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Easter among the Muslims, in the land of Saint Paul

ICC Note: This article gives an insight into what it is like to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ in a Muslim country.

by Luigi Padovese*
04/08/09 Antakya, Turkey (AsiaNews) – Easter is uniquely special in Turkey this year, because the Pauline Year is being celebrated, and St. Paul is the one who brought the proclamation of Jesus dead and risen to our land.

As in the times of the apostle, we live in the same land, in a non-Christian society. We are a minority group that runs the risk of losing our own identity through a generic concept of faith in God. For this reason, the events of the Easter that we celebrate are important: they make us contemplate again the founding event of our faith.

A request to the government for the church of Tarsus

One fact that comforts us is seeing that precisely in these days, there is a constant flow of pilgrims, including foreign pilgrims, to Antioch and to the places of St. Paul. This area used to be outside of the pilgrimage tours; this year, it has been swamped with thousands of pilgrims. They are not tourists, but believers is seeking contact with the places in which the apostle lived. Paul was born in Tarsus, but he was part of the Christian community of Antioch, and he always returned to Antioch for his ministry. He traveled at least 16,000 kilometers in Turkey!

For this reason, Easter here among us must necessarily have a Pauline character. In this regard, we are hoping for a great Easter gift: the return of the church of Tarsus to the Christians…The gift of the church will also be a sort of litmus test to measure how much the Turkish authorities want to do to guarantee religious freedom. We need concrete actions in order to believe that something is really changing in this country.

Martyrs and conversions

I must add, however, that for some of my Christians the Via Crucis is a living reality, it is not something from the past. There are truly difficult situations within the vicariate of Anatolia. The experience of the martyrdom of Fr. Andrea Santoro and other events have left their marks. There are still Christians who are close to the suffering of Jesus…. [Go To Full Story]

* apostolic vicar of Anatolia