For many of us, this will be the first Easter Sunday that we don’t attend church services or gather with our family and friends to celebrate the day our Savior – the ultimate Passover lamb – defeated death and sin and was resurrected. The Coronavirus has made it necessary to stay away from our loved ones. This year we have to celebrate Easter at home.
But not even a global health crisis can overshadow this sacred day when we celebrate life, we celebrate freedom, and we celebrate our eternal hope through salvation. Now more than ever, when fear and uncertainty grips the world in the face of this pandemic, we are thankful for the hope we have received through salvation.
As Matthew 28: 1 - 10: reminds us:
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Hear what the scripture is still telling us today: “Do not be afraid.” The Coronavirus pandemic has filled our world with fear and uncertainty, but while we are choosing to follow the recommendations to shelter-in-place to help quell the spread, we should not be consumed by fear. Even this Easter we can and will celebrate, because He is risen.
But we must also remember that there are Christians all over the world who are suffering –and even dying – for their faith. As we celebrate Easter this weekend, we must pray for those unjustly persecuted Christians all across the word, as we at the ACLJ continue working tirelessly to save them.
Pastor John Cao – a U.S. permanent resident from North Carolina – remains locked behind bars in China because he dedicated his life to serving the poor in China and Burma (Myanmar). He has been sentenced to 7 years in prison simply for living out his Christian faith and his health has suffered as a result. And now adding to his suffering, the Coronavirus is rapidly spreading through the Chinese prison system.
We recently appeared before the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) urging the world’s leaders to take action to set him free NOW.
We are also fighting for Pastor Bryan Nerren – a U.S. Citizen from Tennessee – who is being wrongfully detained in India for his Christian faith after having spent years training Sunday school teachers. His family and daughter with special needs desperately need their husband and father back home.
Iranian authorities stormed the home of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and violently arrested him right in front of his family. Pastor Youcef was sentenced to ten years in Iran’s notorious Evin prison – a remote facility that has been called a “torture factory”. COVID-19 is ravaging Iran’s prisons as well. Pastor Youcef does not deserve to be imprisoned. This new threat is further reason that he must be released and returned home to care for his family.
Christian teen Leah Sharibu remains a prisoner of Nigeria’s Islamic militia Boko Haram, more than two years after it violently abducted 110 schoolgirls. The vile terrorist group has threatened to kill or enslave her because she will not renounce her faith in Jesus Christ. The steadfast faith of this young woman who has refused to deny her Savior, even when faced with a living nightmare, should humble us all.
An NGO has just reported as many as 350 Christians have already been killed in Nigeria this year alone. And the deadly violence is spreading beyond Nigeria’s borders. Without immediate intervention to provide protection and aid, the future for Christians in Africa looks grim.
We just delivered a critical written submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) through our European affiliate, the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ), asking for action to end Boko Haram’s reign of terror over Nigeria’s Christians, and to intervene on behalf of Leah Sharibu.
Our Savior has commissioned us to share his love and defend his church. We will continue to fight to save Christians that are suffering for their faith.
To honor Him, even during a global health crisis, we must continue to defend Christians all over the world who are being persecuted and punished for living the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From my family to yours, Happy Easter. He is risen indeed.
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