Easter has once more come and gone and it seems the various faith communities for whom Jesus Christ is a key figure have packed away their sermons which will not be dusted off until Christmas when the birth of Christ is traditionally celebrated.
Easter is perhaps the biggest date in the specific Christian calendar in terms of the faith communities. It marks the crucifixion of the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, (traditionally marked on Good Friday) and his resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Christians believe Christ died on the Roman cross so that people could be guaranteed eternal life in heaven. Christians of whatever theological viewpoint across the globe gathered in places of worship to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.
Probably the most public demonstrations this year were the traditional Easter messages from the Pope Francis in Rome and from the Archbishop Justin Welby, for the worldwide Anglican Communion.
But after their respective ‘five minutes of fame’ on the media, it seems the Christian faith in particular is retreating back into the safety of the Vatican for Pope Francis and Lambeth Palace for Archbishop Welby to sit out the summer until the Christmas festivities begin.
However, both Christian leaders could have been more forceful in their messages given the situation in Ukraine in urging the Russian Orthodox Church to do more to stop the killing.
They could have used their Easter messages to unveil a strategy to allow the Christian faith community to take a more direct role in the political life of society - including more Christian denominations allowing their clergy to run for elected office.
And when we talk about the faith community, we are not solely limiting this to the Christian community. The death of Jesus Christ is also to a lesser degree a part of the Jewish and Islamic faith communities where he is seen as an influential prophet, but not to the same degree as he is regarded in Christianity.
And as an aside, for the non faith community, especially those who would classify themselves as agnostic or atheist or would be lapsed in their religion or do not designate as having a faith or spiritual belief system, Easter would be regarded as a time to consider their moral compasses.
On a positive note, for both faith and non faith communities, Easter was a family time similar to Christmas when people can join together. Given the pandemic, the lockdown and restrictions, 2022 probably witnessed the most public celebrations of Easter since before Covid in 2019.
For me personally as a born again Christian by faith, I saw this Easter as a chance for the entire nations of the world to ponder the concept of Christ’s teachings to ‘love one another’.
In Ireland, too, Easter is a very important time in the political calendar. For Unionists, it marks the start of the traditional marching season by the exclusively Protestant Loyal Orders and marching bands, with the Apprentice Boys out in force on Easter Monday and the Junior Orange Institution getting their walk on Easter Tuesday.
For Irish republicans and Irish nationalists, it marks the commemoration of the failed Dublin Easter Rising in 1916 by the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizens Army militias against British rule on the island.
Unfortunately, both 2021 and 2022 have seen Northern Ireland slip back into the bad old days of the Troubles. Last year, it was loyalists in Belfast who went on the rampage against the Northern Ireland Protocol; this year, it was dissident republicans throwing petrol bombs after their parade in Londonderry.
While there would be a body of opinion which maintains the sectarian conflict in Ireland has been fuelled by the faith community and by specific clerics, we also cannot underestimate the quiet behind the scenes roles which various clerics played in bringing about the peace process.
And while we are being constantly bombarded with the view that Ireland is becoming an increasingly secular, pluralist and liberal society and the faith communities should keep their noses out of politics, it cannot be disputed that a lot of people on this island still designate as having a faith or believing in a deity.
Whilst there have been many cross-community forums within the Christian faith over the decades and the development of inter-faith forums to include non-Christian denominations, the broad faith community in Ireland needs to take a firm stand on politics - and get directly involved in the democratic process.
In past articles, I have explored the notion that if existing political parties become too liberal and secular in their policies and agendas, is it time for evangelical and fundamentalist Christians to bond together and launch an Irish Christian Party which has an overtly Salvationist ethos?
However, could this see a reigniting of the perceptions that the fundamentalist Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (founded by the late Rev Ian Paisley in 1951) is the Democratic Unionist Party at prayer and perhaps that some evangelical Pentecostal places of worship could become the hardline Traditional Unionist Voice party at prayer, and indeed, some Roman Catholic chapels gaining the perception they are the staunchly pro-life Aontu Irish republican party at prayer?
To keep the concept of faith on the political radar, what is needed after the May Assembly elections is for the various faiths on this island to form a pressure group known as the Irish Inter-Faith Coalition to ensure that elected representatives of whatever political persuasion keep their moral compasses in check.
Given the crisis caused by the various Partygate scandals and allegations of breaches of Covid restrictions across the entire British Isles, perhaps such a Coalition is urgently needed to keep us all in check?
On paper, my call for an Irish Inter-Faith Coalition would work wonders for the faith community’s influence on political life; in practice, how long would it be before the various fundamentalist factions of the faiths represented on this Coalition fall out among themselves?
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Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.