Ben Oh, Acceptance member, Newtown parishioner and campaigner for peace, equality and justice, reflects on the meaning of the Easter events as paradigms for developing a more equitable and just world.
The Jewish story of Exodus is being told every year as we celebrate the feasts of Passover and Easter. In our home, we celebrate the festival of freedom through the lens of faith and culture, which is quite similar to Mardi Gras, come to think of it. They both mix together pride, protest, resolution, humour and beauty (though, Passover and Easter comes with a lot more food!).
As a displaced migrant, with horrible experiences of heterosexism, racism, and classism, this holiday is particularly special. We fast, and feast, with close friends and family. And there are particular traditions and rituals that are timeless and continue to evoke deep meaning.
Every year, my partner and I raise funds through a soup and cheese evening to support peacemaking through an evening with an interfaith network of friends. There is a wholesome pot of soup to break the fast together, there is a movie (we watched the intense film ‘The Bubble’ one year and ‘The Life of Brian’ the year after), lots of deep and meaningful discussions, followed by games that include the casting of dice.
On the eve of Easter, we have ‘The Service of the Light'. Through this ceremony, we remember what living in an oppressive darkness looks like through a ceremony of the lighting of a single candle in complete darkness, the light is then shared out into the gathering. The gently lit room is filled with little flickers that are quite mesmerising.
These commemorations retrace ancient human stories of how far we have come in terms of our journey of oppression and liberation, but they also, most importantly, remind us how far we still have to go. Easter is a celebration of our individual emancipation and communal liberation from that which oppresses us. After all, traditions like social justice go beyond the Left/Right political binary and religious divisions.
As we retrace our stories of liberation and oppression, there is no running from the tears of our current realities where most of our sisters are still not paid a fair wage around the world - certainly nowhere close to that of their male-counterparts.
Our First Nation sisters and brothers are treated like second-class citizens while we stand on colonized territories without any formal treaty (let alone recognising their sovereignty).
Meanwhile, both Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise in supposedly ‘liberal western’ countries. Many of us believe that marriage equality is inevitable to a “fair go” Australia but we are still living in a climate where homophobia is rife (http://tinyurl.com/ls9soq6). We also need to remember that many of our LGBTIQ siblings in our neighbouring region are still just trying to live free from fear. They are fighting their right to exist.
Here in Australia, we also tell ourselves we are “saving lives” by “stopping the boats.” Yet, our perverse sense of compassion means we lock up children and the most vulnerable people seeking refuge in cages of torture and cruelty. We even pay our more impoverished neighbours to do these deeds for us. Out of sight, out of mind.
I hear you ask, what are we celebrating then? We “celebrate”, because sometimes it’s the most human thing to do. We punctuate this rather challenging journey with the humour of a celebration. It can seem a little queer. We celebrate our struggle with reminders of the little wins and sparks of hope. As Amnesty International often reminds us, “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” In the meantime, we have inclusive traditions, shared hopes to hold onto, and stories of deliverance to inspire us all to move forward.
-- Ben Oh, Acceptance Member
Reprinted with permission from The Swag, Winter 15 Quarterly Magazine.