencing passion and compassion, we witness love that conquers suffering here.
That is why this week PCC is the Passion of Christ Community.
And for the world as a whole we hope that this wonderful heavenly vision of Life that is stronger than death will be reality soon. We are looking forward to a New World in which nobody will know what terror is. Amen.