Let us pray this Easter that the God of mercy will roll away the rock that blocks up the hearts and minds of our policy-makers and political leaders.
The Easter bunny comes to hide chocolate eggs in the garden for us to find, and that is the meaning of Easter.
If one were to observe Easter as it is celebrated in most parts of Australia and the Western world today, that would not be an inaccurate description of the significance of Easter (though in France the chocolate apparently is delivered by flying bells on their return from a three-day visit to Rome: yet another reason to be grateful for the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo). It should come as no surprise, as religious observance and cultural literacy continue to decline, that the significance of Easter as the culmination of the most solemn season of the Christian calendar should be obscured by the forces of commercialism and self-indulgence. Chocolate and Easter are as entwined in the average punter’s mind as are Santa Claus and Christmas.
At least the fat old bearded man in the red suit carries with him the freight of giving and generosity on the occasion of Christ’s birth; the consumption of chocolate eggs at Easter does not even function as a reward for the previous forty days of fasting and abstinence, given that such penances have gone the way of all flesh. In our southern hemisphere it does not even serve as a festival presaging spring, signalling the arrival of new life after winter’s barren bleakness: the secular Easter is all sugar and no substance.
As I reflect on Easter I cannot but think of the men, women, and children still caught up in the cruel offshore processing regimes that are the brainchild of Labor and the beloved stepchild of the Coalition. The Easter Proclamation chanted in churches at the Easter Vigil speaks of the children of Israel being led out of bondage in Egypt, and of Christ breaking chains. How do we hear that with any equanimity, when people who tried to make their way to Australia to seek safety from persecution and conflict continue to be subjected to all the cruelties of a botched offshore processing policy, unlucky victims first of the politics of their own countries, and now victims of the debased politics of Australia?
Any claim that keeping people on Manus Island and in Nauru continues to act as an effective deterrent to boat arrivals is just political legerdemain: we know that boats have continued to come, and the only reason why there have been no new arrivals is that Australia has turned those vessels back, and even returned the passengers to their countries of origin. Much like the secular Easter of bunnies and chocolate, this government’s offshore processing policy is all sugar for the masses, and no substance.
As our government ministers and their Labor counterparts peel the foil off their Cadbury Crème Egg or Great Bunny on Easter morning, I wonder if any of them, even the obviously card-carrying Christians, fully realise the significance and import of what Easter is supposed to be.
The Easter Proclamation says:
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels all wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord,
and brings down the mighty.
We cannot reverse the great harm done to the asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island and in Nauru, but we can still offer them new life and hope by bringing them back to Australia. Let us pray this Easter that the God of mercy will roll away the rock that blocks up the hearts and minds of our policy-makers and political leaders. If that does not happen, then let us hope that the grace of Easter will indeed bring down the mighty, and that better minds and larger hearts will take their place.