LONDON – The Archbishop of Canterbury is urging Christians to witness “boldly and clearly” despite the hardships they will inevitably face because of their faith.
In his ecumenical Easter letter to fellow church leaders, Dr. Rowan Williams lamented the recent attacks on Christians in Nigeria, northern Iraq, and Egypt.
He also paid tribute to Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was martyred thirty years ago this year in El Salvador.
Williams, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, reminded Christians of the need to find their hope in the resurrection of Jesus whenever they faced death, whether literally or in the spiritual sense.
“Christians will never be safe in a world of injustice and mindless fear, because Christians will always stand, as did Archbishop Romero, for the hope of a different world, in which the powerful have to let go of privilege and rediscover themselves as servants, and the poor are lifted up into joy and liberty.
“This hope is rooted in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. His rising from the dead shows the world that death does not have the last word – whether the death of love, the death of security, even physical death itself.”
He said that wherever fear prevailed, such a promise would be seen as dangerous but he paid tribute to Christians living in unsafe environments and their courage to still identify themselves as Christians despite the risk of being intimidated or murdered by non-Christians.
“They know that the resurrection demonstrates that Jesus is beyond all human power and violence ... The Christian may suffer and die witnessing to this truth, but death itself cannot extinguish the abiding power of Christ to transform and renew; the martyr knows this and fixes his or her eyes on that joyful vision,” he said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury told Christians living in more comfortable environments that their persecuted brothers and sisters need their prayers and “tangible support.” Such support could be given in the form of personal contact or reminding governments and the media of their plight.
“To a Christian experiencing these threats, it matters more than most of us could imagine simply to know that they are not alone and not forgotten.”
Williams warned Christians not to be alarmist, however, saying it was all too easy, even in comfortable societies, “to become consumed with anxiety about the future of church and society.”
“We need to witness boldly and clearly but not with anger and fear,” he cautioned. “The miracle of the joy shown by martyrs and confessors of the faith is one of the most compelling testimonies of the Gospel of Jesus.
“In whatever way we can, we must seek to communicate this joy, however dark or uncertain the sky seems.”