Letters & Opinion

Easter Has No Caribbean Bounds — or Boundaries!

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Easter is observed in different ways and places every year, under different circumstances everywhere, as Christians celebrate the biblical story of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ after Crucifixion.

From Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday and the Monday holiday, Christendom’s longest holy weekend is observed as a celebration worldwide, another universal holiday that touches everyone everywhere, Believers or not.

Easter has been an integral part of Caribbean culture from the day Christopher Columbus opened the way 530 years ago for European bishops to bless, with prayers and crosses, the genocidal conquest and destruction of centuries of civilization by the region’s First Peoples.

Successive generations of Saint Lucians have annually followed the 14 Stations along The Way of the Cross at ‘The Calvary’ (along Calvary Road in Castries) and Caribbean Christians have traditionally enjoyed special Easter eats and treats — from Hot Cross Buns and Porridge in Guyana to Easter Eggs and Bunny Cakes in Barbados, to crusty ‘Penapice’ (Penny-a-Piece) in Saint Lucia and other former French Caribbean colonies.

But while COVID-19 pandemic stopped traditional Easter celebrations (like we knew it) in 2020 and 2021, the Ukraine War reshaped it worldwide in 2022.

For starters, it’s quite something else when the Roman Catholic Pontiff says what Pope Francis said on Easter Sunday about Easter 2022, telling the flock in St. Peter’s Square, in his first speech from the iconic Vatican balcony since the pandemic’s arrival in 2020, that the world was witnessing an “Easter of War” in Ukraine, around a “cruel and senseless conflict…”

Head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, told his British flock (and the wider Anglican world) that by Christian measure, the UK government’s plan to ship “some” refugees to Rwanda “will not stand up to the Judgment of God.”

Head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill, in Moscow, was also told on Easter Sunday that his flock in Ukraine may very well be considering seeking another shepherd.

And following premature media celebrations that warfare hardware donated by allies would be delivered to Ukraine by Easter Sunday, the bridges, roads and railways intended for delivery were bombed to smithereens.

In South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal region, 450 deaths from unprecedented floods left 40,000 homeless and mourning while still searching for missing souls; and in The Philippines, over 150 deaths were also clocked from bad weather, Christians in both countries observing Easter outside destroyed homes while churches still standing served as human shelters.

Over 150 Palestinians and Jews were also injured at the Al Aksa Mosque after yet another habitual Israeli police raid left Christians and Muslims bleeding while trying to follow crosses on the Second Sunday of the Holy Month of Ramadan, while Jews broke bread to welcome Passover.

No sign of Easter in Ukraine, though, where the grim reality of 21st Century proxy and hybrid hi-tech warfare kept baring its ugly face in worse ways than by any army of grim reapers, through mainstream and social media manipulation and weaponization of minds with repeated, ‘Happening Now’, ‘Breaking News’ and By-the-Minute, In-Your-Face never-seen-before images of the usual costs of any war, but especially when matters prevail over minds.

But none of the above in the Caribbean for Easter ‘22, though, where the usual confluence of beliefs and community of believers has blessed Suriname with a one-in-a-kind case of a mosque and a synagogue coexisting side-by-side in Paramaribo — and for ages…

Or in neighboring Guyana, where Christianity is a minority religion, but Christian holidays (like Phagwa and Eid) are national celebrations observed and enjoyed across religion and culture, ethnicity and politics.

While bombs and bullets flew and crashed in and over Ukraine over the Easter Weekend, Caribbean Christians mourned the loss of Easter’s sudden death of the usual congregation attendances by COVID protocols, as churches forcibly adjusted to the virtual reality of online services.

Easter 2022 came just as impatience from two years of COVID Fatigue started giving way in many places to relaxation and removal of protective protocols, despite World Health Organization (WHO) warnings that new and faster-spreading Omicron variants (BA.1, BA.2, BA.3 and BA.4) were making Delta look like child’s play and still causing millions of new affections worldwide.

The WHO noted 11 million new affections had been registered the weekend before Easter – and that same weekend too, the BA.1 variant was confirmed in Barbados on Good Friday.

On Good Friday too, Saint Lucia was softening entry protocols at air and sea ports and fast-forwarding return to “free-up” mass-crowd gatherings shattering the long COVID silence with booming sounds north, south, east and west.

Kite-flyers in Barbados braved being charged for not observing mask and mass crowd protocols; and a video of a giant kite in hands of inexperienced holiday flyers crashing down on onlookers somewhere on the flat and windy island became an instant “Big Laff” for seasoned Guyanese tropical aeronautic fliers at Hope Estate’s east coast beachfront and near Georgetown’s Demerara Harbor Bridge.

However, never mind Christians being unable to flock to churches in most places, every Caribbean person who wants to party finds a way — and Easter 2022 was no different.

Food and Fuel prices hitting everyone equally, but in different proportions, yet very few people anywhere opted to bake or cook less, or drive shorter distances, just to “Save Money” or to conserve energy.

Same in UK and USA, where despite respective record 30-year and 40-year inflation rates having taxed pockets and pocketbooks of millions, even that didn’t prevent hundreds of charities from raising millions through ‘GoFundMe’ and other instant online moneymaking mechanisms, all in the name of ‘Helping Ukrainians.’

But in the midst of it all, elderly Caribbean citizens who’ve weathered storms, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and fires and lived to tell the tales, quietly remind younger ones overreacting to repeated nightmares from recurring images of the destruction of war to “Never forget how happy and lucky we are…”

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