For many Christians around the world, Easter is long past, with the Easter Sunday celebration on 31 March 2024 a distant memory. For the Orthodox Christians, though, this year’s Easter is only now approaching, with Easter Sunday falling on 5 May 2024.

Located as I am these days in Sparta, Greece, I am going through this Easter-associated annual ritual of sacrifice, death and rebirth according to the Orthodox calendar. Greece may have anchored itself to the West, for the cultural foundations of which it is to a large extent responsible, but it is still part of the Orthodox East, just for Easter, not Christmas. Not a bad thing to be a bridge between worlds, if only it were used proactively.

How can I experience the sacrifice and death part of Easter this year? Easily, I just need to look around the world and the examples are plenty. The Palestinians of Gaza continue to carry their crosses up and down their narrow strip of land, tormented by the Israeli armed forces. The members of the latter may have just missed the Passover holidays in the line of duty, as did the majority Muslim Gazans, who missed the Eid celebrations marking the end of the Ramadan earlier in April. It could have been a series of celebrations, one following the other, starting with the Catholic/Protestant Easter, Ramadan, Passover and the Orthodox Easter to complete the cycle.

One could even throw in elements of Holi, the Hindu festival of colours that this year took place in late March, and several more if one looked around all of the world’s rich religious and cultural traditions. That would be many rebirths, one after another, a positive message reinforced to the maximum so that it could reach the entire world.

But no, it is death that continues and is proving victorious, not life, on this planet of ours that is itself dying of overexploitation, pollution, rampant biodiversity loss and ecosystem destabilization. Instead of at least agreeing on a break in the fighting because of these religious occasions, the fighting intensifies, and it can be internecine. Orthodox Russians continue to rain bombs on Orthodox Ukrainian’s electricity generation system, among other targets, generating more civilian victims in the process. At the same time, Ukrainian drones reach deeper and deeper into Russia, proving the volatility of the limits between defence and offence. In both cases, the respective Orthodox Church and its hierarchy prefer to egg the soldiers on to kill the enemy as an almost sacred duty, instead of helping them and their leaders get back to the core Christian teachings of love and  “turn the other chick” practices.

East and West together, with their Christian Kingdoms/regimes, Christian Kings/leaders and professed superior morality, are again putting the world into turmoil, claiming to pursue what is absolutely right and fair. Resurrection or the hope thereof comes in as a show, like the construction of the piers and humanitarian aid offloading port just off the Gaza coastline.

Hundreds of millions of US dollars are reportedly being spent for this technically ambitious project by the US army, for the eventual addition of a meager number of tracks with humanitarian assistance to be able to come in the devastated territory. Still, this could be resolved in a few minutes, if Israel agreed to allow access to the World Food Programme and other humanitarian tracks through its ports and land crossings to Gaza. In all this, the actual therapy to the lingering hatred and war between Israelis and Palestinians, the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, is relegated to the distant future, once again, through a “pathway” approach that apparently goes in circles and may never get us to the professed destination.

Resurrection postponed, therefore, if not cancelled completely. Death seems to suit well those intent on profiting from misery and destruction, the weapons industry to start with, and those who want to play it heroes above morality and the law, like Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu or the leaders of the Hamas armed wing.

Maybe all hope is not lost, though, if one sees the demonstrations spreading around US university campuses, the acts of good will and reconciliation still performed by Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East and outside, some decisions of international bodies that at least remind belligerents of their responsibility to respect and protect civilians in situations of war, not commit genocide, provide humanitarian assistance, etc… Happy Orthodox Easter no matter what!